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Is the Earth putting on weight....?

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bobwilson
602487.  Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:24 pm Reply with quote

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What's more, I know that I stick the unwanted apostrophe in once in a while


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some studies which have been done suggest that it's gotten wrong more often than right


and far too many "gotten's" imho.

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Sunlight will have added a tiny amount of mass to the Earth which will have been swamped by various other effects.


The question was "does sunlight add mass to the Earth" - whether other effects make this negligible is irrelevant.

So, does sunlight add mass to the Earth?

 
Posital
602517.  Sun Aug 23, 2009 1:28 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
and far too many "gotten's" imho.

"gotten"s, şurely. :-P

But yes, I counted the number of "gotten"s, and there were far too many.

For those without a browser, the initial question was:
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As I understand it (which is hardly at all) sunlight is the transfer of energy from the burning sun to the Earth. Various biological mechanisms on Earth synthesise that energy in order to increase their mass. Does this mean that the overall body of matter of which the Earth is composed constantly increases, and if so, by how much? How much more mass does the Earth have now than it had, say, a million years ago?

 
gruff5
602737.  Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:46 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
The question was "does sunlight add mass to the Earth" - whether other effects make this negligible is irrelevant.

So, does sunlight add mass to the Earth?

Well done. A perfectly interesting scientific question was diverted into the tedium of a grammer discusssion :-(

Well, I would say that sunlight does add mass, along the E=mc^2 lines, and this energy/mass is found in the photosynthetically re-arranged organic molecules (essentially CO2 + H2O -> cellulose/starch etc).

Since the organic matter of the Earth is theoretically* in equilibrium, coming together and being broken down again, this temporarily sequestered energy will find its way back out and be radiated away out into outer space as heat (infra-red radiation). So, overall, the mass of the Earth is not being gradually increased over time by this effect.

Howzat?

*keeping things simple and ignoring changes to the gross organic matter balance over time; such as the actions of industrialised mankind or the laying down of petroleum etc.

 
travelingdr
607966.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:22 am Reply with quote

The explanation offered sounds very scientific and well thought out...except that it is pretty much incorrect on all the technical points.

Sunlight comes to the Earth in the form of radiation/light ways. These light waves are used to excite electrons THAT ALREADY EXIST in a plant or other photosynthetic organisms. The resulting high energy electrons are then able to transfer that energy to biological molecules which store the energy as reducing power or as ATP. Using these biological molecules, the plants/photosynthetic organisms pull carbon dioxide and water out of the atmosphere (or out of the ground) and combine them to form glucose (sugar) which adds to the mass of the plants. However, it decreases the mass of the atmosphere by the same amount. There is no net addition or subtraction of mass to the Earth from this process. Eventually, the same amount of energy that came into the Earth as high energy sunlight will leave as weaker forms of radiation (infrared, microwaves, radio waves). These lower intensity waves are not sufficient to drive photosynthesis or other biological processes. However, they are sufficient to cause heating.

 
Posital
607971.  Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:37 am Reply with quote

Welcome to the forums travelingdr.

Yes, we counted the electrons, protons and neutons in and out. And you are correct, they all tally.

But we're suggesting that due to the changes in chemical bonding, the actual energy in the system changes. And this change in energy would correspond with a tiny change in mass (due to E=mc2).

I don't think we've suggested how this increase in apparent mass could be described in rutherfordian terms.

 

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