Talk:Earth/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 5

This is Archive 1 covering 2003 and earlier.

Diverse Topics

Geologically speaking, wouldn't the Earth have only six continents? Europe and Asia are actually one land mass; the are different 'continents' in a cultural sense only. - Stephen Gilbert

That depends on what you mean by continents. Usually it refers to a land-mass within a continental shelf, though by that definition some islands would be continents. Defining continents as being separate because of culture (and vice-versa) is error-prone, as Europeans live across swaves of Asia, there are Asiatic peoples in parts of Europe, and Arabs live on both Africa and Asia.

Geologically speaking, one might talk of the different tectonic plates the earth has. Geographically speaking, one might talk about continents. Thus, I would add "...geographically dividing it into five oceans and seven continents". --Grant

If an entity from another system within the known universe (or any other universe for that matter) were to read (assuming that was possible) the Earth page, ya gotta wonder what said entity might think! --Grant

The count of oceans is at least as arbitrary as that of continents; the Arctic Ocean is clearly distinct, but there's no obvious place to divide the Indian Ocean from the Pacific, or the Antarctic from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

And the Southern Ocean?:)

Also, are imports and exports even meaningful concepts here? --Vicki Rosenzweig

I think the exports and imports part has some interesting information ($5.6 trillion a year in production; shows who produces it and where it goes). Is there some easier and immediately understood way to phrase it? --KQ

I added a note explaining that imports and exports were actually internal trade among the nations of Earth, and that no significant extraterrestrial commerce is occurring at this time. Bryan Derksen

At this point the wikipedia is a compendium of human knowlege if an alien were to read the wikipedia he/she/it mighe find that it did not reach an ideal NPOV, but who cares? I'd argue that we can't possibly do this without the input of the aliens themselvs, and anyway if aliens start reading and getting involved in the wikipedia, we'll have to change a lot of things anyway... MRC

Yeah, like the You were NOT abducted by aliens, you damn drunk page. --Stephen Gilbert

Consistency or no, I'm not going to move most of Earth to Earth (planet) right now. From an astronomy point of view that would be logical, but I suspect its orbital parameters and suchlike aren't what people first think of when they think Earth. However, there is a slight ambiguity problem with Earth-as-our-world, Earth-as-a-planet, and earth-as-soil. Is this best left as-is, or is there a better way to handle it? -- April

  • Sounds good to me, to leave as is. Earth for the kind of information already there, Earth (planet) for any astronomical type thingies (yup, being technical today) and soil as the topic for the Earth (soil) type thingies (if it's already done that way). Rgamble

Deleted the reference to "intelligent species, including humans, apes, dolphins and maybe a few others". Ranking other species as "intelligent" gets into a whole load of complex debates that it's really not worth getting into here - for instance, there's research currently claiming some extremely impressive cognitive abilities for parrots that I'd imagine others working in the area would dispute hotly. --Robert Merkel

From the main article:

There is evidence that these processes are not balanced. Historical measurements of the mean sea level indicate that the Earth's ocean level is falling at a rate of approximately one foot per century, even in the face of warmer weather that should melt ice from the poles. This may be due to a combination of subductive trapping of water, and ultraviolet cracking.

At this rate of ocean level drop, over the past five billion years the ocean level would have fallen approximately 9,500 miles. Does anyone know the real rate at which water is being lost? Bryan Derksen

Don't know the real rate, but that statement doesn't seem right to me. The author will first have to define "historical" and then have to explain away the fact that at the pre-dawn of human history much of the continental shelfs' were exposed as the last of the continental glaciers receeded. Since that time there has been a continued and long term increase in sea level with some of the fastest rates of increase occuring in the last 100 years. It has been estimated that there are probably hundreds and maybe thousands of submerged human archeaological sites in the world. Earthquakes and local subsidence can't explain them all. The author may have misread the fact that water in our oceans are continually cycled through subduction zones of the Earth and may have thought that this water was somehow lost. Far from it. It is recycled by becoming so super (and I mean super) critically hot that it melts surrounding rock and eventually escapes through volcanoes as steam (in fact without water we would have no plate tectonics to speak of). In addition to this is the fact that the earth is being bombarded with millions of tiny coments (well, smallish snowballs of ice and dirt) that I've read actually adds a non-insignificant amount of water to the oceans each year. --maveric149
As I recall, the millions-of-mini-comets theory is still considered to be pretty speculative. It's main proponent is one guy, and he hasn't yet gathered enough evidence to convince a lot of other astronomers to take him seriously. But irregardless of that, I'm going to remove the paragraph I quoted above for the time being; it's sufficiently fishy that it should be off of the main article until fixed IMO. Bryan Derksen


I added in the obligatory Mostly Harmless to pay homage to Douglas Adams' "The Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy", where the description of Earth in the Guide is simply the two words, "Mostly Harmless." Trust me, people will understand.


A lot of this stuff is from the CIA World Factbook. Don't let that scare you, it's entirely unclassified info, but there may be some copyright issues. The factbook is available for browsing at

The CIA World Factbook is in the public domain; there are no copyright issue because it is not copyrighted.
As for the "Mostly Harmless..." I doubt it's going to survive more than a few hours. Now, I admit, I like slipping an occasional subtle little joke into an encyclopedia article as much as the next guy, but the key is to make it subtle; slapstick humor sticks out like a sore thumb. Ideally, a Wikipedia joke is an easter egg that most people won't even notice. Bryan Derksen, Friday, June 14, 2002


I really feel it is remiss not to include the Mostly Harmless thing *somewhere* in the page. It's not a joke, it's something that deserves to be linked. How about at the "other names" area? Is that OK, or are you going to ban me again?

I wasn't the one who banned you, but I agreed with the sentiment. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy may have been a fine book indeed, but look at the big picture; it was just a funny science fiction novel that happened to get a cult following in some parts of the world among certain groups. If "mostly harmless" goes in, then what about all the other hundreds or thousands of novels that have made up funny facts about Earth? Bear in mind that we're trying to create an actual encyclopedia here, something that students might use as a resource for serious assignments and such. Jokes are all well and good, but they shouldn't mislead or present irrelevant information. Bryan Derksen
I agree. The "mostly harmless" stuff is really only appropriate in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy article and maybe as a quick mention in the Douglas Adams one. --maveric149


Well let me further my point, then I'll put it to rest. There will be two types of people looking at the Planet Earth article: people who want statistics about the planet and people who just want to see the entry "mostly harmless," just like in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is already seen in, and a few other distributed encyclopedias like this one. What's the big deal? People expect it! I'm not the only one who has attempted that edit, according to your change history. With there being a demand and the likeliness that someone else will try it again, why not just put it in?--Anon

Because it is irrelevant to an article about the Earth and wikipedia is not everything2 or hhg. See above statements against this again. --maveric149

Whatever the CIA may think, it is false at present to speak of the Earth's economy as having imports and exports -- to say nothing of external debt! --FOo

Look a few lines farther down, where there's the following note: (Note: All exports, imports, debts and economic aid listed are between nations on Earth. There are currently no significant extraterrestrial imports or exports.). This is already taken care of. :) Bryan
  • Ha! The USA's Apollo program imported aproximately 381.7 kg of moon rock and dust. If you caught the story earlier this year of someone illegally trying to sell a one gram moon rock for $5million, you will see that the Earth has imported some $19085 Billion worth of moon! This far exceeds the millions of dollars of technological goods we have exported to the rest of the solar system in the form of satelites and probes. The Earth has a most favorable balance of trade indeed! ;-) --Infrogmation
I bet it's not so good when you total up the costs of all the space probes that we've sent out, never to return, over the past fifty years or so! NASA alone is spending $15 billion per year right now, and that was even higher back during Apollo times, and then there's inflation... add in an equivalent amount for the Soviets, and then some for ESA, and the Japanese and the Canadians and all the other countries with space programs, and you'll see that those 19 trillion dollars worth of moon rocks were hard-bought. And that doesn't even begin to consider the value of all the slave labor that aliens took from the Egyptians and Mayans thousands of years ago... :) Bryan
Yearly exports: $5.6 trillion (f.o.b., 1999 est.) - this begs the question, which planets are we exporting to? :) This should be marked as internal trade; interplanetary shipping isn't quite there yet ;)
it raises the question, it doesn't beg it. -- Tarquin 16:07 Mar 5, 2003 (UTC)

Describing Earth as the only planet known to be inhabited by living organisms is unacceptable and violates NPOV. There have been countless research teams claiming and disputing evidence from Mars meteorites and the Viking probes; some researchers still claim that the Viking probes successfully demonstrated the existence of life on Mars [1], [2]. To these researchers, the fact that there are microbes on Mars is "known", even if it is disputed by others. Referring to intelligent life lets us avoid the whole life on Mars controversy. --Eloquence 21:52 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

I strongly disagree, even if it's extremly probable that live exist elsewhere, Earth is the only place that we KNOW that live exist. Same for the microbes on Mars meteorites (although these are far from certain, the arguments are very tenous: strange form of crystallization which ressemble to what is sometimes formed by some bacteries), it is NOT certain. A remark concerning the possibility of microbes on Mars meteorites should be better. -- looxix 22:04 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)
Knowledge and certainty are far less, well, certain concepts than you may think. To Gil Levin, it is certain that the Viking experiments have revealed evidence of microbial life on Mars. To some scientists who studied ALH84001 and other meteorites, it is also certain that these rocks contain evidence of microbial life -- certain enough for the news that "life on Mars" was discovered to make international headlines. For some time, it was "common knowledge", that there was microbial life on Mars, until another research team disputed the ALH findings. The point of NPOV is to reflect these different opinions about what is or is not true accurately. The Earth article is not the place for it, so we can nicely sidestep the issue by referring to intelligent life, with a link to life where the problem is discussed in more detail. --Eloquence 22:19 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

Now we agree more or less on the content but it doesn't look OK. I think something like this is better:

the only one in the universe known to harbour life although it is possible that life/microbial life exist or have existed on Mars (see ALH84001).

I think this is OK form the correctness of the information, NPOVness and the presentation. -- Looxix 02:30 May 11, 2003 (UTC)

"It is possible" is a different statement from "some people think that ..". From what we know, "it is possible" that intelligent life exists in the universe. To say that "it is possible" that life exists on Mars is to ignore the POV of those who think that evidence of life on Mars is already sufficient. Compare: "It is possible that God exists" vs. "There is a continuing philosophical controversy regarding the existence of God".
Sure, it's why I use it is possible (from ascientific point od view) vs some people think (like in "some people think that the moon is made of green cheese"). -- Looxix 03:08 May 11, 2003 (UTC)
It is simply a very weak statement. Even most of those who disagreed with the ALH findings would agree that "it is possible" that life exists/has existed on Mars. It does not reflect the degree of the controvery. --Eloquence 03:15 May 11, 2003 (UTC)
Furthermore, ALH84001 is not the only element of the Mars life controversy. A link to the article about Mars is completely sufficient. See, this is why I wanted to keep this out: Because it leads us into off-topic territoriy. --Eloquence 02:52 May 11, 2003 (UTC)

As a casual reader, this article seems to be very uneven. It's missing sections on:

  • ecology (vegetation, animals, fungi, bacteria etc, and subsuming the existing Environment and Natural Hazards sections)
  • prehistory and history (probable emergence from the sun, development of land/ocean mix, evolution of plants and animals, mass extinctions, emergence of humans, tribal stability, aggressive agriculture spreading worldwide from Iraq, Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, China, Mayans, Dark Ages, Ottoman Empire, Renaissance, technology, colonialism, violent 20th century)
  • culture (religions, justice systems, art and music, broadcast and narrowcast media)
  • politics (the current ideas of "nation states" and subordinate cities; democracies and republics, monarchies, dictatorships; the UN, current dominance of the US and EU).

I am not suggesting the article should become much longer to fit these in. They should be brief summaries with lots of links, with a slight bias towards those subjects which don't fit easily into obviously named articles. (E.g. the History section should lean slightly more towards those phenomena, like war, which aren't conveniently confined to an article on one modern-day country).

In addition, there's a lot of stuff here which doesn't seem nearly important enough to be in an article of this size on Earth in general. Some examples:

  • the composition sections are far too detailed (get thee to mantle, biosphere, etc!)
  • the Moon (is the existence of total eclipses really more important than the existence of Antarctica or broadcasting or bacteria?)
  • the list of land-locked countries (why not a land-locked article?)
  • the International Space Station (space exploration)
  • human age structure (human)
  • electricity production and consumption (electricity)
  • Internet service providers (Internet)
  • railways (railways).

Perhaps the items in the latter list could be moved to their own articles first, shrivelling the relevant sections in Earth as you go (and adding links if necessary), before any new sections are added. That would avoid the article getting too unwieldy.

-- mpt, May 1, 2003

This article is about the Earth, not human history. Thus the composition of the Earth, the distribution of land, climate and such is most appropriate while the biosphere should be taken as a whole - just a part of what the Earth is. The human stuff should be very minimal and what is there should concentrate on how humans have changed the Earth (its climate, amount of arable land, desertification, deforestation, etc). --mav
I'm unsurprised by that argument, but still very troubled by it, in three directions. (1) If, eventually, entries were made for other well-studied planets where social beings live, surely those entries would have sections on the history, culture, politics, and economics of those planets. Why not for Earth? (2) If you regard that as too hypothetical: Why do we already do what I'm proposing for Earth, for smaller areas? Why do the articles on Detroit, Connecticut, New Zealand, or Africa (for some differently-sized examples) have sections on history, demographics, economy, etc, while Earth as a whole can't? (You could argue that such areas differ from Earth in that they're human demarcations, but many if not most of them are heavily influenced by geography.) (3) If the sections I'm proposing don't belong in Earth, where do they belong? World History sends me into ever-finer specificity without providing a potted outline; there is no Politics of Earth to tell me about the current dominance of the nation state, the US and the UN; and so on. Perhaps these should be separate articles, like the infant Economy of Earth, linked from this article; but as soon as you start a new article, there will be implicit pressure to make it more detailed than a casual reader might want.
And yes, I am volunteering to write such sections if necessary, because making them both informative and extremely concise would be a challenge I'd enjoy. -- mpt, May 17, 2003
If and when these other intelligently inhabited planets are found and if and when human cultures coalesces into a world culture under a world government, then, and only then, would we have the same type of info in this article as we have for political and cultural geography entities. We have no world culture and no world government - therefore we deal with physical geography (which includes climate, geology and oceanography). Beyond that we need to cover the biosphere as well and how it interacts with the non-living parts of the earth. --mav 07:56 17 May 2003 (UTC)
I wish that was a convincing way to draw the line. But we don't have a single African government or European government either, and their entries still have History and Politics sections (albeit Europe's sections don't have headings). That also sounds rather biased against, say, Anarchism -- if there were several anarchistic states in the world, would that political system not be mentioned in their entries, because it was neither unusual nor a Government? ... And as for claiming we don't have a "world culture", that sounds as strange as claiming we don't have a world economy. -- mpt

Eloquence removed

  • "In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, an Earthman is affronted to find that his planet's entry in the Guide consists only of the single word "Harmless". The Guide researcher reassures him that the next edition will improve upon this. The new entry will read, "Mostly harmless." The Guide also tells of the creation of earth by inhabitants of the planet Magrathea.

Maybe it is too wordy, but I think it is beneficial to at least have links to creation stories written by contemporary writers. Mythological information is provided in the Earth article. So should popular fictitious references. Maybe we can find a compromise. Kingturtle 02:36 May 14, 2003 (UTC)

Yes. Move it to Earth in fiction and link to it (we already have Mars in fiction, which is linked from Mars (planet)). --Eloquence 02:52 May 14, 2003 (UTC)
did it. Kingturtle 03:03 May 14, 2003 (UTC)

Kingturtle's quote of what Eloquence removed is incomplete. The opening sentence was, "There is a long-running joke relating to the treatment of the Earth in encyclopaedias." This is true, and arguably relevant to a treatment of the Earth in an encyclopaedia. I added the explanation which followed, just to explain what the joke was. It was not intended as "DNA fandom stuff". (The bit about Magrathea wasn't me...) As well as being arguably relevant, it would quite likely (as a minor bonus) stop random passers-by from adding the "Mostly harmless" phrase themselves, in a less encyclopaedic way, as they quite often do. -- Oliver P. 16:40 May 14, 2003 (UTC)

The idea that somehow Douglas Adams' (certainly entertaining) fiction should receive preferential treatment in an article about our home planet seems quite bizarre to me. You know how many jokes, stories and tales about Earth there are? You could fill gigabytes of harddisk space with them. And certainly Earth in fiction will ultimately grow to become a quite impressive article. But this kind of material is completely off-topic in the main article itself. The argument that we should add the reference so people don't add the "Mostly harmless" joke is a weak one -- we do not accommodate undesirable behavior to get rid of it. See Wikipedia:Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense. Wikipedia is not H2G2. --Eloquence 21:32 May 14, 2003 (UTC)
I was not proposing any preferential treatment of the joke on the basis of who its author was. It's the only well-known joke, by any author, on the subject of the encyclopaedic treatment of the Earth. That was my point. It's not just that it's any old joke that happens to be about the Earth, of which there are obviously many. And I wasn't proposing accommodating undesirable behaviour; I merely stated that as a minor bonus the paragraph would help ward off undesirable behaviour. There is a difference. However, I withdraw my suggestion, as the paragraph did look out of place, and nobody seems to have understood its intent anyway... -- Oliver P. 09:59 May 15, 2003 (UTC)

I vote for including "Mostly Harmless" at the end of the Earth article. Yes, Wikipedia is meant to be a factual site, but one little humorous reference won't destroy its credibility. Lighten up. --Lee M
And I vote against it. It's hardly relevant to the Earth article, though it may be relevant to one on Douglas Adams. Koyaanis Qatsi

The following irrelevant material has been removed from the article. This entry is about the planet Earth. This article is not about all facts and information about the human race! This article also is not the Main Page of an encyclopedia. We do not just jam every topic in the world into one entry, because the entry is titled "Earth". Get a grip! RK

(Moved to Economy of Earth by Bryan)

I really think the discussion of human civiliation here is very overblown, amd totally of place. Everything we have here, including the data, should be summarized in a paragraph. And in all seriousness, it wouldn't hurt to mention the Douglas Adams bit, next to the link about the Earth in fiction. RK

Where should this go? David J. Stevenson, Professor of Planetary Science at Cornell University, has just published "A Modest Proposal: Mission to Earth's Core", a paper published in Nature (May 15, 2003) A Modest Proposal: A Mission to the Earth's Core

I removed this from the article, for now:

Some scientists believe that the moon may be essential to the existence of life on the Earth. Without the moon, the Earth would freeze to a solid crust, as Venus and Mars have. As a result, carbon rock would cease to be recycled, eventually causing life to fix all gaseous Carbon and then die. Without life, Oxygen would slowly combine with surface rocks, and the ozone layer would disappear. At this point, sublimated water vapor would begin to be cracked by solar ultraviolet, and the Earth's hydrogen would be eliminated by the solar wind. In less than a hundred million years, Earth would resemble Mars.

What do you mean by "some scientists"? To the best of my knowledge, this is not a mainstream idea anymore; my reading is that such ideas did exist in the 1960s and 1970s, but they are no longer considered viabl arguments. Are you claiming that some form of this argument has resurfaced in the mainstream? I would like to see some references on this point. It seems to me that much of this article was written as an argument to show that life can't possibily exist on any planet except Earth, and that life here is due to one random chance that can't be counted on to occur anyplace else. RK

RK, I don't agree with your removal of the Earth-related data. Think about it: You open up a page in the Encyclopedia Galactica for a populated planet -- what do you expect to find? Certainly more than just a summary of the planet's physical characteristics. We may have to reorganize this stuff, but the article Earth should certainly be an entry point to many related subjects. Removing all information about the global economy while retaining a link to Earth in fiction is also blatantly inconsistent. --Eloquence 02:15 May 15, 2003 (UTC)

I second you on this one :-) -- Looxix 02:30 May 15, 2003 (UTC)

How about moving that material to a more specific article, for example Economy of Earth (in the same pattern as the CIA factbook pages for countries), and then linking to it in the same way that Earth in fiction is linked to? I agree with RK that there was a great deal of stuff in this article which didn't fit well here. Bryan


I added a link to Chandler wobble - wasn't sure where else to put it! Planetary geology hasn't been done yet. - David Stewart 10:18 May 15, 2003 (UTC)

want to start polar motion? -- Looxix 21:09 May 15, 2003 (UTC)

Mostly Harmless

Please stop adding this to the earth article. It's getting really boring now and will just keep being removed. Secretlondon 12:10, Dec 3, 2003 (UTC)

Newbies wil keep on adding it forever unless some kind of filtering system is introduced to remove it. Anyway, "Mostly Harmless" is mostly harmless. --Werdle Sneng

"Nearly all humans live on the Earth." Indeed. Where do the rest live? Adam 10:47, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)

The International Space Station. Bryan 19:34, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Nobody "lives" on the Space Station. They live on Earth and spend tours of duty there. Adam
The definition of "lives" is quite debateable in this context. Perhaps simply mention in the article that this is where the off-Earth humans are located and leave it to the reader to decide whether they "live" there or not. Bryan 20:09, 26 Dec 2003 (UTC)
If someone spends a year on an oilrig, you'd say they're living there, wouldn't you? -- Tarquin 20:14, 26 Dec 2003 (UTC)
I would, personally, but others might not (such as Adam, above). Further complicating things is that I don't think anyone's spent a full year on the ISS, so it's even closer to the fuzzy borderline. I don't think the issue's big enough to worry about, myself. Bryan 20:31, 26 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I hate to be pedantic (!), but one "lives" in one's home. A work assignment, even a prolonged one, is not where one lives. There are naval personnel atm who have spent a year on an aircraft carrier - do they live there? They do not, they live at their homes. Ask them. The line is just someone being clever, which I don't mind, but it isn't encyclopaedic. Adam 01:32, 27 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Also: "Earth has one natural satellite, "the Moon", which revolves around the Earth." Is this not a rather geocentric view? In fact the Earth and the Moon revolve around each other, or rather around a point between them, closer to the Earth than to the Moon because of the Earth's greater mass. If we were living on the Moon, the Earth would appear to be revolving around us, no? Adam 10:53, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)

The Earth-Moon barycenter is located well underneath the surface of Earth, so the Moon really can be said to be orbiting Earth. I see nothing overly "geocentric" about this, it's factual. Bryan 19:34, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)

In contrast to the degree by which Luna orbits Terra; Terra's "orbit" of Luna is negligible. Lirath Q. Pynnor