Block of the Week: Bedrock
Stops you reaching the centre of your world. Spoilsport!
Iron is tough. Diamond is tougher. But our block of the week today is the toughest of them all. That's right - we're talking about bedrock.
Bedrock lives at the bottom of the overworld and the top and bottom of the Nether. It was added on the tenth day of Minecraft's development - 20 May 2009 - only three days after the game was released to the public for the first time. It's older than water, lava, ores and logs. But dirt, grass and stone are older still.
You've probably noticed, if you've ever dug to the bottom of the world, that bedrock is indestructible in survival mode. Without exploiting bugs or glitches, you'll break an infinite number of diamond picks before even making a dent in its craggy surface. In creative mode, of course, you get the freedom to place and break whatever blocks you like - including bedrock.
The block has been tweaked a few times over the game's development. At one point early on, it would turn into lava after a while when exposed to sunlight. For quite a long time, visibility would decrease near the bottom of the world, with creepy dust particles floating around. But today bedrock just sits there, marking the boundaries of the playspace and stopping players falling into the infinite void below.
In the real world, what geologists call bedrock is more like Minecraft's stone layer - it's the name for the compacted rock that sits below the surface soil. Real-world bedrock is hard, but absolutely breakable - and most large buildings are anchored into the bedrock with structures called "foundations".
In a lot of places around the world, like Sandside Bay in Caithness, Scotland in the picture above, the bedrock pokes out above the surface in what's called an "outcrop", and you can sometimes see the layers of soil above with the bedrock below. New bedrock is constantly being formed under the ocean, and destroyed in places where tectonic plates meet.
Another way in which real-world bedrock differs from Minecraft is in what sits under it. Rather than an infinite void, the centre of the Earth is so hot that the rock melts into magma - which occasionally leaks out through volcanoes. In the very centre, the pressure is so high that a super-dense core of solid iron has formed. That's right - the core of the Earth, if it was in Minecraft, would be made of iron blocks.
That massive chunk of iron in the centre of the planet is why the Earth has a magnetic field, and why magnetic compasses point north. Which brings up the question of how compasses work in Minecraft if the centre of that world is just an infinite void. No-one knows the answer to that, but if you ask me, it's probably something to do with the Endermen...
- Duncan Geere