Laboratory Plate Tectonics: A New Experiment

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Science  26 Mar 1976:
Vol. 191, Issue 4233, pp. 1276-1278
DOI: 10.1126/science.191.4233.1276


A "continent" made of a layer of hexagonally packed black polyethylene spheres floating in clear silicon oil breaks into subcontinents when illuminated by an ordinary incandescent light bulb. This experiment may be a useful model of plate tectonics driven by horizontal temperature gradients. Measurements of the spreading rate are made to establish the feasibility of this model.