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.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.