(A theoretical discussion of the evidence of local effects of the expansion of the universe)
By Martin J. Sollanych, PEng.
Existing Theory of Continental Drift
Proposed Theory of Continental Drift
Expansion of the Earth
Problems with the proposed theory
Problems with the existing theory
Planetary evidence of the local expansion of the universe
Formation of Continents
A link is drawn
between two separate phenomena,
continental drift, and the expansion of the universe. This
link is not an alternative explanation to continental drift
but is an attempt to explain why this phenomenon
should occur and why all continents were
once part of a single
continent. This paper will endeavor to explain that the single continent was, in fact, the entire surface of the earth, earlier in history. The universe expanded, and (after conglomerating and forming) so did the earth, but some parts of different temperature, structure, and density expanded at different rates, hence creating the continents.
Additional empirical evidence is presented which supports the local affects of expansion of the universe. The intent of this evidence is not principally to build support for the original hypothesis, but to stimulate interest for further scientific investigation in this area as it may apply to geophysics, astrophysics, and other scientific disciplines.
The present surface of the Earth consists of seven continents, five of which are separated by the major oceans. Geological research indicates that the continents were once attached together, due to common geological evidence like rocks, faults etc. Also there is a natural "fit" like a puzzle for most of the continents where the geologic evidence fits. For example, South America fits nicely into the ivory coast of Africa.
There have also been discoveries of large oceanic ridges formed by new molten material rising up from inside the earth. This new material is seen as the reason for pushing the continents apart.
The area of the earth is 510,066,000 sq km, of which 29.1% or 148,429,000 sq km is land. The volume of the total earth is 1,083,230,000,000 cubic km. The area of the continental shelves is 28,400,000 sq km. Total continental area is therefore about 538,466,000 sq km. The rate of sea floor spreading at the mid oceanic ridges varies from 1 to 9 cm per year.
The Universe has been shown
to be expanding in all directions with everything
expanding away from everything else. The prominent evidence
for this arises from the red shifted light from distant galaxies
which, if assumed to be from the doppler effect, indicates
these galaxies to be
receding in all directions. The rate at which galaxies recede is directly proportional to the distance the galaxy is away from the earth. Hubbles' constant is the relation for this. For example, the Virgo cluster at 39 million light years from earth is receding from us at a velocity of 750 miles / sec. (See Appendix A for a complete table of galaxy recessional velocities).
Existing Theory of Continental Drift
The present theory of continental drift was first proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912. It is thought that all the continents were once joined together in one super-continent, named Pangaea. The rest of the earth was covered with one huge ocean. Due to the inadequately explained geologic forces causing upwelling of molten material, Pangaea split apart into the major continents we have today. The upwelling material was thought to be a result of convection forces within the earth. This material reached the surface at oceanic ridges and returned to the earth at subducting oceanic trenches. Up until recently this theory was thought to be very controversial and was largely rejected because of an inadequate explanation for the forces required to move the continents. But the overwhelming evidence indicates the continents are moving and were at one time joined together in some fashion.
Proposed Theory of Continental Drift
If everything in the universe is expanding, then the inter - molecular spaces between particles should be expanding also, although perhaps at a different rate due to the effects of nuclear, electrostatic or gravitational forces. This expansion rate may be difficult to detect at the intermolecular level, but for an object the size of the earth, the expansion should be apparent as shown with a little further development of this idea. If the earth is expanding at the same rate as new material is upwelling, then this expansion becomes a new driving force behind continental drift, as well as other proven causes. Indeed, a force due to the expansion of space itself would definitely prove to be a formidable one.
Expansion of the Earth
Using the following relationship
of expansion rate to distance, one can determine the
rate at which the universe is expanding at the surface of the earth
in relation to the centre of the earth. (`E' is used for scientific
expansion rate = 750 miles/sec/(39 * 106 light years * 6 * 1012 miles /light year)
= 3.2 * 10-18 miles/sec between two objects one mile apart
= 2.6178 * 10-5 cm/year between two objects one km apart
* 6371 km for the earth's radius gives the
expansion rate @ earth's surface = 0.1667 cm/year.
The amount of increased surface area for a sphere the size of the earth changing its radius only this much is surprising.
Using the average radius of the earth = 6371 km,
Change in Area = 4|| * [ (6371km+0.1667cm)2 - (6371km)2 ] = 0.267 square km / year
Comparing this increase in land
area with a 40,000 km mid oceanic ridge girdling the
out new material at the rate of 1cm / year, if no material disappeared, the increase in surface area
of the earth would be:
40,000 km * (1cm = 0.00001km) = 0.4 square km of material/yr
These two figures are definitely of the same order of magnitude.
Radius of pre-continental drift Earth
Total land area of Earth = 148,429,000 sq km.
If we assume this used to be the entire area for
at some time in the past then using:
radius = \/ Area /(4 * ||)
We find the radius = 3436 km.
Now assume the following:
a) The continents haven't expanded much at all, due
much more powerful electric forces of crystalline
b) Hubbles' Law for the expansion of the universe
constant during the lifetime of the earth.
c) The aforementioned homogenious expansion rate.
Then the rate at which the earth was
expanding when it's
radius was 3436 km was:
Pre drift expansion rate = 3436km * 0.1667cm/yr
= 0.089044 cm/yr.
Although the expansion rate is not linear with time
the rate changing with the size of the radius, assume the
average expansion rate is
= 0.1667cm/yr + 0.089044cm/yr = 0.1278cm/yr.
Then the time taken for the earth to expand from one entire land mass to its present size
would be = 3436 km / 0.1278 cm/year = 2.061 billion years
This is clearly much longer than the time from the split
up of the super-continent to present day, which is estimated
to be approximately 250 million years. But perhaps the Hubble relationship has also changed with time.
Or another reason for the discrepancy is the expansion may have occurred unevenly over the continent just as it
does today. The most recent expansions being the ones that split Pangaea up only 250 million years ago.
Working backwards with this idea, the radius of the earth at current Pangaea split of 250 million years ago
would be = 6731km - (250 million * 0.1667 cm/yr =
417km) = 6314km.
__ 2 2
and the surface area would = 4 || * (6731 - 6314 ) = 68,358,101 sq km.
This is almost the size of the entire Atlantic Ocean (86,557,000 sq km) so Pangaea could have existed in a configuration similar to one proposed at the time of final breakup.
At this point it may be reasonable to ask what happened to the continents themselves during the expansion of the earth if they did not increase in surface area appreciably.
Different Expansion Rates
The continents must have expanded
somewhat, but at a different rate than the
material underneath, just as a muffin does in
the oven once the outside is dry, cracks begin to form,
and new material, which expands more quickly oozes out to widen
the cracks. Another explanation of why the continents didn't
expand with the rest of the earth is that they
did, but much of that expansion consisted of
mountain building and geosynclines.
There had been proposals that the
earth's crust had shrunk to explain geosynclines.
Maybe the very reverse could provide an
solution to this problem. Much of the lateral expansion of continents may have been taken up by vertical movements, (the latest evidence by the lithprobe of Canadian rock shows many large vertical movements) and other vertical movement may be attributed to the actual expansion of mass in the radial direction. This expansion due to change in the vertical dimension of the continents would be very small, however, due to the small (change in thickness / thickness) being related to the the Hubble constant.
If it is assumed that the continents do not expand well in a lateral direction, due to the molecular makeup of the material, and a poor 'universal coefficient of expansion' in comparison to molten rock, then perhaps the continents wouldn't have changed much over the millennia.
Problems with the proposed theory
One of the obvious problems is the supposed shrinking of the Pacific Plate from the evidence of subduction, as well as indicated in the negative measurements from very long baseline interferometry. However this doesn't necessarily disprove the possibility of a net expansion of the earth. There is controversial evidence of a lateral expansion of the North American Plate. Also there are many other ridges besides the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which could contribute to the net increase in material.
Also the 2 billion year time which the expansion method estimates it took the earth to expand to produce the present continents is 16 times as long as evidence indicates it took Pangea to split up. There has been an attempt to explain this by expanding one large oceanic area first and then a final split up of Pangaea 250 million years ago creating the continents and oceans we have today. However this makes the original theory more complex and less of a 'clean' explanation.
Problems with existing theory
Geologic evidence indicates that their are some continents
with common traits on what would be opposite sides of the
one land mass pangea. The reason for this in
the fixed earth scenario has been explained
in the past by the possible existence of
various land bridges. Attempts to
account for these complex realtionships between the continents include having continents continually splitting and recolliding. This is a complicated explanation. Expansion would offer another explanation for all original continental material to be related.
The forces explaining the cause of continental drift have not been really elucidated. It is likely that convection forces do contribute to the movement of magma and continents. But complex theories have been developed to explain surface markings on the ocean floor. The earth expansion theory would nicely explain all the cross hatching shown on the Mid - Oceanic Ridges. The expansion is acting in all directions, hence the explanation for forces which could cause rock to split laterally and longitudinally.
Recent studies indicate that the subduction material at oceanic trenches may not return to the mantle but instead may be deflected and move under the continents. This leaves an inadequate explanation for the net increase of material due to the initial upwelling.
Planetary Evidence of the local expansion of the universe.
If space has expanded, then the planetary orbits
and other astronomical bodies must have also. Would this
be true in spite of the gravitational forces holding bodies
in place? One could assume that the other forces may
be somehow be a function of the expansion of
the universe, and gravity
being a weak force would not be able to prevent an astronomical body from slowly drifting away. Whereas solid structures such as planets remain intact due to their strong electrostatic and gravitational forces.
The Moon is known to have an equatorial bulge which is purported to be due to the ongoing process of solid state creep. If the moon is expanding with the universe, the expansion rate may be uneven due to tidal forces of gravity and centrifugal force. This may account for the still unsatisfactorily explained bulge.
The distance from the earth to the moon is increasing due to tidal effects at approximately 4 cm /yr. The 1
So Jupiter may be larger principally because it started with a larger atmosphere which expanded at a quicker rate than a solid or molten metal planet (of course the lower temperatures and high gravity still aid in preventing the escape of gases into space).
The mystery of Mars at one time having liquid water running due to evidence of what appear to be dry river beds can be explained if the orbit was once closer to the sun.
Expansion of stars: Since stars are gaseous their size is determined principally by temperature and mass. But perhaps some giant stars are created through this expansion process.
Galactic Phenomena: Stars maybe more clustered in the past, hence explaining why a globular cluster is so compact and is also relatively far away (100,000 light years or more, and so over 100,000 years old). As the universe expands, these clusters would move out from the galactic core area and also open up. Assume that a globular cluster which is 22,000 light years distant has a diameter of 100 light years.
Then in one year the cluster will expand by:
(750mi/sec/39,000ly) * 100ly * 1yr * 31,536,000sec/yr = 1 * 10-5 light years
Assuming the stars are about 10 billion years old then a globular cluster would have spread out thousands of light years and be either an open cluster or non-existent. This may explain why there are very few globular clusters in the universe.
Another curiosity is that the universe models don't fit the big bang. Maybe the local effects of expansion haven't been taken into account in the models of the universe.
The observable evidence of the
expansion of the earth, while unproven and
drawn only from continental drift measurements,
fits well with the expansion rate of the
universe when scaled down from the cosmic scale
to the earth's scale. The major assumptions
are that the universe
expands locally in proportion to Hubble's constant as it applies to far away objects, and that the rate of expansion of materials in the universe is affected by the density structure, temperature and forces of the material in question.
The expansion of the universe phenomenon may explain many of the mysteries around us. It is unrealistic to think that such a large expansion rate shouldn't have consequences in our own backyard.
An example may be the reason for radioactive decay. Perhaps the expansion rate of space contributes to the instability of some elements, and can somehow be tied to the half life.
Another application of the theory may help to explain the tremendous sizes of dinosaurs. They really may have not been that large when they lived. If different materials expand at different rates then dinosaur bones may have grown to a large size in a relatively short period of time since they have been extinct.
1. J. Tuzo Wilson, Continental Drift (Science in the 20th Century), Scientific American, 1991.
2. W.E. Carter & D.S. Robertson, Studying the Earth by Very-Long Baseline Interferometry, Scientific American, Nov 1986.
3. S. K. Runcorn, The Moon's Ancient Magnetism, Scientific American, Dec 1987.
4. National Geographic Atlas of the World.
5. Leet and Judson, Physical Geology , Prentice Hall, 1971.
6. William K. Hartman, Moons and Planets, Wadsworth Publishing, 1972.
7. C. Payne-Gaposchkin, Introduction to Astronomy, University Paperbacks, 1961.
8. Clive Kilmister, The Nature of the
Universe , Thames and Hudson, London, 1971.
APPENDIX A: Information on Hubbles' Constant
The Hubble relationship is based
on the red shift or
Doppler effect of galaxies which shows the rate of
expansion is proportional to distance.
|Nebula or Galaxy||Radial Velocity (miles/sec)||Distance
(million light years)
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