Value of g at the center of the earth

  1. Is the value of g at the center of the earth zero or infinite ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
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    Nice - how are you figuring it either way?

    What would be the likely consequence on the surrounding masses if the gravity at the center is infinite do you think?

    What does the strength of gravity depend on?
    How does that vary with depth?
  4. UltrafastPED

    UltrafastPED 1,918
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    Didn't Isaac Newton already work this problem? :rolleyes:
  5. A.T.

    A.T. 6,204
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    Which direction would it point to, if it wasn't zero?
  6. Intuitively I know it's zero, but when I applied that to the gravitational law, I got confused.
  7. A.T.

    A.T. 6,204
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  8. Well g wont be exactly zero, since earth doesnt have a perfect spherical shape neither a constant mass density across all of its volume, however it will be close to zero. Assuming perfect symmetry that is perfect sphere and perfect equal mass density across the volume of sphere you can understand why it would be zero(because if it wasnt and it was pointing somewhere as A.T notices then it would violate the symmetry).

    Now hm let me think why do you ask if it will be infinite. You thinking along the lines of "if a point particle (like say an electron) of mass m is sitting exactly at the center of the earth then it would create an infinite mass density there and hence an infinite gravitational field" well this isnt the case though. Though the gravitational field can become as big as we want as we get closer and closer to the point particle (due to the law of inverse square), at exactly the point of the particle it would be zero. And the reason again is symmetry.
  9. jbriggs444

    jbriggs444 1,857
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    Classically, the gravitational force is undefined at a point particle. That is another valid way to get out of a symmetry concern.
  10. HallsofIvy

    HallsofIvy 40,809
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    At the very center of the earth (and assuming a homogeneous earth), the gravitational pull in every direction is the same so the net gravitational force will be 0.

    Although it is a little harder, one can show that at distance r from the center of the earth, r less than the radius of the earth so you are "under ground", the gravitational force is exactly that given by the mass under you. The gravitational pull from all the earth at distance greater then r from the center cancels.
  11. adjacent

    adjacent 1,535
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  12. If one were to hollow out a perfectly spherical planet that also had equal a bit and then enter it, the pull of gravity would be equal from all directions if one was in the center of the cavity. However, the earth is not a perfect sphere and has gravitational inconsistencies, so the net force would be slightly greater than zero.

    I imagine you are confused because, if your center of mass and the earth's center of mass are in the same position, the radius would be zero m, causing one to divide by zero (in Newton's equation).

    However, I have a question. If one were to gradually did down towards the center of the earth, would the force of gravity gradually increase or decrease? Intuition tells me the force would decrease, but the science says otherwise. The mass between one and the earth's center would decrease, decreasing the force, but the distance between one ant the earth's center would also decrease, increasing the force of gravity in total because the radius is squared.
  13. TumblingDice

    TumblingDice 463
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    The gravitational force would decrease. Science does not say otherwise.

    You're only mentioning the mass between you and the center, but not the mass that's increasing between you and the earth's surface as you go deeper. It's a bit more than simply mass directly above and below since the earth is a spheroid, but net gravity will decrease as you near the center.

    As an interesting aside, did you know that (with a perfect sphere and uniform density), if you drilled a hole between any two locations, you could jump in and gravity would accelerate you the first half, decelerate the second half, and you arrive at the other end. Perhaps more interesting is that the hole needn't pass through the center of the earth (sphere), and also that every trip, no matter what locations the hole connects, take the SAME TIME to complete.
  14. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,261
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    You have to show how you applied the gravitational law.

    For a perfect sphere of uniform density (we'll worry about how the Earth differs from that later), the force of gravity decreases by the square of the distance from the surface of the sphere.

    Below the surface of the sphere, the gravity from all the mass radially above you cancels out - you really need calculus to show this - leaving only the effect of the mass below you. Since this mass decreases as you descend, the strength of gravity decreases too. At the center of the sphere there is no mass below you so the force of gravity there is zero.

    This decrease is linear. g=GM/r^2 : r>R, g=GMr/R^3: r≤R where R=radius of the sphere, M=mass of the sphere, and r is the distance of a small mass from the center of the sphere.

    The Earth, however, is not a uniform density sphere, and you are not a point mass.
    The details will vary a bit (read: lots) because of that. For instance:

    ... the dark blue "PREM" line can be thought of as the actual variation of g with r.
    ... the green line is how it would go if the density of the Earth were uniform.

    But I suspect that the "uniform sphere" model is what you are trying to think about.

    Further reading:
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  15. Now that's funny, because once you have arrived at the other end, the process should work the other way around, taking you back to the initial end just by the force of gravity, and then back to the other end and so endlessly. Does not this sound like a perpetual motion machine moving you constantly to and fro without any energy being spent?
  16. Speaking of which, what is it that makes inner core more dense than the outer layers, is it its own attraction towards the center, or is it pressure from the layers above, or maybe both?
  17. UltrafastPED

    UltrafastPED 1,918
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    The hole need not go through the earth - the same goes for low earth orbit.

    It is perpetual in the sense of any perfect machine, capable of perpetual motion of the first kind; it is the action of additional forces such as air friction which requires adjustments, and hence the continual decay of the orbit.

    For a more perfect example, consider the earth-moon system. How long has it been going? Why is it slowing down? Something always goes wrong over the long term; it is a fun physics project to figure out where the energy losses are in each such system.
  18. UltrafastPED

    UltrafastPED 1,918
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    You can start here:
  19. Thanks, so if I understand correctly you would be a sort of "underground pendulum, ideally without friction", right.

    Speaking of which, would a pendulum suspended in a frictionless environment (say inside a vacuum chamber if interstellar space is not void enough) keep oscillating forever?
  20. I'm afraid I don't see the answer there. I'll try to answer it then. It kind of looks like two faces of the same coin. I'm not sure if north upper layers are really pressuring north lower layers, but lower north layers are surely attracted to south upper layers. Therefore, outer layers are definitively required, that much I can say.
  21. Bandersnatch

    Bandersnatch 1,466
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    You're making it overly complicated. Do you know why hot air goes up and cold goes down? It's the same reason.
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