112lect6 - GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 1 GY 112...

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GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 1 GY 112 Lecture Notes Evolution of Plate Tectonics as a Theory Lecture Goals : A) Mountain Building before Plate Tectonics B) The evidence in favor of Plate Tectonics C) New ideas Textbook reference: Levin 7 th edition (2003), Chapter 5; Levin 8 th edition (2006), Chapters 1, 2 and 5 (and a lot of stuff that Doug read somewhere) A) Mountain Building before Plate Tectonics By now, most of you should already be familiar with Alfred Wegener and his “radical ideas”. In the early 1900’s, Wegener proposed that the continents has shifted positions relative to each other over time. His evidence was centered around South America and Africa. Any child (and even some GY 112 students) can see how the two continents look like they fit together and to be fair, we should again point out that Wegener was not the first to see this fit. Sir Francis Bacon in 1620 mentioned it and in 1782, Benjamin Franklin even stated that the surface of the Earth resembled a shell, “capable of being broken and distorted by the violent movements of the fluid on which it rested”. Noted French scientist Antonio Snider- Pellegrini suggested that the continents were connected during the late Carboniferous Period (Pennsylvannia to those of us that reside in the USA) based upon similar plant fossils in Europe and North America. Edward Suess, an Austrian geologist, took this one step further when he recognized similar plant fossils between South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctic. In the late 1800’s, he proposed that all of these continents were part of an ancient larger continent which he called Gondwanna , a name we still use today. So why do we give most of the credit for continental drift to Wegener? Because he reviewed all of the data, first proposed a true super continent and put it all together into a book. I guess the saying “he who publishes first, is first” holds here. The hypothesis of Continental Drift was official born in 1915 with the publishing of his book Die Entstehung der Knontinente und Ozeane (Translation: The Origins of Continents and Oceans) which you can still buy from Amazon.com and other sources. Here is the reference to the translated copy:
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GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 2 Wegener, A., 1966. The Origin of Continents and Oceans (Translated by John Biram),Dover Publications, New York, 246p. As stated previously, few scientists at the time supported Wegener’s “new radical idea”. I have several old geology textbooks (circa 1940) that pooh-poohed Wegener’s idea. They state (and this was correct at the time), “that apart from circumstantial data, there was absolutely no supporting evidence for this new idea of Continental Drift”. For example, no mechanism of movement was given (In fact, we still don’t really know how this works today!). Interestingly, the authors that were most negative about Wegener’s ideas were those most silent about how mountains actually formed. They went into great detail about
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This note was uploaded on 02/04/2012 for the course GLY 112 taught by Professor Haywick during the Spring '12 term at S. Alabama.

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112lect6 - GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 1 GY 112...

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