100 Greatest Discoveries (2004) Science Channel

100 Greatest Discoveries - EARTH SCIENCES

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100 Greatest Discoveries - EARTH SCIENCES

1. Earth's Core (1906)
Seismologist Richard Oldham determines that earthquake waves move through the central part of the Earth much slower than through the mantle around it. He surmises that the Earth has a core composed of liquid.

2. Earth's Inner Core (1930s)
In 1936, Inge Lehmann documents that some seismic waves from deep inside the Earth's core do not pass through, but are reflected back. It becomes clear that the Earth has an inner core consisting of a small, solid iron sphere that is surrounded by a thick outer core composed of liquid iron.

3. Continental Drift (1911)
Alfred Wegener proposes that all the continents in the world once formed a single, giant landmass that was eventually split apart in a process called "continental drift." Wegener's evidence consists of the "fit" of South America with Africa, fossil distribution and geological similarities.

4. Seafloor Spreading (1950s – 1960s)
Adding his own data on changes in seafloor depth and geology to discoveries of his peers, Harry Hess proposes that Wegener's theory of continental drift is a result of seafloor spreading. He hypothesizes that molten magma from beneath the Earth's crust is oozing up between the plates in the Great Global Rift (now referred to as the Mid-Ocean Ridge). As the hot magma cools, it expands and pushes the plates out from the rift, causing the Atlantic Ocean to get wider over time.

5. Plate Tectonics (1960s)
The work of many scientists reveals that the Earth's surface is broken into several interconnected plates of rock. Earth's outermost layer, the lithosphere, is broken into at least seven large, rigid pieces. These plates are moving in different directions and at different speeds (about 1 to 4 inches per year) and are crashing together, pulling apart and sideswiping each other. All the action at plate boundaries produces phenomena such as mountains, volcanoes and earthquakes.

6. Troposphere and Stratosphere (1890s)
With the aid of scientific instruments placed on unmanned balloons, Leon Teisserenc de Bort discovers that the atmosphere consists of layers. Bort notices that air temperature decreases steadily up to about seven miles, but remains constant at higher altitudes. After more than 200 balloon experiments, he suggests that the atmosphere is divided into two layers called the "troposphere" and the "stratosphere."

7. Global Warming (late 20th century)
A number of scientists see evidence of a warming trend on the Earth's surface and attribute it to a rise in the concentration of "greenhouse gases." Global warming theory states that an increase of the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century can be attributed to humans and increased emissions of carbon dioxide. According to the theory, temperatures will increase further if emissions of these greenhouse gases continue.

8. Cosmic Radiation (1911 onward)
In 1912, Victor Hess travels to 17,500 feet in a hot air balloon (without oxygen) and observes that radiation increases with altitude. Further experiments convince him the radiation is coming from space. We now know that the vast majority of cosmic rays are protons, and therefore have a positive electrical charge.

9. Magnetic Field Reversal (1906)

Bernard Brunhes discovers that the Earth's magnetic field has changed direction and reversed itself. His paleomagnetic study of clay baked by a Miocene lava flow 13 million years ago provides the evidence. It is nearly 50 years before his discovery is accepted by the scientific community.

10. Geological Change (1830s)

Charles Lyell offers proof that the Earth evolved slowly in his multivolume Principles of Geology: An Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes Now in Operation, published between 1830 and 1833. In his work, he advocates the then-controversial idea of uniformitarianism — the idea that the Earth was shaped entirely by slow-moving forces acting over a very long period of time. Catastrophism, a geologic idea that uses biblical chronology to date the Earth, was more accepted at the time.

11. Radiometric Dating (1907)
Bertram Boltwood discovers how to calculate the age of a rock by measuring the rate of its radioactive decay. His observations and calculations put Earth's age at 2.2 billion years. Although we now think the Earth is nearly twice that age, this number was a dramatic increase over the accepted age at the time. Boltwood's formulas are compatible with several radioactive elements, including carbon-14, which has been used to date historical artifacts.

12. Periodic Ice Ages (1930s)

Serbian astrophysicist Miultin Milankovitch develops a theory relating Earth's motion to long-term climate change and ice ages. His mathematical theory of climate uses variations in solar radiation based on season and latitude. His theory posits that cyclical variations in Earth-sun geometry, such as orbit shape and axis angle, result in different levels of solar energy reaching the Earth.

Documentary Description

by Discovery Channel

Scientists have transformed the way we think and live throughout the centuries. What are the most important scientific discoveries of all time? In no particular order, we present the top 100 in eight different categories:

Earth Science

Bill Nye "The Science Guy" hosts a new series that highlights the greatest scientific discoveries of all time, from the earliest time to the present day. The series features nine episodes: Evolution, Earth Sciences, Medicine, Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Genetics and Biology, plus a wrap up episode featuring the top 10 discoveries of all time. This is a fun and instructive series, with a lot of historical re-creations, archival footage, visits to interesting scientific research facilities and interviews with present-day scientists including several Nobel laureates - all presented with the flair and humor associated with television's "Science Guy" Bill Nye.
Kathryn Coombs/ imdb.com

Product Description, by Amazon.com
Join host Bill Nye as he recounts the 100 most important discoveries and explains how each one has had a hand in shaping the modern world. Evolution & Earth Sciences: From the discovery of the dinosaur-killing KT asteroid to Carl Linnaeus' still-used life form classification system to the groundbreaking theories of Charles Darwin, learn how intelligent life began on earth. Venture beneath our planet's crust for a look at the powerful geological forces that keep life on the move and adapting  plate tectonics, earthquakes and super volcanoes. Medicine & Physics: With physician Andreas Vesalius's groundbreaking anatomical drawings in 1538, a new science was born. Witness the horror of a pre-anesthesia operating room, see how X-rays were discovered and meet the man who developed the first vitamin. Plus, learn how physicist Sir Isaac Newton developed his three laws of motion and travel inside the atom for an explosive look at Einstein's best-known theory. Astronomy & Chemistry: Copernicus first theorized that the Sun was the center of our solar system, but it took the work of Johannes Kepler to prove it. Learn why the universe is expanding and meet modern astronomers who gauge the likelihood of life "out there." Joesph Priestley initiated the study of chemistry in 1770 with the discovery of oxygen. Genetics & Biology: Gregor Mendel's work with pea plants pioneered the study of genetics, but it wasn't until the creation of the double helix DNA model that the field really began to take off. Hundreds of years before the first DNA test, "Micrographia" championed the use of microscopes and set the stage for the first major discovery in biology: microorganisms. Learn how the secret of the cell was solved and how starfish led to the development of stem cell research. Top Ten Discoveries: What are the 10 greatest scientific discoveries of all time? Find out which of the original 100 were voted by viewers as the most groundbreaking.


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