The Development of the Theory of Plate Tectonics

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SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, & SOCIETY C389 Task #2 Requirements: A. Analyze a scientific theory of your choice by doing the following: 1. Summarize the major tenets of your chosen theory (suggested length of 3–5 paragraphs). The idea that the outer layer of the Earth is composed of lithospheric plates that float on the semi-fluid asthenosphere is called The Theory of Plate Tectonics. John Tuzo Wilson is given credit for explaining this theory during the 1960’s. The underlying ideas that Wilson built his theory on were proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912 with his Theory of Continental Drift. Tuzo Wilson was able to provide a way to explain how the continents were able to move apart that Wegener could not explain when he had proposed his idea. Scientists had believed that based on the evidence Wegener had provided it did appear that all of the present day continents had somehow been connected together. The way that the coasts of Africa and South America appear to fit together nicely in addition to fossil evidence of large tortoises and other animals being found near the edges of the continents. Alfred could not explain how the huge masses of land could have moved so far. The major means for the lithospheric plates to float on the asthenosphere comes from the process of convection in the mantle of the Earth. Heat from the outer core rises in the mantle and “melts” the upper part, which is called the asthenosphere. The plates of the lithosphere move in three main ways. There are divergent boundaries where the plates are moving away from each other and new land is formed as magma is released from inside the mantle. There are convergent boundaries where the plates are moving toward each other. At convergent boundaries mountains or trenches can form. The last type of boundary is a transform boundary where the plates move past each other and can cause an earthquake

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