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About halfway between your feet and the center of Earth, two continent-size mountains of hot, compressed rock pierce the gut of the planet — and scientists know almost nothing about them.
Technically, these mysterious hunks of rock are called "large low-shear-velocity provinces" (LLSVPs), because seismic waves shuddering through Earth always slow down when passing through these structures.
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Geophysicists have known about the blobs since the 1970s but aren't much closer to understanding them today.
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"They're among the largest things inside the Earth," University of Maryland geologist Ved Lekic told Eos reporter Jenessa Duncombe, "and yet we literally don't know what they are, where they came from, how long they've been around, or what they do."
This much is evident: The blobs begin thousands of miles below Earth's surface, where the planet's rocky lower mantle meets the molten outer core. One blob lurks deep below the Pacific Ocean, the other beneath Africa and parts of the Atlantic. Both are massive, stabbing up about halfway through the mantle and measuring as long as continents. According to Duncombe, each blob stretches about 100 times higher than Mount Everest; if they...
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