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History Schmystery
Pie Plate TectonicsPie Plate Tectonics
October 21, 2014

The universe is expanding. Our galaxy is in the process of crashing into its neighbor. Our star system is is swinging on an outer leg of our galaxy. Our planet is orbiting the sun. Earth is spinning on its axis. Our continents are moving apart on one side and crashing together on the other. Erosion is smoothing the land, rock by rock. And you want to go on a trip because you are sick of sitting still?!?

Hang on, we're already traveling.

It's easy to understand parts of plate tectonics -- how South America fit into Africa, how India smashed into Asia, how Australia just sat there for so long...

North American plate tectonics is more weird. It's a young continent and an old continent.

The old continental shield, the Canadian Craton, is centered under Hudson Bay and stretches from Minnesota to Greenland. The oldest rocks of the North American continent are the 3.5 billion year old Morton Gneiss* rocks of Minnesota and the nearly as good gneiss rocks from western Greenland.

Understanding the young, hip part of continent is the trick.

How did North America come together?

Was the younger part of North America underwater, waiting to emerge like a glistening Aphrodite, to crown the amber fields and purple mountains?

Or did the younger, lower part of North America (United States, Mexico) migrate from somewhere else, join up with the Canadian Craton, and zipper the seam with the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway?

Zip up.

The key is the Great Lakes region. Take away the Duluths, Chicagos, and Detroits. Take away the glacial ice sheets (like last winter). What impressed the Great Lakes?

The Keweenawan Rift System theory is that a trail of geologic hotspots from a billion years ago impressed by inflating, bubbling up the Lake Superior and Lake Huron** line only to later sink them down. The basalt flows of Gooseberry Park are a surface remnant of that time.

Not completely surface.

Fourth grade science. A surface volcano makes lava. Your underwater volcano makes basalt. The lower North American continent spent hundreds of millions of years being a ginormous Gulf of Mexico. Thick limestone tells the story of coral seas... coral seas that dried up as the continent was pushed up or stacked up like a pancake, while the Earth shrunk.

I'm hungry for plate tectonic knowledge.

Don't get me started about the Cheerios.

Music Association: Beyoncé - Rise Up
keywords - pie plate tectonics, Morton Gneiss, Canadian Craton, Keweenawan Rift System
*Lakes Superior and Huron are technically the same lake. What do you call two connected lakes with the same water level? The same lake.
* Morton Gneiss was a really ancient man in the novel, Hopes and Dreams - Stuck on AutoDrive

time travel

TimeX-men Days of Future Past - Time In A Bottle
October 17, 2014

Do you believe in time travel?

It's an odd question. Time moves. We move with it. We move through time. Our memories and histories are visions of the past. We plan for the future with unwarranted certainty. Is that time travel?

Movie Review - “X-Men: Days of Future Past”X-men Days of Future Past - Time In A Bottle
A while back I saw the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past. It was a fluffy popcorn movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, which I also saw and never reviewed. The two reasons to see the X-Men movie are Jennifer Lawrence and the Quicksilver scene. Quicksilver is a Marvel comics hero who runs very fast -- faster than a speeding bullet fast. The Quicksilver scene in X-Men has him running fast around a room while everything else moves very slowly, with the song Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce. A newspaper flies up with the headline: Truce Supervisors Belittled by Trask. The scene was the high point of a fluffy movie.

TV Review - “The Flash”
Two weeks ago, another comic book speedster, the Flash from DC comics, started a new network TV show. This is the second Flash series, which borrows from a mix of the previous show and a mashup of concepts from the Smallville series. The pilot Flash show lacked the magical places of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and featured two instances of time travel.
The Flash 2014
Running fast is a form of time travel, in fiction and to a point in reality. Think of all the Olympic sports that last mere minutes or seconds. Diving. Gymnastics. Track. A surge of adrenaline and it's over. Blink and it's gone.

Picture a hummingbird and a sloth. Their movements can be tough to register for being too fast or too slow.

And all of us, plus the hummingbirds and the sloths, are crazy fast compared to geologic time.

Continental plates crashing into each other... very... slowly.

Have you ever imagined what it must have been like to be around when the subcontinental India plate crashed into the Asian plate?

I can tell you what it was like, because it is still crashing today. The Himalayas are being pushed up higher and higher.

India is moving north at a rate of 67 millimeters per year, tucking under Tibet and pushing up the southern Himalayas by about 5 millimeters per year. It's a slowdown compared to the 15 centimeters per year India had been sailing across the Indian Ocean.

What's weirder is that part of the North American plate is eastern Russia. Kamchatka and the Dalne Vostochnyy are part of our plate that's being shoved into the Asian plate, just like India.

Music Association: Jim Croce - Time In A Bottle

X-Men - Jennifer Lawrence

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