AI scientists The Earth Core: An Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm meant to help astrophysics explore the galaxy has helped geophysicists discover a secret hidden on the core-mantle boundary. The core-mantle boundary is what divides the Earth’s molten iron core, and it’s rocky surface.

The core-mantle boundaries have remain one of the most enigmatic regions on Each that have previously not been explored due to several constraints; therefore there is only limited understanding of these area. Geophysicists have studied seismic wave signals over the years to decipher the workings of the plate tectonics, on which living things thrive on, and the evolution of our planet. For example, by studying the seismic signals, researchers in the 20th century deduced that the Earth’s outer core must be in liquid-state because shear wave from an earthquake from one part of the globe could not be detected on the other side.

AI scientists The Earth Core -

Using AI, scientists discover dense rock structures near the earth’s core
Image Credit: Pexels

The algorithm, called the Sequester, has helped the researchers study a large seismic database, collected through different sources over the years, to find patterns in the region. The algorithm was co-developed by the study’s authors from Johns Hopkins University and Tel Aviv University to originally find patterns in radiation from distant stars and galaxies. For the geophysicists, Sequester studied sheer waves echo.

Seismic waves are generated underneath the Earth’s surface when an earthquake occurs. These waves travel distances and encounter a variety of rock density, temperature, or composition which get reflected in echoes. Echoes change properties by what they encounter on their paths. The nearby echoes come back faster, while echoes from larger structures come back louder. By measuring the time and app of these returning echoes, also known as seismograms, scientists map out the physical properties of the geology beneath the surface of the Earth.

In a paper published in Science Magazine, the team described how the machine-learning algorithm Sequester studied over 7,000 seismographs, specifically, the Wasserstein metric, from hundreds of earthquakes with 6.5 or above magnitude, originating from the Pacific Ocean basic between 1990 to 2018. It then gasified this data to ‘Join the Dots’ to find the shortest path between all data points. This helped scientists derive a trend.

Doyeon Kim, a postdoctorate professor in the UMD Dept. of Geology and the lead author of the paper, said that by looking at thousands of core-mantle boundary echoes at once, instead of focusing on a few time, as is usually done, they have got a totally new perspective. He also added to the point that this was showing them the core-mantle boundary region has a lot of structures that can produce these echoes, and that was something they didn’t realize before because they only had a narrow view.

Previously, scientists assumed that structures on core-mantle boundaries are rare. But the research enlightened them on quite the opposite. “We found echoes on about 40% of all seismic wave paths…that means is the anomalous structures at the core-mantle boundary are much more widespread than previously thought,” - this is said by Vedran Lekić, an associate professor of Geology at UMD and also a co-author of this particular study.

The first anomaly was found underneath Hawaii. While the region is known to be a seismic spot, Sequencer and additional analysis found that the seismic wave anomaly may be a result of a mantle plume, an outward jutting hot rocky area arising from the Earth’s mantle. The area is estimated to be way larger and much denser than previously estimated because the seismic waves produced uniquely loud echoes.


The second discovery was more surprising because the researchers discovered a previously unknown zone underneath the Marquesas Islands, a remote island in French Polynesia. Vedran Lekić, The renowned professor of Geology at UMD said that they were surprised to find such a big feature beneath the Marquesas Islands, which is a remote island in French Polynesia. He also added to his point that they didn’t even know that the island ever existed before. That was really exciting because it showed how the sequencer algorithm can help us contextualize seismographic data across the globe in a way they couldn’t before.