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wegener-continental_drift_to_plate_tectonics_july2011 -...

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43 RESONANCE June 2005 GENERAL ARTICLE What is the nature of the force or mechanism that moves massive continents thousands of miles across? What causes violent earthquakes to displace huge landmasses abruptly? How could great mountain ranges like Himalayas and Alps rise to such incredible heights? What makes earth’s interior so restless? Answers to some of these questions may lie in understanding the Earth’s interior itself. From time immemorial, the beauty and the grandeur of nature have never failed to fascinate the imaginations of the creative minds. The colourful landscapes, changing seasons, twinkling stars, vast sky, majestic oceans, exotic life forms, great moun- tains, and deep valleys -have all been the source of veneration for the primitive human being. The roots of modern science lie in man’s eternal quest to comprehend these phenomenons by care- ful and systematic observations that gradually led to many discoveries of nature and its laws. The new scientific ideas and inventions have profoundly changed the way we view our world today. Plate tectonics , one of the most important and far-reaching discoveries of the last century has completely revolutionized our understanding of the planet Earth. The credit goes to a brilliant interdisciplinary scientist from Germany, Alfred Lothar Wegener, who in the year 1912, proposed the scintillating idea of continental drift that set the foundation for the development of the theory of plate tectonics in later years. The aim of this article is to briefly introduce the concept of plate tectonics and also to highlight the role that Wegener played to advance it. In view of the intended range and modest scope of the article, we have kept the complex and the intricate subject details to bare minimum. A serious reader is urged to consult the references given in the Alfred Wegener – From Continental Drift to Plate Tectonics A J Saigeetha and Ravinder Kumar Banyal Keywords Continental drift, plate tecto- nics. A J Saigeetha is currently working in CSIR- CMMACS, Bangalore. Her current interests include the crustal deformation and modeling, plate tectonics, and GPS Geodesy. Ravinder Kumar Banyal is a senior research student at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. His current interests include optical metrology, photo-refractive nonlinear optics, optical imaging and information processing and geophysics.
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44 RESONANCE June 2005 GENERAL ARTICLE ‘suggested reading’ for a more elaborate and in depth discussion on the related topics. Historical Introduction Several dynamic mechanisms have been at work to reshape the pattern of land and sea throughout the geological history of the Earth. Its surface features are constantly being altered by various external processes like slow erosion and deposition as well as by internal processes such as sudden earthquake and volcanic erup- tion. Geologists and meteorologists were long aware of the Earth’s dynamic conditions. However, towards the end of 19th
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