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The Problem with Plate Tectonics

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The recent Virginia earthquake that rocked much of the East coast was an unusual event. But it was not unpredicted or surprising. Unfortunately, the failure of the commonly accepted plate tectonics theory to predict or even explain the recent earthquake has raised many questions.

But first, what is plate tectonics? The plate tectonics theory is built upon “continental drift,” the old idea that all modern continents were once part of a single continent that slowly drifted apart. Plate tectonics attempts to explain this drift as the product, in part, of the hypothetical geological processes of subduction, or the process by which a tectonic plate 20-30 miles thick slides underneath another plate of similar width. Subduction by itself is incapable of explaining continental drift, and scientists do not agree on the other possible causes of plate motion.

Now, onto some of the questions raised by the recent earthquake:

Why was the Virginia quake felt almost 500 miles away from its epicenter, considering that West coast earthquakes are never felt this far away?

The answer to this lies in the composition of the Earth’s crust East of the Rocky Mountains. The rocks in the East are denser and colder, and thus more efficient at transferring energy long distances. In the West, the rocks in the earth’s crust are fractured and warmer, and do not transfer energy as readily.

Why did the earthquake occur hundreds of miles from the New Madrid fault?

The plate tectonics theory attempts to explain earthquakes at the result of two slowly moving plates overcoming friction along their intersecting boundaries called “faults.” If you place a brick on a concrete floor and apply just a little horizontal pressure to it, the brick will not move. But if you gradually increase the pressure on the brick, the force will overcome the friction between the brick and the floor and the brick will suddenly move. This is the principle by which plate tectonics theory explains earthquakes.

But there is one huge problem with the theory: Most earthquakes do not occur along faults. In fact, they typically occur hundreds of miles away. If the current plate tectonics theory is accurate, we should see most earthquakes occurring on or very near faults.

Is there a better model for explaining and predicting earthquake activity?

Scientists have been using GPS to track the movement of the earth’s crust over the years. What they have found is that all the continents are moving toward the Pacific ocean. This is significant because in the Pacific lie the Marianas trench and the Ring of Fire. Plate tectonics theory suggests that the Marianas trench is a site where subduction is taking place. But as stated earlier, subduction by itself is insufficient. Gravity is also not a likely explanation, as the force of gravity over the trench is the lowest in the world.

Here’s another interesting find: What lies on the exact opposite of Earth from the Marianas trench? The Mid-Atlantic ridge, part of the world’s largest mountain range, the Mid-oceanic ridge.

Something else is clearly occurring that plate tectonics is incapable of explaining.