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The drilling of an oil well. The release of an ocean depth chart. At the. Sound of like as it bounces off the surface of the. Other sounds in the 20th century. WGBH FM in Boston presents a century of science produced under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is an exploration of developments in 20th century science and of the implications they present for contemporary American society. Your host Boulter Torre a former editor of Popular Science and now director of radio television programming for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You hear a great deal nowadays about the exciting discoveries deep in the interior of atoms and ventures into space. But one of the most fruitful and challenging subjects of scientific research is still the earth. One of the
newest laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is an interdepartmental laboratory of earth sciences and the research undertaken in this and similar laboratories is pertinent both to current problems and the future of all science. Professor Robert R. Schrock was chairman of the committee that recommended the creation of this new interdepartmental laboratory. He is an internationally known authority on paleontology whose geological work has taken him to many parts of the world. He has been a visiting lecturer on geology at Harvard and since 1950. He is head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at MIT. Professor struck when I was a boy the only earth science that we heard much about was geology. Now I see that you were the head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics and you have been associated in the formation of a laboratory that will deal with other Earth sciences. What are
these others. The earth sciences consist of three groups which deal with three phases of the Earth system. This solid earth is the part of the system that most of us think about when we say geology but there are actually three different kinds of geologists. So to speak who are concerned with the solid earth. These are the geophysicists Geo chemists and geologists for want of a better name. However the solid part of the earth is surrounded by the atmosphere gaseous envelope and the meteorologists are the scientists who study the atmosphere and we regard them as Earth scientists just the same as those who study the solid part of the earth. Then between
the solid earth and the atmosphere. It is a discontinuous my very large body of water made up all the oceans which cover about 75 percent actually of the earth's surface. And the scientists who study the oceans are called oceanographer so that we really have then three groups of earth scientists who are devoting their studies to these three different phases of the Earth system a solid plan of the atmospheric envelope and the discontinuous by very large layer of water between these two. What is the difference between a geophysicist and a geochemist and a geologist professor. Just to get that straight at the start here the geophysicist studies the physics of the earth in as much as physics involves the state and dynamics of matter.
So the Jew physicist is interested in these aspects of the solid earth as well as of the aspects of the water and the gas in the atmosphere. He studies the weight of the earth. In other words the gravity he's interested in the magnetic field of the earth so he studies earth magnetism. He's interested in the electrical properties of the earth and also of the atmosphere in the ocean. And he's interested in the motions and dynamics of these different states of matter. The geo chemist studies the composition and the interaction of the substances in the earth. Chemistry is involved with composition and with the interaction of complements of matter. And so the geochemist studies these aspects of the earth by analyzing the rocks and the minerals the oil the water and other parts of the Earth system. He's interested in solutions. He's
interested in groundwater. He's interested in the crystallization of minerals and things of that sort. The geologist has always been primarily interested in the history of the earth and also in the sequence of events that have taken place since the earth was created as a matter of fact. The geologist is very much interested in how the earth was created also of the earth said assume you have just mentioned professor struck the majority of them engaged in everyday practical work or as a considerable number of them and gauged in what you would consider basic research. Mr Torrey most of these are scientists earn their living by doing applied work. They're out looking for the kinds of evidence that help them locate oil fields and gas fields. Nuclear Fuels and for mineral deposits of many kinds
they are engaged in trying to find better water supply trying to help the agricultural people develop better soils and then of course they have to do a great deal of mapping because the Earth scientists need excellent maps to carry out their work. I should say that perhaps 90 percent of the earth's scientists are engaged in what you might call applied work and probably less even than 10 percent in basic research. How many of these earth scientists are there now days and which divisions of the Earth sciences do you find greater numbers. Professor I should say that about 25000 of the approximately 30000 are scientists study the solid earth and of course that leaves only about 5000 to study the atmosphere and the oceans.
Now these 5000 probably 4000 are involved in studies of the atmosphere. And even though there are this many scientists working on the atmosphere only about 400 of these are studying the basic problems of the other thirty five hundred are engaged in forecasting weather how these people who forecast weather are scientists all right 75 percent of them have college degrees of one kind or another. But nevertheless when we look at all of the interesting problems of the atmosphere it's rather surprising that only 400 N-Gage in basic research. How many do you suppose Mr. Torrey are studying say the eye on us here 40 or 50. Actually I understand that there's only one man. In the United States who is primarily interested in the Iyonix here really. Now it's true there are
other scientists studying the atmosphere in one way or another. But I heard a very prominent meteorologist say that there was really only one man who was devoting all of his time and energy and thinking to the ionosphere. Well let's take another question Mr. Torrey how many scientists do you suppose are interested in the chemistry of the ocean or sort of a word rebel just a little lower of say two dozen. Well you're you're almost on the target there. There are about 750 oceanographers perhaps as many as a thousand of these divide themselves into four groups a couple hundred. And others are interested in the geology mainly of the ocean floor. About 250 are interested in the physics of the ocean and about the same number in the life of the ocean. But they're only believe it or not. About two dozen who are interested in the chemistry of the ocean. The shortage of earth's scientists
who are interested in basic research is just as acute as in say physics or chemistry or any of the other sciences. And of course one of the reasons why we have a shortage in the earth sciences is because there is a shortage in the physical sciences in general and we draw many of our best researchers from people who have a good solid foundation in the physical sciences. Well that brings up the question what are the in general qualifications of a good earth scientists are there any aptitude tests such as the datasets that enable you to tell who is likely to be a good earth artist and who isn't. Well other scientists ought first to have an excellent foundation in what we call the basic physical sciences and also in biology. I would say that first our budding or scientist should have a good basis in mathematics.
And certainly we ought to encourage all our high school students who have any aptitude at all for mathematics to take as much as they can get before they go to college and to take still more when they get into college. They should take physics and likewise chemistry and where it's possible enough biology to get some understanding of the life around them. Secondly in order to be an Earth scientist one ought to be interested in the out-of-doors. There should be an interest in walking over the land. An interest in going over the water in boat swimming maybe diving and even an interest in flying he earth scientist will be happiest if he does like to get outside and come in contact with his physical environment and solve some of the problems. All that and by where you've been in the earth sciences quite a while professor
struck. There's a scenario that a student has greater or lesser opportunities than he had when you were a boy. Oh I think he's I think his opportunities are far better now than when I was a student. I think that our Earth sciences now offer opportunities that we couldn't possibly have imagined a generation ago. The student today can use all let's say an automobile to go and look at rocks or do go on field trips. And I want to Mr. dory if you've seen any of these undersea pictures. Well they're fascinated. The student is able to go right down into his environment. The bottom of the ocean and study corals look at the fish once in a while find an old hulk and wonder if there's a pot of gold somewhere. The diving equipment is just an example of dozens of different kinds of gadgets and machines that are now available. Then we have all sorts of
instruments that help us observe microscopic things that we couldn't possibly see with our eyes. For example the only very fine microscope that have been developed. And many other kinds of machines such as the spectrometers X-ray diffraction. These are physical instruments that allow us literally to see into solid matter. They're still pretty limited though aren't you perverse or shrugging her deep you can really get down into the earth. We are indeed limited as to how far we can see with our eyes. But if we set off a blast and then receive in properly designed the instruments at the disturbance the waves that that blast makes in the solid earth we can actually tell a good deal about the center of the earth. A what. What do you think the Senate of the USA made Mr. toy. What are your ideas.
Well I've been told that it's pretty heavy and there's a lot of iron there. I really have only the haziest ideas. Have you ever heard any scientists say Mr. Torrey that the center of the earth is fluid. That isn't the current theory is that that idea is due to the fact that when these waves that are created by a blast or by an earthquake go through the earth they change character in order to get through the core the inner part of the earth. They can't go through if they are one kind of wave but they can if they are another kind of wave and that information alone indicates that the core part of the earth has the characteristics of a fluid. You mean the characteristics of a fluid out of a liquid such as we think of not not as a liquid No.
And I think also your general statement that this material is heavy is correct because scientists have been able to weigh the earth believe it or not and they know pretty well how much the earth ought to weigh and we know generally the weight of the rocks that are on the surface and within the outer part. And so by an averaging process we we have to conclude that the center of the earth is made up of rather heavy materials. Can you use the big computers these so-called electronic brains even though they don't really click very much in your work professor's work. Yes. One example is found in meteorology where meteorologists who are interested in the circulation of the whole atmosphere not just the atmosphere over a country but in the atmosphere on a planetary scale. Use the computer very effectively in working out complicated equations that involve the motion of the entire atmosphere. One of the objectives of
the International Geophysical Year in which all sorts of our scientists are involved is to get more information simultaneously all over the earth concurrently That's right. Make a measurement at the same time exact every place because if they can get an idea of how the entire atmosphere is reacting at a given time all over the earth then they can feed this information into one of these big computers. And by working out their theoretical considerations can get a very good idea of the motions of the atmosphere. It's quite obvious that other sciences such as physics and mathematics and chemistry have helped the earth sciences and the Earth Sciences in turn help these other fields. There are several directions in which I think your scientists can
possibly contribute basic concepts. One of these is the idea that things happen in nature in systematic order and that the systematic order is never reversed. For example a baby grows through youth into maturity and old age and the old person ultimately dies. We have never seen an example yet of an old person changing into a mature person and back through use to a baby. And so we speak of an irreversible sequence of events. Now the same thing happens in a great mountain range. We know that great mountain ranges gradually wear away and break up into their calm point to parch and ultimately
change into flatter and flatter land and finally become almost point now. We however do know that in some cases these planes are then uplifted. And made into new mountain passes and the process is repeated. This however is also an irreversible process because the grains of sand and the soluble materials that came from the mouth as it decayed and was worn away never reversed themselves and go back to meet the same mountain. They make another mountain later on just as the parents leave offspring in next generation. Now we speak of this idea as a sequence of events or history and the one interesting aspect of this and I'm sure you recognize this is time. And the
earth scientist particularly the geologist is very much involved with tine and how old the earth really is so that a second contribution which the earth's scientists can make to the general fund of knowledge is giving some answer to this question that has been with us for so long. How old is the earth. How old is a solar system perhaps. How is the universe certain of our scientists who can apply the principles of nuclear physics and can use isotopes are able to tell how minerals are. And in this fashion they have been able to determine that the oldest solid rocks on the earth are of the order of magnitude of three and a half billion years old
and they have also been able to determine the age of meteorites which come into the earth from outer space and they've been able to determine of some of these meteorites are even older and the earth itself. And this is help the astronomers for example because they too are very much interested in how old the Earth is and how old the solar system and the universe are. Well Mr. dory What do you suppose the moon is made of or have any idea. I haven't been there yet. You know it's possible by using some of these instruments that we talked about earlier to find out a great deal about the surface of the moon which we know how much it weighs because of the way it goes around the earth. We have a very good idea of the composition of the material on the moon simply by measuring the same physical properties that we can measure on earth as it
does a good deal of space between us. But still our instruments of today penetrate this space quite easily and we feel we know a good deal about the moon. And as a matter of fact I suspect that the first geologist to get up to the moon will probably feel pretty much at home particularly if they've been around volcanoes well or be more work for the earth's surface in the future professor struck. Or are you getting things fairly well cleaned up. We need more and more are scientists and we need every kind of are scientists that we mention. Lots and lots of problems that remain to be solved. New ones are coming up all the time and many of the old ones although we thought we had them solved have a way of coming back to plague us. This is because we get new information. For example one of the difficult problems of today Mr.
Dory is that of ordinary drinking water and industrial water. This problem of water is an old one. It goes back into history as far as we have any record and in many parts of the world water is perhaps the most precious ingredient of a civilization because it is so hard to get problems of water involved not alone. The geologist who is interested in the solid earth. But they certainly involve the meteorologist because water comes from the atmosphere in the form of rain snow sleet. And it's really important that we look further into the emotions of the atmosphere and the behavior of the atmosphere in order to get an understanding of where our water comes from and how it happens to fall where it does. But let me come back to the great water consuming centers the
cities and the urban areas because these are the areas that are really much worried about the entire problem of water. Can you think of any things Mr. Tory in your own general environment that might indicate that more water is needed nowadays when you were a boy. I think maybe we take back as World from probably use a great deal more in the US than they did when you had to cope at all by hand. That's very true. Nowadays we use dishwashers in many many houses and this involves a good deal more water in the old days of potato peelings in the garbage that were disposed of by putting them in a can of feeding them animals. Nowadays in many many houses garbage is ground up by disposals of one kind or another. And the garbage goes down the drain Yes. But what goes along with it a great deal of water.
The synthetic industry has grown by leaps and bounds. We hear a great deal of what is required what is required in dozens of different kinds of industries that have sprung up in many parts of the country over the past two or three decades. Finally we all like air conditioning and this again is an example of an additional need for water and then you have only to look at a newspaper nowadays to see that you can buy large swimming pools and large skating rinks and these all require water. So when you add up the need for water you can see that the need is going to increase. We not only have to try to get more water out of the ground and of course we really can't get more water out of the ground than falls on a surface in the first place. But we must also learn to conserve our water. What could a young person read. What current workaday go for
more information about the Earth sciences professor shrugged. One of the best sources of information that I know of for I school students and for intelligent layman who are interested in geology is the booklet prepared for the merit badge in geology for the Boy Scouts of America really. You know this is this is a fine little book. It will be illustrated. It's elementary but fundamental. Even an expert can read this book and get a great deal out of it. There's also another source of information that I think is lively and informative and keeps one up to date on what's happening in geology. And that is a little magazine called G-0 times that is put out every month by the American geological institute. At 2 1 0 1 Constitution Avenue Washington
D.C. Professor struck one of the problems that we hear a great deal about is the shortage of scientists and particularly the shortage of science teachers. Are you getting enough teachers in the earth sciences. I took a course in physical geography if I remember rightly in high school. Don't they have such courses nowadays. I understand that in many schools this type of subject has been eliminated. I also had a course somewhat similar to that. I feel very much about geology as I feel about biology in the high school. That just as one needs to know something about things that are living around him. He ought also to know something about the soil the ground over which he walks and the mountains that he climbs over the water that he drinks. The saw oil that is called evaded the building materials that are used in
constructing his own High School Road cups all of these interesting things that he sees when he walks around or when he travels. And I think that geology is very much worthwhile. Just as a cultural subject whether or not this student ever goes ahead to become a professional or not Mr. Tory I'd like to mention another aspect of this teaching problem. We do need well-trained teachers of the Earth Sciences in colleges. You know Mr Torrey the teachers of science need to know a great deal of general information about the physical environment in order to interest the high school students. For this reason a teacher of science can very well look a little into geology so that he can answer the student's questions about minerals and
rocks and fossils and mountains and rivers and so on. He needs to know something about biology too because the students are always bringing in all sorts of nests and leaves and different kinds of living things. And of course he needs to know the basic sciences and we always take this for granted. We don't always take for granted this a necessity for a knowledge of his physical environment and of life around him. You have been listening to earth ocean atmosphere with Robert Schrock chairman of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at MIT. This has been a part of a century of science a recorded exploration of developments in science and they're important for the 20th century American. This series is prepared by WGBH FM in Boston for the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. Your host Volta Torre a former editor
of Popular Science and now director of radio television programming for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Director for the series Lillian embassy you know but he was her Jack the Summerfield. Bill Cavanaugh speaking. Century of science is produced under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Century of Science
Earth, ocean, atmosphere
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Robert R. Schrock, paleontologist, MIT.
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Discussions of aspects of science affecting modern America. This series is hosted by Volta Torrey, the director of radio and television programming at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the former editor of Popular Science.
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Director: Ambrosino, Lillian
Guest: Schrock, Robert
Host: Torrey, Volta, 1905-
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-9-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:15
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Chicago: “Century of Science; Earth, ocean, atmosphere,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Century of Science; Earth, ocean, atmosphere.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Century of Science; Earth, ocean, atmosphere. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from