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No. 118: Jul-Aug 1998

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Glitches In The Terrestrial Conveyor Belt

According to plate tectonics, the earth's continents are being transported -- very slowly -- on a subterranean conveyor belt of sorts. Although plate tectonics, nee continental drift, was ridiculed 50 years ago, it has been very successful in accounting for many geological phenomena. The theory is rarely challenged these days, but there are anomalies out there.

"According to the simple plate-tectonic theory, the age of oceanic lithosphere is zero at a spreading oceanic ridge and increases with distance from the ridge. Thus the lithosphere of the central Atlantic, which current palaeogeographical reconstructions assure us began to open no earlier than 120 million years ago, has zero age at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and, supposedly an age of about 120 million years close to the land masses of Africa and South America at the appropriate latitude. Yet, Bonatti and others (Nature, v. 380, p. 518, 1996) have now recovered samples of 140-million-year-old pelagic limestones not even from the edges of the Atlantic but right in the middle of the ocean, close to the ridge. How can this be possible?"

The only explanation (?) seems to be that this errant chunk of crust got "trapped" in the middle of the Atlantic -- like a misdirected suitcase on an airport conveyor belt.

(Anonymous; "Old Rocks near the MidAtlantic Ridge," Geology Today, 13:17, 1997.)

Background. Ocean crust is presently being formed by upwelling molten rock at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and, consequently, has zero age. The oldest ocean crust is adjacent to the continents.

From Science Frontiers #118, JUL-AUG 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987