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What came before Pangea? What comes next?
August 6, 2012 8:21 AM   Subscribe

A history of the world. As seen from space. Over a really long stretch of time. If the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and Pangea split up only about 200 million years ago, what happened before then? I never knew that geologists could reconstruct the continents' movements from before Pangea. Not only that, but they can give us a preview of what comes next. Here's three possible ways the continents might be joined in 250 million years. In the big picture, researchers from U.C. Lancashire have just finished a model of the way the Milky Way Galaxy formed.

A zany alternative to continental drift theory is what I call the Balloon Earth theory. (Just chuckle at the misguided earnestness of the video. Do not read the YouTube comments.)
posted by Sleeper (34 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Upshot: If we're just really, really, really, really patient all the jobs will come home.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:37 AM on August 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


From a design perspective, the current configuration of landmasses on the face of Earth is pretty pleasing. Pangea and all those 250 million-year projections irk me every time I look at them because all I can think about is that huge ocean on the other side of the globe like too much white space.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:39 AM on August 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


That last link is the same as the penultimate one.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:43 AM on August 6, 2012


If we're just really, really, really, really patient all the jobs will come home.

Novopangaea will learn from our mistake and avoid a unified currency.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:47 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite fun facts about plate tectonics is the repeated, over eons, drying and refilling of the Mediterranean Sea.
posted by Danf at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pangea and all those 250 million-year projections irk me every time I look at them because all I can think about is that huge ocean on the other side of the globe like too much white space.
At 165.2 million square kilometres (64.1 million square miles) in area, this largest division of the World Ocean – and, in turn, the hydrosphere – covers about 46% of the Earth's water surface and about one-third of its total surface area, making it larger than all of the Earth's land area combined. - Wikipedia
posted by DU at 8:50 AM on August 6, 2012


There is one like the first link in the State Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana that is projected on a huge (maybe 10 foot diameter?) globe, so you can watch the continents move around in 3D.
posted by starfishprime at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2012


I think you meant this for balloon earth.

And hey, who knows more- fantastic comic artists or somebody who has spent their life studying this?

(I was tempted but did not go up to Neil Adams at NY Comiccon to say that I had used his video as an example of pseudoscience when I was teaching. I felt it would be cruel, even if it was a wonderful example.)
posted by Hactar at 9:10 AM on August 6, 2012


Expanding Earth theory was taken semi-seriously in the pre-plate tectonics days. The physics doesn't really work unless you assume the gravitational constant is decreasing over time.

You do occasionally run unto people at conferences who never bought into plate tectonics -- the AGU fall meeting is so enormous that you can find almost any non-orthodox theory there. One year I saw a poster by a retired professor which was illustrated with a bunch of balloons, on which she'd stuck outlines of the continents.

This isn't really a serious controversy among non-cranks nowadays, though -- nowadays plate motions can be observed directly just about anywhere. Mantle circulation is harder to observe directly, but there's good evidence for subduction, in some cases extending very deep into the mantle.
posted by irrelephant at 9:25 AM on August 6, 2012


Heh. I think I actually read the article with the three views of the future back in 2007.
posted by cthuljew at 9:32 AM on August 6, 2012


How would the balloon earth theorists explain volcanic island arcs and the polar wandering curves of just about every igneous rock on the planet? or even simple things like convergent plate margins where the distances are getting shorter? I can understand people adopting different and even roughly equal theories when the evidence isn't available, but once the evidence starts to drop into place, some theories have to be accorded more weight than others.
posted by talitha_kumi at 10:02 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reuniting the continents is a ploy by the Bilderburg Group to facilitate one world government. THINK ABOUT IT
posted by resurrexit at 10:09 AM on August 6, 2012


Also, I predict Risk: AMASIA will be a colossal flop in futuristic board gaming.
posted by resurrexit at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2012


But a huge boon to wargamers who hate island-hopping.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:21 AM on August 6, 2012


Be sure to follow what would become the Appalachian Mountains, once the tallest mountain range in the solar system.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:55 AM on August 6, 2012


*SIGH*

As awesome as these videos are, and as much as they make me cheer humanity for its ability to acquire knowledge, the YouTube comments remind me again just how ignorant and hateful humanity is as well.
posted by papercake at 10:57 AM on August 6, 2012


too much white space

I disagree vehemently! The eye doesn't know where to focus on present-day earth. What's the message here? Is it "Asia?" No, too amorphous. Is it "Australia?" Hahaha don't make me laugh! Is it, "The Americas look like fowl when seen from space?" Maybe. It's not "Africa" - no one cares about Africa anymore.

But one earth-tone continent on a soothing blue background with some white highlights? Elegant.
posted by Mister_A at 10:59 AM on August 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


And where were these people two years ago, hmmm?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:01 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you meant this yt for balloon earth. .... posted by Hactar at 9:10 AM on August 6

Whoops, yes. That's exactly it. I pasted the wrong link into there.

This is my first FPP.
posted by Sleeper at 11:14 AM on August 6, 2012


Is there any way a mod can replace the "balloon earth theory" link with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJfBSc6e7QQ ?
posted by Sleeper at 11:19 AM on August 6, 2012


But one earth-tone continent on a soothing blue background with some white highlights? Elegant.

Helveticas at dawn, sir.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:22 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems a bit silly that we're so worried about invasive species when Mother Earth is just going to go and mix all the species together.
posted by XMLicious at 11:55 AM on August 6, 2012


See also continental drip theory.
posted by gubo at 12:11 PM on August 6, 2012


The first link was oddly adorable. I kept focusing in on one blob of land or another and thinking, "And what will you turn out to be, you morphing little thing you? Oh, look at you, you've gown up to be West Africa! Good for you!"
posted by Panjandrum at 12:19 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Neat; thank you for posting this!
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:22 PM on August 6, 2012



From a design perspective, the current configuration of landmasses on the face of Earth is pretty pleasing. Pangea and all those 250 million-year projections irk me every time I look at them because all I can think about is that huge ocean on the other side of the globe like too much white space.


I think "Sweet I don't have to build a freaking Navy just get to new land for settlers."
posted by The Whelk at 2:06 PM on August 6, 2012


Is there any way a mod can replace the "balloon earth theory" link

All set!
posted by cortex at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2012


Hey, it's The Big Ship.
posted by Beardman at 3:02 PM on August 6, 2012


Anyone know where to buy globes representing the earth in various epochs? I've needed such things in my work... no luck so far.
posted by Zerowensboring at 4:32 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, then, how many holes will there be in Blackburn, Lancashire.
posted by pjenks at 7:06 PM on August 6, 2012


My favourite epoch is the Silurian. It sounds sexy. I imagine it to be full of lizards.

Sexy lizards.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:28 AM on August 7, 2012


(No, seriously - if you're looking for a map for your next fantasy campaign - check it. Krynn ain't got nothin' on the Silurian.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:30 AM on August 7, 2012


A zany alternative to continental drift theory is what I call the Balloon Earth theory.

I assume you mean it's zany because it claims that the earth is spherical and not flat.
posted by Algebra at 8:56 AM on August 7, 2012


My favourite epoch is the Silurian. It sounds sexy. I imagine it to be full of lizards.

They went underground. Except for the one that's in Victorian London, fighting crime with her girlfriend. (They so need their own show).
posted by jb at 8:14 AM on August 8, 2012


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