Information for Plate Tectonics

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Information for Plate Tectonics

"Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the Earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. Photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dead as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos. If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land. And if you had been looking for a very long, geologic time, you would have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held afloat by the fire beneath." (1) These were the words spoken by Lewis Thomas, the U.S. Physician and author.

The story of Plate Tectonics is a fascinating story of continents drifting majestically from place to place breaking apart, colliding, and grinding against each other; of terrestrial mountain ranges rising up like rumples in rugs being pushed together; of oceans opening and closing and undersea mountain chains girdling the planet like seams on a baseball; of violent earthquakes and fiery volcanoes. Plate Tectonics describes the intricate design of a complex, living planet in a state of dynamic flux. (1)

Many forces cause the shape of the Earth to change over long time. However, the largest force that changes our planet's surface is the movement of Earth's outer layer through the process of plate tectonics. This process causes mountains to push higher and oceans to grow wider. The rigid outer layer of the Earth, the lithosphere, is made up of plates that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. These solid but lightweight ...

... middle of paper ... emerge recently concerns, perhaps, the greatest of all mysteries - the origins of life on earth. The predominant theory held that life had its origins in warm ponds or similar small bodies of water protected from the harsh environment of the early earth and far from the escaping heat of the deep sea-floors. But now scientists have discovered organisms that thrive in these hellish conditions and appear to have been around long before the earliest known organisms previously known. Could the hot vents at mid-ocean ridges have been the incubators of life on this planet? (1)

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