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Venus's Surface May Be 1 Billion Years Old 107

Posted by kdawson
from the sister-planet dept.
dptalia writes, "For a while scientists have believed that Venus's surface is fairly young, having recently been covered by lava 1 to 3 kilometers deep. However, more study into photos sent back by Magellan seems to show that the cataclysmic volcano theory is wrong. Now scientists are postulating that Venus's surface may be a billion years old and could be probed to determine the history of the planet."
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Venus's Surface May Be 1 Billion Years Old

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  • Interesting... I and anxious to find out how they plan on hardening the lander to withstand the heat and atmospheric pressure on the surface.

    Not impossible, but it'll be a lot to consider.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by inviolet (797804)

      The Russian landers were built with insulating systems designed to buy them a couple of hours before being overwhelmed. That is indeed a Hard Problem.

      Maybe we need to just buy a flare-riding ship, which carries a small black hole onboard that functions as a billion-ton heatsink. Anybody got the number for the Daedalus Club?

      • by Ana10g (966013)
        Daedalus Club... that's like the Red Carpet Club for interplanetary travel, right?
      • by Urkki (668283)

        Maybe we need to just buy a flare-riding ship, which carries a small black hole onboard that functions as a billion-ton heatsink.

        No no, you're overlooking a significant detail. Portable size black holes are not cold, they're extremely hot due to Hawking radiation. So you wouldn't want to have one with you on Venus of all places. Pluto maybe, but not Venus...

        However, a suitable amount of cryo-cold neutronium in a high-pressure container, now that just might do the trick... Negligibly small surface area m

    • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @01:56PM (#16691351)
      All they need to do is drop a SUV onto the planet, which will immediately cause global warming. Everyone who goes to the movies knows that global warming causes the planet to freeze over. You can then drop probes (with appropriate heating installed), with some old oil drillers, to drill to the center of the Earth to restart the magnetic field, to insert a nuclear bomb at exactly 700 feet... ... Ouch, I think I'm getting my bad science fiction movies mixed together.
      • Made me chuckle.
      • You remember incorrectly. It's exactly 800 ft. Even 10 feet too shallow, and that nuke is completely ineffective.
        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          That's only if you wanna blow it apart. If you wanna restart the core, you got to get to the core. Oh, and have Hillary Swank with you.
      • by Wolfger (96957)
        Everyone who goes to the movies knows that global warming causes the planet to freeze over.
        Hmm. I must've missed each and every one of those movies. Yes, global warming causes some localized cooling. Unfortunately, you're missing the key ingredient of polar ice caps to melt... No ice caps to melt, no lowering of localized temp due to global warming. Just a raising of the temp everywhere.
        • Everyone who goes to the movies knows that global warming causes the planet to freeze over.

          Hmm. I must've missed each and every one of those movies. Yes, global warming causes some localized cooling. Unfortunately, you're missing the key ingredient of polar ice caps to melt... No ice caps to melt, no lowering of localized temp due to global warming. Just a raising of the temp everywhere.

          For your viewing displeasure: The Day After Tomorrow (2004) [imdb.com]. IMDB plot summary: "A climatologist tries to figu

    • by Salvance (1014001) *
      The problem doesn't seem to be the surface components and mechanical parts of the lander (since modern ceramics could easily withstand the temperatures), but rather the wiring and power systems since these would essentially use the same materials as 20 years ago when the Russian's probed the surface last.
      • The problem is keeping the electronics cool. Regardless of what they are made of, they must be able to get rid of heat. And unless you intend for the electronics to run at an even higher temperature than ambient (which would be absurd on Venus), you must provide a forced cooling system of some kind. No refrigerator has ever been invented for that kind of environment although I have heard that one may be possible by using liquid sand as a refrigerant (in what I would presume would be a multiple step heat-tra
        • by Rob Carr (780861)
          Use a laser to dump the heat. (Reference to Brin's "Sundiver," a great book for anyone who has ever had to take thermo and didn't kill themselves.) Liquid sodium was used in fast breeder reactors for the coolant systems for a number of years. I understand it was a bit of a headache. I should look up the boiling point of sodium, mercury, and a few others, and see what's closest to the temp on the surface of Venus, but I'm having a crappy day and can't be bothered. Shame on me.
    • by creimer (824291)
      If the surface is a billion years old and largely undisturbed, the environmentalist will file a lawsuit to prevent any lander from reaching the surface. Which is a shame considering that's the prime location for observing solar flares. I guess the real estate agents will have to settle for Mercury instead.
      • by B3ryllium (571199)
        Uh. I think you've got your planets mixed up.

        Mercury would be better for solar flare observation.
    • The thick atmosphere will be great for running a cooler. Obviously that would require nuclear power.

      To walk on the surface:

      Use a phase-change material, possibly plain water ice, to keep people cool while they walk about.

      The pressure is rough, but doable. It's 94 atmospheres worth. In terms of water depth, it's about 1000 meters or 3000 feet. You need to use a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen, and either helium or neon. (to avoid explosion, you don't add the hydrogen until your total pressure is such that the par
  • Nuh-uh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 02, 2006 @01:39PM (#16691037)
    God made Venus 10,000 years ago, along with Adam and Eve and the fake dinosaur bones. And my grandaddy wasn't no monkey!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by terrahertz (911030)
      There are lots of Christians who have no problem reconciling evolution with creation. If you understand even the basic concepts surrouding an omnipotent creator, you understand that one could easily have created a world that evolves.

      Unfortunately, this teensy bit of elementary school logic is lost on the more frothy-mouthed "supporters" of my faith. God help them!

      I make a habit of mentioning this because I'm tired of fundamentalist wackos getting all the attention in this debate, and I do not take your la
      • by eosp (885380)
        Amen, brother!
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        If you understand even the basic concepts surrouding an omnipotent creator

        You got me laughing there. It seems to me that it's the most "basic" reflex of all to invent a Big Daddy who's watching over everything, including my spelling in this post, all the planetary life wiped out by geological cataclysms and asteroid strikes, and the 700,000 Iraqis who are now dead because Haliburton shares needed a boost.

        Unfortunately, this teensy bit of elementary school logic is lost on the more frothy-mouthed "supporter

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by da007 (242994)
          "So... your omnipotent God. Either an omnipotent God created everything and lets the innocent suffer and everything rot without giving a damn, or a silly little species among countless others evolved and had to struggle with its fears so it invented Gods for comfort."

          The point of Christianity is that there are no innocents. God is perfect and holy, and because of our sin, God is justified in letting everyone of us suffer. He is not obligated to any of us, and it's His Grace that allows us to be saved f
          • by lovebyte (81275) *
            His Grace that allows us to be saved from eternal damnation.
            Eternal damnation that he created, just to torture us, unbelievers/sinners/people he does not like, for eternity. That's sick, not perfect!

            And by the way, who created this perfect being?
            • by trongey (21550)
              ...And by the way, who created this perfect being?

              Who created the stuff that participated in the Big Bang?
              • by radtea (464814)
                Who created the stuff that participated in the Big Bang?

                Probably, no one. But as I scientist, I get to ask that question and engage in a serious search for answers that will undergo critical theoretical and emperical testing.

                That's the difference between science and religion. Christians believe in god based on no creditable evidence, and asking "who created god" is heresy--to ask that question puts you outside of the limited, narrow bounds of religion. Scientists believe based on plenty of strong evidenc
                • by trongey (21550)

                  Who created the stuff that participated in the Big Bang?

                  Probably, no one. But as I scientist, I get to ask that question and engage in a serious search for answers that will undergo critical theoretical and emperical testing.

                  That's the difference between science and religion. Christians believe in god based on no creditable evidence, and asking "who created god" is heresy--to ask that question puts you outside of the limited, narrow bounds of religion. Scientists believe based on plenty of strong evidence t

                  • No, religion hasn't crippled my mind, but it has helped me to grasp the fact that no matter how much I know there will always be an infinite amount that I don't know. Has intellectual hubris crippled your mind?

                    Both Science and Religion can help a person understand that his or her mind is too small to know everything and that we never will know everything. It's the subsequent assumptions that a person makes that will distinguish him or her from a superstitious (and frequently dogmatic) lunatic.

                    The Earth's mu

                    • by Heisman (1002013)

                      Pick up a piece of litter today: you will be doing more for humanity than anything written in a holy book.

                      So you think that the Bible doesn't have any good moral guidelines in it? Even if it were all a work of fiction (which I don't believe), it's still a good source of practical knowledge on how to relate to others. It's because of the Bible that I gave up 4 spring breaks in college to work in a homeless shelter, serving food and cleaning up after drug addicts instead of partying in Cancun with all of

                    • So you think that the Bible doesn't have any good moral guidelines in it? Even if it were all a work of fiction (which I don't believe), it's still a good source of practical knowledge on how to relate to others.

                      The Jewish-Christian writings were written over a long period of time by a bunch of different blokes. Their "guidelines" aren't consistent, are often unclear, and range from quaint to obsolete. It's a mess. I don't believe that a sane Creator would write so badly. But then, I don't believe that a s

          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by mfrank (649656)
            So, what you're saying is, God's an asshole. I get it now. And you worship him why?
            • You know how the kids that hang out with and support the bullys get shitted on less? I think the idea is kinda like that.
        • I don't claim to have the answers to your questions. What I do claim is the opinion that the philosophy of life espoused by Jesus in the Gospels is the most appealing philosophy of life I have encountered in my 28 years, that this current state of existence we enjoy is only a shadow of "real" existence (read up on theories concerning "The Holographic Universe" [crystalinks.com] for some scientific context), and that we are here in this current state to learn how to love.

          That the philosophy of Jesus has been distorted, twist
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Terrahertz, I appreciate your considered reply. I want to let you know that I read the references you cited.

            At best, a religion can give a person a philosophy for facing tough times. A positive attitude helps people survive prolonged exposure to doctors and in general makes things seem easier to endure.

            Unfortunately, so do insanity and dementia. So the challenge for the Faithful is to prove that they're not insane or demented.

            When I see religious zealots condemning scientific research and killing people in
            • I want to keep our discussion going (and I already have several ideas to share about what you said above) but it seems like your response was truncated. Can you repost?
              • This was the intended post. I pasted some of your text for reference while writing and then forgot to delete it. Silly monkey!

                = = =

                Terrahertz, I appreciate your considered reply. I want to let you know that I read the references you cited.

                At best, a religion can give a person a philosophy for facing tough times. A positive attitude helps people survive prolonged exposure to doctors and in general makes things seem easier to endure.

                Unfortunately, so do insanity and dementia. So the challenge for the Faithful
                • At best, a religion can give a person a philosophy for facing tough times. A positive attitude helps people survive prolonged exposure to doctors and in general makes things seem easier to endure.

                  Unfortunately, so do insanity and dementia. So the challenge for the Faithful is to prove that they're not insane or demented.


                  I agree that a challenge exists, but I don't think it's for the innocent to combat a presumption of guilt when it comes to insanity or dementia. In my vocabulary, atheists really are "God p
                  • I agree that a challenge exists, but I don't think it's for the innocent to combat a presumption of guilt when it comes to insanity or dementia.

                    In other words, I am saying that if you are going to believe in something that you can't see or demonstrate (your "faith"), you need to demonstrate that you're not nuts. You can have your bugbears and superstitions, but you had better not think that they or the "voice in your head" can justify your deciding to kill someone. (I mean don't mean the "tu" you, by the w

                    • In other words, I am saying that if you are going to believe in something that you can't see or demonstrate (your "faith"), you need to demonstrate that you're not nuts. You can have your bugbears and superstitions, but you had better not think that they or the "voice in your head" can justify your deciding to kill someone. (I mean don't mean the "tu" you, by the way. You seem reasonable enough... for a Slashdot user. :o)

                      I disagree with all interpretations of the Gospels that permit the taking of life under
                    • I'm enjoying our discussion.

                      I disagree with all interpretations of the Gospels that permit the taking of life under any circumstance.

                      This makes it possible for you to live in a society where murder is not the norm.

                      But there have been societies -- and religions -- where murder ("sacrifice", conversion of the infidel, extirpation of heresy, Holy War) has been acceptable. You're saying they're all wrong and you're right. Some of these societies still stand strongly today. And more such will exist long after th

        • by unity100 (970058)
          ease up man. you have fallen into one major ironic gig.

          also you got me going there : and the 700,000 Iraqis who are now dead because Haliburton shares needed a boost.
        • I'm not christian, and find this type of debate generally annoying, but given that humanity has free will, nobody should be blaming anyone but humanity for human suffering, and that goes twice as much with atheists using as it a reason there is no god.
          • by Laur (673497)

            I'm not christian, and find this type of debate generally annoying, but given that humanity has free will, nobody should be blaming anyone but humanity for human suffering, and that goes twice as much with atheists using as it a reason there is no god.

            I also find this type of debate annoying and pointless, but since you chimed in so will I. The free will "argument" is trivially easy to demolish, but I'm too bored right now to expend the effort. I will point out that the free will argument completely ig

            • I've always taken those things to fall under free will in that we have not taken the time and energy to prevent them, either by not living where they occur or not actively finding ways to stop them, that being something we should do using our sense of reason. I do love your point about it not disproving Yahweh, or other neutral Gods, cause quite frankly, the Book of Job is my favorite, and that God is one cruel bastard.
        • It's called faith because people believe despite the lack of clear scientific evidence.

          Personally, I do believe in God, but at the same time I choose not to judge anyone else based on what they do or don't believe. So long as I don't have to hide what I believe in, I really don't care what other people believe or think. And to terrahertz (911030) I like the way you put it, fits well with my point of view.
        • by mgblst (80109)
          It is easy to laugh at peoples' beliefs, much harder to understand them. (I should know, I laugh at them all the time!)

          Sheesh, I doubt the wafers cost 3 cents. What sort of mathematics are you doing there? More like 10 for a penny.

      • IAAFC(I am a fundamentalist Christian) and I've come to terms with the fact that I don't know the past. It's possible that what we perceive quite clearly when they read Genesis is really a cultural imprint. Even a direct translation literally interpreted can lead to misunderstandings. So, when I read Genesis 1, I read it a lot like I read Revelation. It's very mystical and symbolic. Here's a couple of questions: Did God really just sit down and do nothing for a day? What would it possibly mean for God
        • Have you ever heard of physics? Because they're trying to solve all of that mathematically instead of saying, "poof. here we is!" The religions people believe in adjust themselves directly to match what people of the time understand about science. Why does anyone in any religion actually feel they have the real answer this time?
          • by fossa (212602)

            Science isn't really a quest for truth. It's more of an intentional and directed quest for falsehood. For example, it can never be "proven" that gravity exists, "it's all just an exceedingly unlikely random occurance" is always a possibility. What science can do is tell you that certain things are false. For example, Aristotle said heavier objects move to the ground faster than lighter objects. Galileo, or so the story goes, showed this to be false by dropping unequal weights from a tower. Newton said

            • I would agree that this is unfortunate, but creationists are at least better off than flat-earth folk. I mean, you can fly a plane around the earth if you want.

              You gonna lend me the plane?

              Oh, I'm supposed to take your word for it? How is that different than taking the word of people who do carbon dating "proving" that the world is older than 6,000 years? Feh. Like you can't fly in a circle above a flat plane. This "spherical Earth" stuff is all a bunch of Satanic lies

              You either understand that the w

        • Before you can even begin to understand Genesis, you need to figure out why Day 2 isn't called good.
      • by dptalia (804960)
        Thank you for your rational defense of belief. A lot of out there are scared to admit on forums like this that we do believe!
        • by brouski (827510)
          There is no rational defense of belief. Some are merely less irrational than others.
          • by B3ryllium (571199)
            There is no truth in science. There are merely findings which are less false than others. ;-)
      • by ballpoint (192660)
        Can an omnipotent creator create unlimited numbers of omnipotent creators ?
        • Yes, but the real question is: does each one know how many the creator is going to choose to create before he has made the choice?

          Which begs the question: can the creator make a choice?

      • Richard Dawkins, whom I find abrasive, had a cogent point recently.

        The insult should be taken by moderate, rational Christians because the special consideration faith and superstition are given, even to moderates paves the way for firebrand Creationist idiots to swing freely under that cloak of well-intentioned respect for others' beliefs.
    • That's 6,500 years [angelfire.com], you heathen!
    • by cagrin (146191)
      I don't have all the answers about creation and existence, but i believe as far as Christians go the mormons(LDS) have got it right. http://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,792-1,00.html [mormon.org]
  • If this is true that means also that if anything else crashed onto Venus millions of years ago we could still look at it, imagine if we found a meteorite that is a billion years old and came from a remote section of space.
    • Ok, I must be having a failure of imagination here. What exactly do you imagine that we'd discover from such a meteorite that would be worth the effort it would take to A) actually locate anything at all on Venus' surface and B) build something that could survive on the surface long enough to either retrieve such a sample or do detailed analysis of it on the ground such that would could make this discovery?
    • by EzraSj (993720)
      A remote section of space? Like, say, anywhere?
    • A fascinating prospect to be sure, but entirely dependent upon the nature and composition of the crashed/impacted material; high Venusian surface temperatures combining with the highly noxious and corrosive atmosphere pretty much eat or melt away simple ores and many other types of materials. Russia's Venera and Vega spacecraft and NASA's Pioneer are probably little more than slag now, maybe even mostly evaporated into the thick atmosphere as trace elements.

    • We don't need Venus for that, we can already see very old rock samples from the very beginnings of the solar system. They are called chondritic asteroids [wikipedia.org].

      Basically, chondrites are rocks that have been floating around in space since before the solar system was formed. From this we can deduce the bulk chemical composition of the Earth, among other things, because the solar system formed when the planets and the Sun accreted out of a cloud of chondritic dust particles. Many asteroids in the solar system (inc

  • Read the article! (Score:3, Informative)

    by drzhivago (310144) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @01:42PM (#16691099)
    The article says that the planet was believed to have been 500 million to 1 billion years old, but based on new data may be much older.

    The thread title is misleading!
    • by dptalia (804960)
      Incorrect. From the article, emphasis mine:

      suggesting that the planet's surface is actually very young - perhaps 500 million to 1 billion years old.
  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @01:49PM (#16691239) Homepage
    Magellan did not have a sungle camera onboard - it used microwave pulses (a Synthetic Aperture Radar) to map the surface of Venus.
    • by Rob Carr (780861)
      A photo is an image made with electromagnetic radiation.

      I take infrared photos with my camera. Infrared, although not visible to humans, is a form of electromagnetic radiation. If I want to take a photograph of something when there's not enough electromagnetic radiation around, I can use an IR light source. The IR light source sends out electromagnetic waves. Those electromagnetic waves bounce off the objects I'm photographing and come to the camera and I take a picture.

      Because of phase interference, th

      • Photo ... photography ... photons ... That's a specific type of EMR, different than microwaves.
        • by Rob Carr (780861)
          Microwaves aren't photons?

          I go to sleep for one night, and they change the Standard Model and no one tells me. So what are microwaves, and why aren't they electromagnetic radiation like gamma and UV and IR and radio?

          • They didn't you just dreamed there was a standard model. You've been asleep for the past 40 years, no one has had the courage to tell you until now.
          • Ahh, I see you're arguing with my Greek translation using physics definitions.

            Photography derives from: photo + graphos = light + drawing. I assume that by light they mean the visible light spectrum. But of course photographs aren't "drawn", so perhaps my literalist interpretation is too narrow.
            • by Rob Carr (780861)
              And, as I point out, photographs are often taken in the non-visible spectrum. Gamma, UV, and IR photos are still called photos. Why not radio waves. It's not a matter of it being "passive," either, as anyone who has used a flash to take a photograph would point out.

              Now, a recent "photo," where the position of dark matter was calculated by measuring the gravitational lensing it caused -- I wouldn't try to argue that was a photograph. The photons did not bounce off the material being imaged -- they were rer

            • by Kartoffel (30238)
              I think Rob Carr was arguing with your claim that electromagnetic radiation with frequencies outside the visible spectrum are not photons. Radio, microwave, infrared, ultraviolet, visible, x-ray and gamma ray are *all* "photons".

              If we're going to be pedantic about the narrow Greek definitions, maybe we should call it a mikrokimatagraph :p
        • X-rays impacting your hand and passed through to film is known as Xray imaging or wait for it; Xray photography.
      • by dtolman (688781)
        I disagree - I think its a very meaningful distinction.

        The article summary implies that the discovery was made by studying photos - which is the common shorthand for images created by the passive capture of visible light. It also misinforms anyone not familiar with Venus or the Magellan mission into thinking that its been mapped similarly to how we mapped all the other objects in the solar system from orbit. Venus is unique - and the way the most accurate atlas of its surface was created was unique as wel

        • The article summary implies that the discovery was made by studying photos - which is the common shorthand for images created by the passive capture of visible light.

          I have photos of my son which were made with sonar.

      • by hyc (241590)
        There are many fundamental differences. In optical photography your image resolution depends on a number of variables including the focal length of your lens and the distance to your target. It also depends on the surface area of your imaging surface (film, CCD, whatever). The image you record is exactly due to the photons striking your 2-dimensional imaging surface. It works based on the particle nature of photons.

        In synthetic aperture radar you have a one-dimensional antenna. There is no lens or focusing
  • The colossal outpouring of lava thought to have almost totally resurfaced Venus 500 million years ago never happened, a new study says. If correct, it means that a much longer record of Venus's history is preserved on the planet's surface.

    Okay, so the previously-held theory was that Venus's surface is ~500 million years old.

    But wait!

    Assuming Venus was exposed to the same rain of asteroids and comets that the other planets experienced, they expected Magellan would spot about 5000 craters on the planet's surf

    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Don't worry about it. Someone just needs grant money, that's all.
    • by jcorno (889560)
      So according to this new evidence, the planet's surface could be...~500 million years old. Bwuh?

      That's the old evidence. The new evidence is further down. It says the lava deposits are not deep enough for the old theory to be true.
    • The "old" theory said that the entire planet was resurfaced in one huge volcanic event. The "new" theory says that it was not one big event, and the the age of the surface varies more considerably from location to location that previously supposed.
  • by Chacham (981)
    The title of this story reminds me of Moses May Have Been an Apache and Other Actual Facts [amazon.com]
  • if they ever read any real science papers...
  • According to Immanuel Velikovsky ( Wikipedia article on I.V and his theories. [wikipedia.org] )
    the Solar system has not always been in the configuration we observe it today
    (Mercury - Venus - Earth - Mars - Dunno - Jupiter - Saturn ...) but in former times Earth was a moon of Saturn
    and Venus a comet from outside the Solar system. According to Velikovsky the current configuration was arrived
    at through a series of planetary cataclysms which expelled Earth from the Saturn system and locked Venus into
    today's orbit around th
    • I've read Velikovsky, and I believe very, very little of what he writes. At the same time, you gotta give him props for his conceptual chutzpah, in thinking that the Solar System is essentially the result of a god-size game of cosmic 8-ball. ("Mars, in the side pocket, off the Earth...")

    • Asimov's debunking of Velikovsky was hilarious. I don't know if there are copies around. I read it in the college library about 15 years ago. It was a typical Asimov written-in-one-day job. He knew his stuff, that guy.
  • I'm so glad this happened! This is the final and conclusive proof that we right wing supporters of Intelligent Design need to finally show up the scientific community! Here's how this works:

    1. Scientists (the people who are always wrong) had this theory ("just a theory") about the age of the planet's surface. It was wrong, as science usually is.
    2. They did some more REAL research into the problem and found that they were wrong and that the planet turns out to possibly be 1 billion years old which is real

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