3D earth model from the crust to the core and beyond...

Hello, Henry here. I’ml looking for a special model of Earth. It needs to be as accurate as possible from the crust down to the core.

I would like to be able to make cross-sectional images of Earth under different tectonic plate configurations while being able to control the cross sections - how the cross section exposes the earth’s interior. I would like to have the cross sections adjustable by layer or some layers or all layers at once. The level of detail for the mantel and below the mantel can be low. Here is an example image (http://library.thinkquest.org/C0112871/Earth%20Layers_files/image008.gif) of the kind of cross section I wish to be able to produce, where the inner layers are mostly spherical, but the crust thickness stands out and is accurate. The model should have an image quality like this example image (http://www.kidcyber.com.au/IMAGES/earthXjup.jpg). Another option I would like is to be able to cut out entire sections, either square, conical, such as in this example (http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090316021204/astronomy/images/b/be/Earth-cutaway.img_assist_custom.jpg). I would like to be able to “pin” the cross section to the earth from where the cross section was taken out, or, as the earth is rotated, keep the cross section as is and have the cross section update as per the earth angle - writing past my bedtime, will go over in more detail to whomever takes this project on.

Above the mantel is where the detail will count the most. Use maps from online sources to make the crust thickness and plasticity as accurate as possible. For example, this image (http://igppweb.ucsd.edu/~gabi/crust/crust2a.thick.gif) can be used to make the overall crust thickness. I may have more that I can give, but will likely look for the ones I’d like you to use when the time comes.

This next part is for me to be able to study the tectonic motions, or experiment with various tectonic plate configurations. So the crust of the earth should be divided into sections as defined by the tectonic plate boundaries and the oceanic plates. I have to be able to manipulate these tectonic plates by being able to assemble them into the super continent “Pangea”, if I would so wish. I want the tectonic shields to be more rigid when adjusting them than the oceanic crusts on which they sit, but I also want the rigidity to be adjustable. Some maps for example use vertical exaggeration. I would like something similar in that I would like the tectonic shields and oceanic crusts to be “exaggeratable” in several ways, for the purpose of emphasizing their true movements and changes in shapes that will make the crust changes easier for me to see.

Next, when you look at the oceanic crusts, you can see how their seams give insight into their movements. I would like to be able to drag the tectonic shields and have the oceanic crusts being dragged with them by having the edge of the oceanic crust adjacent to the tectonic shield pinned to the tectonic shield. Or, I would like to be able to move the oceanic crust in sections almost independent of the tectonic shields, to be able to visualize the subduction of the oceanic crust underneath the tectonic plates and/or shields. The oceanic crusts and plates have to be as adjustable as possible for me to be able to configure them in multiple ways. The tectonic shields are to be adjustable such that, for example, if I tug on the west coast of north america, I would like that the rocky mountains get flattened, like stretching out a crumpled fabric. I would like to be able to do the reverse as well. By accounting for the crust’s thickness and plasticity, I would like to be able “push” on the southern tip of india, for example, and be able to have the crust crumple to produce the himalayan mountain range. Since india is a subcontinent, I would like it to be considered a separate tectonic plate in terms of manipulating its movements.

Lastly, each of the layer thicknesses are to be adjustable, either individually, or some, or all. But the crust is to have its curvature adjust to accommodate the changing radius of the earth. While we don’t see much space debris falling in the sky, the amount that does fall every year is substantial. Over the course of millions of years, that can be a significant amount of additional mass, which I would like to be able to account for in this model, however small that number may be. That can be simply a number calculated from the change in the earth’s radius and what that equates to in terms of mass added or taken away.

So, with the earth’s radius adjustable, I would like to see that as I’m changing only the innermost layers’ radii, that on the surface, the crusts are slowly almost drifting closer together, with the oceanic crusts getting “pushed” into the earth where their edges meet, or have them move independently of the tectonic shields. Their movements are to be governed by their relative thicknesses and plasticities.

There will likely be other details I’ve missed, but I hope this is enough information to be able to squeeze out a relatively accurate price for creating such a model, if you are up to the challenge. If you take this up, the model ought to be ready to be animated as a future project extension.

Hope this peaks your interest,

An update to what I’m looking for…

To accurately see the world as it was as a single continent, I need water to be its own element such that the center of mass of all the combined tectonic plates accurately affects the earth’s overall center of mass. That point will serve as the center of the “sphere” of water. Also, the water layer thickness and radius should be adjustable as well.

Once all the layers, tectonic plates, water, and oceanic crusts are in their respective position, I would like to at that point be able to render the image. Not looking for photo-realistic, but that wont hurt.


Hello hmott,

I think you are looking for an advanced physics model to be run on a super computer programmed by PHD’s, not a Blender animation created by cg artists. Estimated cost: thousands of dollars… at least.
Realistically I think you would need to prune down your wish list to a few basics, perhaps an animation (not simulation) of the continents breaking apart without the core cross-section/ physics requirements.
Why do you need such a model?


I am in agreement with BlendShadow, you are asking a little too much here. The first parts are incredibly simple, but it seems like halfway through the post you went off on a tangent of what would be cool to have rather than what you can afford/is possible. For the plates to move, they either have to be rigged with constraints (which wouldn’t suit your needs, because you want to move them as you please) or they have to be set up in a rigid body system, which can not even come close to the complexity that you are requesting.

Another huge problem in what you are requesting is making the earth accurately fold and stretch. The reason the rocky mountains or the himalayas are where they are is not as simple as a force pushed on a plate (as I’m sure you know). There are thousands of forces at work in something as complex as the shape and position of the mountains and valleys of the earth, and there is no way that blender could take even 1% of those forces into account. Maybe you can have one single point (the rockies for example) per plate that would could be stretched or compressed, but other than that it’s not going to happen.

The last huge problem that I see is water. Water in itself has thousands of forces that account for it’s masses and movement, and while blender has a fluid simulator in it, it takes up to a week to bake on a high end computer for even a mildly complex simulation (that’s my specialty, so I know a lot about it). perhaps you could make the core of the earth a control that attracts, the plates and crust as obstacles, and a stable amount of fluid somewhere from which you could add or subtract mass, but it would be nowhere near the complexity that you are imagining (and in reality, just that would be more complex than most people could operate, and not only that but it would take a week at least to bake, every single time you want to move a plate. Then, after it’s done baking, you would have 99% useless frames where it’s acting strange and maybe 1 frame that have even a semblance of accuracy. But nothing like adjusting the earths center of mass. There is no center of mass in blender anyways so I don’t know why that would even matter though.

What you are looking for requires a dedicated program that will take at least maybe 2% of the forces that contribute to what you are hoping to create into account, and it will most likely require a server farm to run. I’m sorry, I’m not being pessimistic and I’m not being a “hater” and saying that it can’t be done, but if you want exactly what you described as you described it, it’s not going to happen in blender, and it’s not going to happen cheap. Anyone who tells you that they can do it cheap or in blender (in addition to well, or as you want it) is lying to you, and you’re bound to end up paying for disappointment, or not paying and pissing someone off.

Look into real physics simulation programs and perhaps find a grad student who majors in geology and computer science (that’s a rare mix) who is familiar with those programs to write you something similar that can maybe simulate one continent and one ocean, and then if you want the whole earth you can have someone make you an earth in blender that can have multiple layers as you want it, but none of the crazy physics stuff that professors are still struggling to understand today, much less program it in any predictable, accurate, or realistic way.

For perspective on just how outsized this project really could be, check this out: http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/earth-simulator/

All of you are exaggerating the problem. All this would require would be some custom coding and creative shape keys.

Mr. Hmott, I would suggest you not be deterred. Will this is certainly an ambitious project, it in no way entails what they are suggesting (simulating the earth). If your really want an accurate simulation of the earth, than this is overly ambitious. But, for a demonstration model (or something of that nature), I would expect that you could accomplish this for less than two thousand dollars.

I think you’ve got this backwards, we aren’t saying you would need to simulate the earth to do what he is asking, what he is asking for is a simulation of the earth.

It would be one thing if it was an animation or perhaps a choice of several animations, that would be easy and definitely top out at $2000 (the demonstration model as you call it). For $2000 you could probably have someone just do it frame by frame and not even worry about custom code or shape keys.

But that’s not what he wants (maybe it is what he wants, but it’s not what the post says he wants). What he wants is a completely rigged up system that can respond accurately to a multitude of different stimuli, and have their reactions depend on the nature and type of the stimuli as well as other forces, such as the center of mass of the earth, the position of the water, the position of the plates, the rigidity/plasticity of the particular plate and the plates around it. What that is is a simulation, and there’s no point in it if it’s not accurate. When he mentions things like “This next part is for me to be able to study the tectonic motions” , I assume that he wants something realistic and accurate so that he can study it. While it’s definitely possible and easy to make a model like this with maybe 3 or 4 predetermined movements/stimuli and maybe 6 or 7 predetermined movements/outcomes that only depend on the stimuli, and not other things such as the radius of the earth and center of mass of the water, than even that would be relatively possible. But a “realistic simulation” that he can study, that has a virtually unlimited number of stimuli/properties that can be performed by the controller, with a virtually unlimited number of outcomes that depend on a multitude of sources that blender can’t account for (and even science has trouble accounting for some of them, much less an untrained 3d artist who probably isn’t even aware of the forces at play), and doing all of this with even a semblance of realism or accuracy is just not possible in blender.

Let me give you a tiny example based on what he wants. He wants to be able to push the western plate of the united states, when he does this he wants the western plate of the united states to start to crumple, but not in a predetermined place but in an area that is determined by the rigidity/plasticity of that particular plate, the plates around it, the radius and center of mass of the earth, the direction, location, and velocity of the force that is applied to the plate, etc. When the plate crumples in this mathematically determined position, he then wants the water to change position/center of mass to account for the vacuum created by the crumpling of the plate, as well as the remainder of the plates to shift to adjust to the new position. Now if this could only happen one way it would be relatively easy. Say you push on california and the rockies form, the water expands, the plates move, whatever. This is a single predetermined stimuli with 2 predetermined outcomes (push and pull). That is easy. But when he wants to be able to change the rigidity of the plate that california is on, push from oregon, and have the rockies form somewhere near the great lakes (pure bs example), and then adjust the radius of the earth and do it again and this time have the rockies form in texas/mexico, then move russia over a little and do it again and have the rockies form a mountain that comes out of the water (again all bs, but what I’m getting at is that he wants to respond in an accurate way to virtually infinite number of stimuli that can’t be accounted for, and rather than having a few predetermined crumpling animations that take place when he pushed he wants it so that the animations are actually generated by a mathematical formula that is incredibly complex and still relatively unknown to geologists, and he wants it all done in blender).

As I said, 2 or 3 predetermined stimuli with 8 or 9 predetermined outcomes that may be realistic is very possible and quite simple, but a simulation that not only lets him do whatever he wants to the planet but also reacts in a realistic and accurate way is just that, a simulation, and a simulation like that doesn’t exist anywhere besides the actual physical earth (not a simulation, the real thing).

I’m sorry, like I said, I’m not being pessimistic, I’m just being realistic. If he wanted a demonstration model with a few controllable animations that’d be fine and dandy, but it wouldn’t be nearly the complexity or realism of what he is requesting, and it sure as hell wouldn’t be “studying” material. Even the simulation model made by the supercomputer linked to above isn’t a physical 3D model, it’s just a bunch of text and numbers. A 3D and accurate model to which you can do whatever it is you like and have it react in a undetermined and realistic way based on a bunch of factors and math, not the eye of a 3D artist, is just never going to happen in blender.

I’d like to take a little bit of middle ground here. You probably don’t have a good understanding of how 3D applications (and their users) work. You’re apparently not looking for an artist, but for a software developer to create an interactive system for you.

I assume you are not looking for a system that reliably models the phenomena you are talking about, but that visualizes them. A small application, maybe in principle similar to something like this demo. From the things you describe, I surmise a texture-based simulation on a UV-parametrized spheroid might do what you need. From that data you’d then generate/displace 3d primitives on-the-fly.

Maybe you’ll have better luck in a game developer forum (such as gamedev.net). Also: Don’t forget to mention your budget (starting at four figures).

Hello everyone, thank you all for replying and adding to the conversation.

Quite right, I am most certainly not looking for a model to simulate the world, and nothing close to gearth either.

I am looking for a simple 3d model with which to manipulate the tectonic plates, and then be able to take a snapshot.

As for the water, I would treat that as a solid sphere which can be increased/decreased in size and moved slightly. The reason being that when all of the continents are combined to form the “super” continent, all that mass on one side of earth would cause the center of gravity to adjust slightly, and I would want to show that with the water sphere by moving it slightly towards “Pangea”. Not much more than that.

I would be willing to start with just the surface of earth with movable but solid tectonic plates. I would be willing to leave out the complexities of crumpling the surface, and start with baby steps. Thanks Gode for going into the extra detail, and to all those who contributed.

For those interested, let me know.

Thanks again and my apologies for the long delay in replying,