Saturday, November 01, 2014

Theory Of Continental Drip Explained

The North-to-South bias in the distribution of Earth's visible land mass at last has an explanation.
How often have you noticed that most of the Continents are broad at the top and narrow at the bottom, as if they were dripping away from the North Pole? Asia is no exception, because of its peninsulas - India, Thailand, Korea, Kamchatka.  In the far South the effect is even more obvious, as land appears to pool at the bottom in Antarctica.
"Fundamentally,"  says Professor Gorice of at the Michigan State University Tolkien Memorial Lecture in Hubbard Hall, "The Earth's dry land is dripping like the Sherwin-Williams paint can. And this can all be explained by astrophysics."

The Earth's motion through the Galaxy, as we orbit the Sun, tends in the direction very roughly correlating with North. (It's much more complicated than that, of course.) Every day we collide with trillions of particles large and small with a slight bias toward a North-to-South collision. The effect is slight, but the result is an obvious orientation in the Earth's visible landmasses, as particles of every size down to the sub-atomic rain down upon us with a pronounced orientation, kicking up the dirt slightly more often to the South.

The effect is less pronounced for masses under the ocean. "Water impacts don't impact with the same impact as dry land impacts," explained Gorice, "Fluids are displaced but backfilled by the rest of the fluid in the same body of water. Dry land doesn't do that, and thus the effect."

Why hasn't this been noticed before?

The effect is complicated by many factors. Earth's techtonic plates move around and obscure the effect of galactic motion. As greenhouse gasses wax and wane over the eons, the sea level rises and falls, shielding different areas from the effect.

But the long-term result is as clear as a map. "Ultimately," says Gorice, "All our dry land will lump together at the bottom. Of course, we'll be dead by then."

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