Tag Archives: geology

Expansion tectonics: the secret of Planet Earth that THEY don’t want you to know!

Thanks in part to spending my early teens as a stubborn geek outcast in a public boarding school*, I was once deeply involved with occultism and conspiracy theory, and the attraction of wild ideas and crazy-yet-almost-coherent philosophies has never truly dimmed… though I like to think I’m a lot more rational and critical of received information as an adult. (My loss, the world’s gain? Maybe… )

So here’s a corker of an oddball theory [via MetaFilter], and one I can’t believe I’ve never stumbled across before. What’s the secret? Plate tectonics is a myth. The Earth is expanding.

This modified map shows clear empirical evidence that Asia and Australia were originally conjoined with North and South America approximately 200-250 Ma, prior to creation of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

This earlier connection of Asia and Australia with the Americas is also confirmed geologically by the deep ocean trenches that delineate the Andesite Line containing andesite, the primary mineral of the Andes Cordilleran mountains running the length of South America. [Carey, 1976, p.256]

The evidence is empirical and the conclusions are obvious—the Earth ~200-250 million years ago was a single planetary landmass ~40% smaller than it is today, and at that moment in geologic time there were NO OCEANS!

Every island and seamount, and most of the water In today’s ocean basins that now cover over 70% of the planet, has evolved in the very short period of 200 million years! The Earth has been, and still is, steadily growing in size and expanding in diameter at an accelerating rate—contrary to what scientists believe because they are currently unable to detect and measure this relatively slow rate of growth.


Every hallmark of web-based outsider science crankdom is there, with the exception of explicit references to Biblical quotations and animated gifs. Fat blocky font, check; BLOCK CAPITALS used for emphasis of salient yet hard-to-swallow FACTS, especially when the word PROOF appears in a headline, check; cutting edge web design circa 2001, checkity-check check check. (It should be noted, however, that the spelling and grammar is of unusually high quality.)

Oh, it’s so easy to be cynical, isn’t it? We’ll all be sorry when this dude’s theory turns out to be true. “First they came for the anthropogenic climate change denialists, and I said nothing…”

[ * To preemptively answer the three usual questions that follow this revelation: 1) yes, there was; 2) no, I didn’t; 3) if I could explain that, I’d probably have my own successful psychology practice and a lucrative career as a public speaker on the hedge fund circuit. ]

Natural nuclear reactors

My magical statistics monkeys tell me that last week’s post on dissociative fugues was surprisingly popular, so I thought I’d share another article I found fascinating. Yet another hat-tip to Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG for this one; it’s a Scientific American report on naturally occuring nuclear reactors. Yes, you read that right – nuclear power plants that just happened by geological chance.

More than two tons of this plutonium isotope were generated within the Oklo deposit. Although almost all this material, which has a 24,000-year halflife, has since disappeared (primarily through natural radioactive decay), some of the plutonium itself underwent fission, as attested by the presence of its characteristic fission products. The abundance of those lighter elements allowed scientists to deduce that fission reactions must have gone on for hundreds of thousands of years. From the amount of uranium 235 consumed, they calculated the total energy released, 15,000 megawatt-years, and from this and other evidence were able to work out the average power output, which was probably less than 100 kilowatts—say, enough to run a few dozen toasters.

(Or a few dozen highly-efficient computers, perhaps?)

It is truly amazing that more than a dozen natural reactors spontaneously sprang into existence and that they managed to maintain a modest power output for perhaps a few hundred millennia. Why is it that these parts of the deposit did not explode and destroy themselves right after nuclear chain reactions began? What mechanism provided the necessary self-regulation? Did these reactors run steadily or in fits and starts?

Go read the whole thing; the science isn’t too heavy, and it’s a pretty wild idea. I’m pretty sure I’ve read about something similar in a Stephen Baxter novel (though I can’t for the life of me remember which one); at the time I assumed he was speculating in a vacuum, but I guess I should have known better. 🙂

Regarding the popularity of the dissociative fugues post, I’ve been wondering whether perhaps I should be spending more time linking to interesting stuff and less time waffling around on tangents? It’s you guys who read this stuff, so what would you like to see here – more random points of interest, more speculative ramblings, or a blend of the two?

Joe Robot vs. the Volcano: the spiderbots of Mount St Helens

Mount St Helens shrouded in cloudIn order to keep a close eye on Mount St. Helens, the NASA JPL people have built and deployed a bunch of networked “spiderbots” which negotiate a peer-to-peer network between each other in order to pass data back to base.

Fifteen spiderbots, so-named because of the three spindly arms protruding from their suitcase-sized steel bodies, were lowered from a helicopter to spots inside the crater and around the rim of Mount St Helens, an active volcano in the US state of Washington, in July.

Each has a seismometer for detecting earthquakes, an infrared sensor to detect heat from volcanic explosions, a sensor to detect ash clouds, and a global positioning system to sense the ground bulging and pinpoint the exact location of seismic activity.

Once in place, the bots reached out to each other to form what is known as a mesh network. “It’s similar to the internet,” says Steve Chien, the principal scientist for autonomous systems at JPL. “You just lay them out, and they figure out the best way to route the data.”

Smart idea: install a remote monitoring system and instruct it to drop you a line with any problems… up to and including any problems with the system itself as well as the volcano, one assumes.

Obviously the expense means that this sort of system is currently only of use in high-risk and high-budget applications, but it’s no great mental stretch – given the rapid advances of networking technology – to imagine entire states or countries blanketed with similar monitoring frameworks.

Then make the data public, bolt on an API and distribute something like the SETI@home software, and everyone with some spare processor cycles can help keep an eye on geological instabilities. Similar systems (or perhaps even the same devices) could be used to provide communications infrastructure in the aftermath of a disaster, too. [image by christmaswithak]

Is there life on Mars? Atmospheric methane says ‘maybe’

MarsAfter last year’s long-awaited confirmed discovery of water on the red planet, David Bowie comes another step closer to finding the answer to his question: NASA called a press conference today to announce that they have, in partnership with some university science teams, “achieved the first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars”.

So what’s the big deal with that? Basically, there’s two reasons you might find methane in a planetary atmosphere: geological activity or biological activity. It’s going to take a lot more work to discover which of the two is the culprit in the case of Mars (and the NASA announcement does a better job that I can of explaining it all), but either option is pretty exciting to space nerds… after all, it’s not all that long ago that we pretty much assumed the whole planet was inert.

And as a side-tangent, this is great political timing from NASA, whether accidental or deliberate – with a new president about to enter the White House with promises to shake things up, announcements like this get everybody talking about space with that old-school sensawunda I remember from my childhood… and given the bleak state of the news headlines at the moment, something to make us look up from the mundane for a moment can only be a positive. Something big to dream about. [image by chipdatajeffb]

I mean, just think – life on Mars! It’s like something out of a science fiction novel, isn’t it? 😉

Peak coal in Christmas stocking?

A new report from the American Geophysical Union suggests governments may be substantially over-reporting coal reserves, from Ars Technica:

Such fallacious reporting is nothing new—the United States government happily overestimated oil reserves in the 1950s and 1960s until peak oil hit the lower 48. David Rutledge, professor of engineering and applied sciences at the California Institute of Technology, claims the same mistakes are being repeated with coal.

His results, reported in a panel discussion at this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting, state the world only has 662 billion tons of coal, including reserves already exploited. The estimate is well short of the 1,027 billion tons remaining in proven and projected reserves, according to the World Energy Council.

Leading to the possibility of imminent peak coal.

[via Bruce Sterling][image from sic on flickr]