Watch Simulations of Spectacular Geologic Collisions

The state of the universe.
March 25 2014 1:14 PM

The Evolution of Continents

Watch simulations of spectacular geologic collisions.

Mount Everest (center) and the Himalayas in 2013
Mount Everest (center) and the Himalayas in 2013

Photo by Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

The Earth’s continents drift at a speed of a few centimeters per year. Things get complicated when two landmasses collide, causing the crust to roll up, stretch, bend, and tear. The collisions add new land to existing continents and, most dramatically, create mountain ranges.

A new Nature paper, by Louis Moresi, Peter Betts, Meghan Miller, and Ross Cayley, explains in depth the chain of events following impact between continental fragments at subduction zones. Their models plug in geological data from Eastern Australia to recreate the collisions and their aftermaths. The simulations show the collisions causing the subduction zones to “stutter and recover,” as continents pick up new fragments of crust and throw them into a huge arc thousands of kilometers from where they once were.

The simulations could have a number of practical applications, such as in the search for buried mineral systems.     

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.