CONTINENTAL DRIFT AND THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE

 (A  theoretical discussion  of the  evidence of  local effects of the expansion of the universe)

                                                                                                                                       By Martin J. Sollanych, PEng.
 
 
 

 Abstract
 Background
 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
 Conclusion
 Final Comments
 Bibliography
 Appendix 
Image of Earth
Formation of Continents

Abstract

   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.

Background

   A) Geology

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.

   B) Cosmology

   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 notation).
 

   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 globe pushing
 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 the earth
   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 to the
      much  more  powerful   electric  forces  of  crystalline
      structure.

   b) Hubbles' Law for the  expansion of the universe has been
      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.
                                           ---------
                                           6731km

   Although the expansion rate is  not linear with time due to
   the rate changing  with the size of the  radius, assume the
   average expansion rate is

                             = 0.1667cm/yr + 0.089044cm/yr    = 0.1278cm/yr.
                               ---------------------------
                                         2

   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.

Conclusion

   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.

Final Remarks

   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.

Bibliography

   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)
 Virgo  750 39
 Ursa Major 9300 485
Corona Borealis 13400 700
Bootes 1 24400 1280
Hydra 38000 2000
Bootes 2 86000 4500

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