Differentiation As you know, the residual heat of formation of the Earth is a consequence of the fact that once-widely-distributed material, with a lot of potential energy, coalesced under the influence of gravity, converting the potential energy to kinetic and thermal energy in turn. I have said this several times (including earlier in this very section of the notes, above), and I imagine that in almost every such circumstance you have visualised material falling freely under gravity, through empty space, towards a central collision at considerable speed. Note, however, that there is nothing in the argument that requires that the material should race inwards, free-falling through empty space. A stone sinking through the water will not build up huge speed, but if it ends up on the sea floor, under three kilometers of water, it will have lost the potential energy it once had. That energy will have appeared as the kinetic energy of
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This note was uploaded on 03/09/2012 for the course AST 1002 taught by Professor Emilyhoward during the Spring '10 term at Broward College.