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.



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
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.