Tag: Plate Tectonics

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

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Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 864: Mu-vin’ On Up From The Lost Continent

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“The antediluvian kings colonized the world; all the gods who play in the mythological dramas in all legends from all lands were in Atlantis.”

This is an excerpt from the legend of Atlantis – or more accurately from the 1968 Donovan song “Atlantis”, but it makes my point. Since the days of Ancient Greece when Plato wove the notion into his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, humans have postulated on the possible existence of a great civilization that sunk into the sea. Once the European jet-set (or large-boat-set, I guess) discovered the New World, the concept of Atlantis was used to explain some of the wonders of the tribes they encountered. The sunken island has a glorious history.

All of it completely fiction, of course. Atlantis is not one of our planet’s uncovered mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle or the physical content of a McRib. Europeans tried to use it as justification for the existence of the Mayan culture because there was no way those indigenous doofuses could have concocted such an elaborate civilization on their own, right?

If you have to invent an entire continent to justify your inherent racism, maybe it’s time to give it up.

Atlantis is not the only slab of land that Mother Earth has misplaced. We should also look to that other massive ocean and the lost island of Mu.

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We can blame the so-called Mu mystery on Augustus Le Plongeon, a 19th-century writer who had investigated the Mayan ruins in Yucatàn and allegedly translated some of the ancient writings. Actually he was working off a mistranslation of a piece of Mayan literature then called the Troano Codex, and he interpreted the name ‘Mu’ to mean a land that had sunk after a catastrophe. It was a tiny leap of connection for Le Plongeon to decide that Mu was Atlantis, or something just like it. He claimed that the magnificence of Ancient Egypt was founded by Queen Moo (probably not a cow), a refugee of Mu. Read more…

Day 387: Canada Gets Seven Wonders Too, Eh?

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In 2007, The National – one of Canada’s nation-wide nightly news broadcasts – ran a competition to track down the Seven Wonders of Canada. I’ve written a few articles on the various incarnations of the ‘Seven Wonders’ concept, but this one truly irks me. Canadians voted – I didn’t, but many of my countrymen who actually cared did – then a panel of CBC ‘experts’ voted on which Wonders made the list.

I don’t know why they bothered to poll the nation, only to hand the list over to a trio of talking heads to make the pick. They selected Roberta L. Jamieson, the first woman to receive a law degree in Canada, Roy MacGregor, who covers hockey for the Globe & Mail, a national paper, and the guitar player from Trooper.

Totally not joking. The guys who sang "Raise A Little Hell".

Totally not joking. The guys who sang “Raise A Little Hell”.

Why these people had a greater say than the citizens of this country, I have no idea. But they did, and the end result was that they selected only two of the top seven voted upon by Canadians. Among the other five chosen, three don’t even make sense. The canoe? Prairie skies? The friggin’ igloo? Read more…

Day 296: The World, Coast To Coast

I promised my wife I could make an article about geology interesting. In my defense, I’d downed two delicious pints of Alleykat’s Chili-Pepper lager, and where some men get beer muscles I tend to get a beer writing ability. Plate tectonics? Hell yeah! This shit’ll be riveting!

Now that the passage of a few hours has siphoned the alcohol from my bloodstream, I’m faced with a daunting task. Yet I can’t help but be drawn to this topic. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a supercontinent cycle.

The basics of supercontinents are pretty easy to grasp. The plates that make up the earth’s continental crust are always moving, shimmying under our feet and causing earthquakes that range from the catastrophic down to those tiny ones that stoned people aren’t entirely sure didn’t just happen in their heads. Once upon a time – about 300 million years ago – all our continents were bunched together in a single clump, like the hard candies in my grandmother’s candy dish. We call this clump Pangea.

I didn’t check, but I don’t think those colors accurately reflect the color of the soil.

How do we know this happened? It’s more than just a guess. First of all, the pieces fit together. It’s not a perfect click, but it’s pretty damn close. Second, there are similar sedentary rocks found where these continents used to be connected. Third… well, there are a lot more reasons, ranging from fossils to glaciology to something called paleomagnetics. Let’s just call this a fact and move on. Sciencey people have written it down in text books and it’s on the internet – what more evidence do we need? Read more…