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Creation 42(1):21, January 2020

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Earth’s inner core shouldn’t exist!

by

Naeblys / Alamy Stock PhotoEarths-inner-core
Figure 1.

Since the 1930s, observations of earthquake-generated seismic waves have indicated that the earth has a liquid outer core and a solid inner core.

Now a team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University has concluded that our planet’s “inner core should not exist at all.”1 In a paper titled, ‘Earth’s inner core nucleation paradox’2 they explain that the previously unaccounted for ‘nucleation energy barrier’ (see below) puts a seemingly unassailable hurdle in front of the naturalistic explanation for the inner core’s formation.

The evolutionary story of the earth’s formation has it beginning as a very hot molten ball. So, it is also postulated that the earth’s nickel-iron inner core solidified (‘froze’) as the molten ball of the earth cooled (see fig. 2). Note that the earth’s surface experiences much less pressure than the earth’s core. So, the freezing temperature of Iron at the core is much higher than its freezing temperature at the surface (1538 C).

For a liquid to turn into a solid without an artificial nucleation site (e.g. a foreign particle) present, its temperature needs to drop below the standard freezing point. This extra drop in temperature required is known as the ‘nucleation energy barrier’ (NEB), and its effect can be observed in the clouds—for water drops to turn to ice without dust particles acting as nucleation sites, the temperature needs to fall below -350C (-310F).

Although nucleation theory has been discussed and tested for the last 100 years, it had not previously been applied to the formation of the earth’s inner core. By including the NEB, the Case Western University team calculated that the earth’s liquid metallic core would need 1,0000C of cooling below the standard freezing point before it could crystallize—which would take far too long for evolutionary core formation models to work. The time needed for the formation of the inner core blows out beyond the expected 1-billion-year age to at least 10 billion years, even longer than the alleged 4.5-billion-year age of the entire earth.

growing-inner-core

The inner core’s formation and growth (see fig. 2—as the earth cools, more of the outer core freezes onto the inner core) are also essential to the naturalistic explanation of the earth’s magnetic field. This is an important shield against harmful radiation from the sun, without which life on Earth would be impossible!

With so much at stake, the Case Western team attempts to rescue the naturalistic explanation of the inner core’s formation by suggesting that a nucleation seed could have made its way into the core, thus lowering the nucleation barrier. However, this seed would need to survive all the way to the centre without melting, so it would need to be huge—a radius of about 10 km (6 miles). The Case Western team conclude that there is no known feasible mechanism to achieve this.

Hence the conundrum for long-age earth formation theories; the inner core’s existence is baffling, a paradox.

However, there is no paradox when we start with the biblical position on origins, that the earth did not form over vast ages through natural processes; God created it (and its core) during Creation Week.

References and notes

  1. Specktor, B., Earth’s inner core shouldn’t technically exist; livescience.com, 9 Feb 2018. Return to text.
  2. Huguet, L., Van Orman, J.A., Hauck, S.A., Willard, M.A., Earth’s inner core nucleation paradox, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 487(201):9–20, 2018. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Christopher H.
Lol at Geoff's comment! It's a coffin made of nails. I think people need to admit we really know almost nothing about Earth's core. Arrogant "know-it-alls" are often surprised when new data contradicts their absolute facts. Like when deep drilling brought up evidence of an "ocean of water" under the Earth, as they called it. When previously water was only thought to exist on the crust.
Scot Devlin
This research does show the currently accepted naturalistic history of the earth’s core to be incorrect. We may be limited in delineating the exact contents of the earth’s core, but I think making conclusions about the elastic properties of the earth’s major layers is a reasonable study: We can ‘see’ boundaries of change in the earth via vibrational waves, similar to identifying the location of stars in the sky via EM (often visible light) waves. As always, new data can require the modification of current models. And let’s remember that a conclusion from experimental science is generally more reliable, and less prone to change than a conclusion from historical science.
Grant D.
Elastic shear waves CAN travel through liquid. They just do not propagate much of their energy back into a solid.
Scot Devlin
Shear waves can travel some distance through very viscous liquids that are near the liquid/solid borderline, like glass. But the majority of liquids including the outer core (temperature models indicate a low viscosity) do not sufficiently support the transverse movement of shear waves as they lack sufficient shear strength. When considering the structure of the earth, it makes sense to say that shear waves cannot travel through liquid. (think about the mantle: Although it can flow, it is not a liquid, it can transmit shear waves).

You may be confusing compressional waves (P waves) converting into shear waves (also known as secondary waves, or S waves) at the outer core/inner core boundary. Some of these S waves can then convert back to P waves when they hit the boundary again (at the other side). These seismic arrivals are much lower in energy than other arrivals and therefore very difficult to find. Their identification is important to support a solid inner core.

Andy D.
Good piece, but you claim that the researchers "explain that the previously unaccounted for ‘nucleation energy barrier’ (see below) puts a seemingly unassailable hurdle in front of the naturalistic explanation for the inner core’s formation."

That's misleading: you make it sound as if the study authors themselves /overtly mention naturalism/ and that it can't explain the Earth's core. Yes, naturalistic explanations are seemingly ruled out - but the authors don't actually /say/ or "explain" (your term) that.
Scot Devlin
See the reviewed paper’s abstract, specifically:
‘...we show that spontaneous crystallization in a homogeneous liquid iron alloy at Earth's core pressures requires a critical supercooling of order 1000 K, which is too large to be a plausible mechanism for the origin of Earth's inner core. We consider mechanisms that can lower the nucleation barrier substantially. Each has caveats, yet the inner core exists: this is the nucleation paradox.’

There would be no paradox if they were not bound to using the standard naturalistic evolutionary theory of the earth’s formation.
Lauren P.
Another great article!
Eddie C.
But, I just saw this article on Microsoft's News Feed: "The universe is 13.8 billion years old—here’s how we know", from Popular Science (Popular... but often false Science). This idea of long ages of the universe is constantly drilled into the modern psyche, just as the eternal universe was before Edwin Hubble finally put that idea to rest. The funniest thing about the article is it ends with this quote, """I am not certain about how we are deriving the age of the universe,” Scolnic says. “I’m not saying that it’s wrong, but I can’t say it’s right.""" Of course the article's main argument is that after thousands of years, we're getting estimates that are closer and therefore more 'precise'. Those estimates, however, make assumptions one of which is that the universe is very old to begin with. There is no allowance for anything beyond a naturalistic explanation. Yet, our own solar system and Earth continuously show signs of being much, much younger than the naturalistic explanation. The rings of Saturn, the surface of Pluto, our own moon still being in Earth's orbit, the magnetic field, geological processes on many moons that should have ceased ages ago... The list goes on and on, so add another one to the list I suppose, the more the merrier.
Grant D.
The Hydroplate theory postulates that core was not created in its current state. It is a result of the forces that reformed the planet's interior after the upheaval of the flood.
Scot Devlin
For CMI’s analysis of Hydroplate theory: Hydroplate theory.
Ged W.
Is there any evidence that we have a molten iron core? Considering that we have only drilled less than 8 miles into a presumed (no geometric sphere edge horizon to assertain r value by the way) radius of 3959 miles is a bit of a stretch.
I agree nothing paradoxical when it comes to biblical creation and pseudo science that exists in maths alone and not the physical, given that Gods story begins with water, so maybe creation ministries should dare to start from there also.
Scot Devlin
We know that elastic shear waves (as opposed to compressional waves) cannot travel through liquid. Significant dampening in earthquake-generated shear wave signal occurs at angular distances greater than 103 degrees from the earthquake’s epicenter. This indicates that there is a spherical liquid layer in the earth. This is known as the outer core. Seismic travel times and converted P waves indicate that the inner core is solid.

Other deductions about the interior of the earth are less well constrained and therefore akin to the problem of obtaining unique solutions in historical sciences.





Geoff C. W.
There are now more nails than coffin in the evolution axiom.

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