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plate tectonics

Greatest Discoveries: Plate Tectonics
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Greatest Discoveries: Plate Tectonics

Earth's surface is made up of a series of plates, all moving and shifting...and colliding. At those borders, mountains, volcanoes, strike-slip faults, and mid-ocean ridges develop.

Earthquakes have helped us define the plate boundaries. See how a number of discoveries and new technologies come together in plate tectonics.

Discovery
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Plate Tectonics: Seafloor Spreading

Plate Tectonics: Seafloor Spreading

Take an interactive look at seafloor spreading by turning on (or off) the Transform Fault, Fracture Zone, Midocean Ridge, and Subsurface Features. More...

Interactive
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Undersea Mountains March Into the Abyss

Undersea Mountains March Into the Abyss

Sonar images of the Tonga Trench have revealed a violent process: Tectonic action is "dragging giant volcanoes into a chasm in the seabed." Take a look. More...

Article
BBC
Wegener’s Theory

Wegener’s Theory

Before Alfred Wegner's theory of continental drift, people believe mountains were formed because Earth contracted as it cooled. Explore before and after Wegener. More...

Article
BBC
What Makes the Earth Shake?

What Makes the Earth Shake?

Earthquakes happen in every U.S. state. But they're more likely to happen, and be stronger, where the Earth's giant "tectonic plates" meet. More...

Video
Sciencenter
Continental Drift

Continental Drift

Even when you are standing still, you are moving. Or rather, the ground under your feet is moving. This video looks at how the continents changed over time and will continue to change. More...

Video
National Geographic
Faultline: The Breakup of Pangaea

Faultline: The Breakup of Pangaea

During the Triassic Period, 200 million years ago, Pangaea split apart into Laurasia and Gondwanaland. See how the continents have moved since then with these period maps. More...

Images
Exploratorium
Plate Tectonics: Crust, Lithosphere, Mantle

Plate Tectonics: Crust, Lithosphere, Mantle

The depth of the lithosphere and the temperature, composition, and thickness of the crust are the variables affecting movement of tectonic plates. Change them to see what happens. More...

Interactive
PhET
Puerto Rico Trench: Implications for Plate Tectonics

Puerto Rico Trench: Implications for Plate Tectonics

The deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench sits at the boundary of two tectonic plates sliding past each other. Investigate more about its high seismicity and large earthquakes. More...

Article
NOAA
Surface of Mars Possibly Shaped by Plate Tectonics in Recent Past

Surface of Mars Possibly Shaped by Plate Tectonics in Recent Past

The huge Martian volcano Olympus Mons shows evidence of recent tectonic thrusting — a surprise since most scientists think Mars is too small and its interior too cold for tectonic processes. More...

Article
Space.com
When Continental Drift Was Considered Pseudoscience

When Continental Drift Was Considered Pseudoscience

It's been about 100 years since Alfred Wegener theorized that the continents were moving apart. Other scientists ridiculed him. Now we know he was right. Read his story here. More...

Profile
Smithsonian
Age of Rocks on the Atlantic Seafloor

Age of Rocks on the Atlantic Seafloor

Take a look at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where the varying ages of rocks shows the rate at which the seafloor is spreading. More...

Activity
McDougal Littell
How Earth’s Surface Morphs

How Earth’s Surface Morphs

Scientists recently discovered a thin "jelly layer" of liquid rock that helps Earth's plates glide. They also found the first evidence that plate tectonics has been reshaping Earth's face for more than 2.5 million years. More...

Article
Science News for Students
How Plate Tectonics Works

How Plate Tectonics Works

Back in 1912, no one took the theory of continental drift seriously because no one could determine how continents moved. That eventually changed. More...

Article
Extreme Science
Jack Oliver, Who Proved Continental Drift, Dies at 87

Jack Oliver, Who Proved Continental Drift, Dies at 87

Working in the South Pacific, Oliver used seismic data to make a convincing case that continental drift was indeed happening. More...

Profile
New York Times
People and Discoveries: Harry Hess

People and Discoveries: Harry Hess

Hess was a geologist and Navy commander during WWII, who studied the deepest parts ocean floor. He was also the first person to propose that the seafloor was spreading. More...

Profile
PBS
People and Discoveries: Wegener Proposes Idea of Continental Drift

People and Discoveries: Wegener Proposes Idea of Continental Drift

Ever have a great idea but couldn't get anyone to listen to you? Alfred Wegener saw that the continents fit together like puzzle pieces, but few understood why that was significant. More...

Article
PBS
Plate Tectonics: Difference Between Crust and Lithosphere

Plate Tectonics: Difference Between Crust and Lithosphere

Our familiar terrestrial crust sits on top of the layer of Earth called the lithosphere, and it’s always pushing and pulling. Discover what lies beneath the outermost layer, and what propels its movement. More...

Video
Khan Academy
Scientist Profile: Marine Geologist

Scientist Profile: Marine Geologist

Meet Carol Reiss, an underwater geologist who studies how plates move to better understand earthquakes. See how she takes sediment samples and what she's learning from them. More...

Profile
DragonflyTV/PBS

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