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Tuesday November 1st, 2011
12:00 P.M. (SHARP) –1:00 P.M.
Instructional Building 240
Richard Bailey
University of Toronto, Physics
“How Did Continents Begin?”
The plate tectonic revolution which began a half century ago solved some of
the major puzzles of geology: why most mountains exist, why the ocean floor
is so young, why the continents drift. But there are problems which plate
tectonics sensu strictu does not solve. Why did a continental collision
make Tibet so high? Why is their such massive lateral extension visible in
the Basin and Range province of the US? How can plate subduction start,
given the strength of cold rocks? These are present day problems, but there
are also problems associated with the origin of modern tectonics. Arguments
over when and how plate tectonics began have raged since the inception of
the theory; given that no plate tectonics is visible on the other
terrestrial planets, this is not a trivial argument between historians. The
chemistry of modern continental crust is also hard to explain (oceans are
easy). In this talk, I will discuss computer experiments demonstrating the
likely rapid mechanical turnover of early earth's continental crust and its
implications for continental crustal formation.