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An Earth sciences outsider, not a recognized expert, put Pangaea together

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The critical problem is that rejection of competing ideas is not necessarily based on the correctness of the mainstream idea. Often, it is based on control of money, status, and power, rampant egos, and endless politics.

This animated short tells the story of Alfred Wegener, a German astronomer and atmospheric scientist, who came up with the idea that continents once formed a single landmass and had drifted apart. Continental drift explained why continents’ shapes fit together like pieces of a puzzle and why distant continents had the same fossils . During Wegener’s time, the idea was met with hostility but after his death a large body of evidence showed that continents do indeed move. Today the theory of plate tectonics is a fundamental principle in geology.

Hostility? When I (O’Leary for News) was I grade school in a small city in Ontario in the 1960s, one of our teachers cut up the continents and showed them to us put together as a big jigsaw puzzle. She said it [Pangaea] was obvious but it was just not the accepted view among colleagues even then. She herself had studied under a continental drift theorist but, as so often happened in those days, there was no money for further education so she got a job teaching school. The theory was not vindicated until the 1970s, with the correction that it is plates of the Earth’s crust, not continents themselves, that move (plate tectonics).

In the meantime, it must have been fun to tell at least someone, if only local 13-year-olds, what she had learned. She must have been thrilled when, a decade later, the basic idea of continental drift was vindicated.

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