10 questions that are driving 21st-century earth science identified

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Washington, March 13 : A new report by the National Research Council has listed ten questions that are driving the geological and planetary sciences at the start of the 21st century.

The ten questions are:

How did earth and other planets form?lthough credible models of planet formation now exist, further measurements of solar system bodies and extrasolar objects could offer insight to the origin of Earth and the solar system.

What happened during earth's "dark age" (the first 500 million years)?cientists believe that another planet collided with Earth during the latter stages of its formation, creating debris that became the moon and causing Earth to melt down to its core. This period, referred to as the "dark ages" is critical to understanding planetary evolution.

How did life begin?he origin of life is one of the most intriguing, difficult, and enduring questions in science. To help answer the question, scientists are also turning toward Mars, where the sedimentary record of early planetary history predates the oldest Earth rocks, and other star systems with planets.

How does earth's interior work, and how does it affect the surface?cientists know that the mantle and core are in constant convective motion. Core convection produces Earth's magnetic field, which may influence surface conditions, and mantle convection causes volcanism, seafloor generation, and mountain building.

Why does earth have plate tectonics and continents?lthough plate tectonic theory is well established, scientists wonder why Earth has plate tectonics and how closely it is related to other aspects of Earth, such as the abundance of water and the existence of the continents, oceans, and life.

How are earth processes controlled by material properties?nderstanding earth processes at a microscale level is essential to comprehending Earth's history and making reasonable predictions about how planetary processes may change in the future.

What causes climate to change -- and how much can it change?tudy of Earth's climate extremes through history may lead to improved climate models that could enable scientists to predict the magnitude and consequences of climate change.

How has life shaped earth - and how has earth shaped life?cientists are interested in life's role in oxygenating the atmosphere and reshaping the surface through weathering and erosion. They also seek to understand how geological events caused mass extinctions and influenced the course of evolution.

Can earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and their consequences be predicted?cientists have been unable to predict the exact time and place an earthquake will strike. or volcanic eruptions, geologists face the challenge of developing a clear picture of the movement of magma.

How do fluid flow and transport affect the human environment?ood management of natural resources and the environment requires knowledge of the behavior of fluids, both below ground and at the surface, and scientists ultimately want to produce mathematical models that can predict the performance of these natural systems.

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