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Point of hors d'oevre
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Grind continental plates and pour lubricant on them
The current boundaries of tectonic plates
are completely unsatisfactory. On the
hand, the plates will insist on drifting
willy-nilly. On the other hand, because
they are irregular in shape, any
of one relative to the other leads to lots
grinding, volcaning, subducting
general orogeny. The last thing you
in your neighbourhood is a bloody great
mountain range popping up.
So. There are two things we need to do,
probably simultaneously. First, we need
take a sharp implement and slice the
up into neat segments. If you've ever
the spherical versions of a Rubik's cube,
that's the effect we're after - nice, regular
Of course, things will still be messed up
because the old plate boundaries would
still exist, running through and across
newly-cut plates. This is where the
second step comes in. We need to glue
together the edges of the old, messy
boundaries. The ways to do this are too
obvious and simple to need describing
here - suffice to say that a system of
transverse alps would be an elementary
In a short space of time, the old plate
boundaries - stitched firmly together -
would weld themselves shut
The convective currents in the Earth's
mantle will still be trying to shuffle the
crust around, but this movement can
be accommodated without fuss or overt
geology, since the new plate
will allow smooth sliding.
Obviously, it would be silly to stop here.
Convective flow (as of, say, a mantle) is
quite susceptible to disruption, and
to control. It wouldn't take much to
harness the convective forces of the
mantle, and therefore steer the newly-
geometrized plates around.
Controlled Convective Tectonic
would be a slow process. However, if
do the calculations it makes a lot of
Airplanes carry minute loads very
and are economical. Trains carry larger
loads fairly quickly, and are economical.
Supertankers carry very large loads
and are economical. A system for
entire continents around could afford to
be very slow indeed.
Traffic control for CCTN would need to
well thought out. For example, if you
want to move northeast Africa (which will
occupy a substantial part of one of the
new plates) to the opposite side of the
equator, you'd have to go through a fairly
complex series of moves (northern
hemisphere left quarter turn; eastern
hemisphere half-turn anticlockwise; both
polar segments half-turn east; northern
hemisphere right quarter turn- the
Greenwich Meridian would, of course, be
fixed by convention). It's even
more complicated if you want to avoid
disturbing the other tectonic segments.
However, the great thing about CCTN is
that you need to think carefully, not fast.
Mathematically inclined geologists might
even compete to see, for example, who
could rearrange the continents into a
reconstruction of Pangea in the fewest
moves; or who could get Norway inverted
without disturbing the other land
"Now you can really have the whole world in your hands!" [Ander, Oct 18 2007]
||Brilliant! Now if you can figure out a similarly convenient way to color each segment a startling shade of neon, say with a giant adhesive square that refuses to stay fixed for more than three weeks of use, we'll all be in business.
||Taking into account the human element, someone is bound to make a mistake and northeast africa might remain separated from northern africa for millions of years.
||I think you should include the ability to disconnect multiple tectonic plate sections, rotate them in space, and then snap them back together in the correct locations. This way any mistakes made can be corrected. Of course this risks cooling the molten core of the planet, but that can simply be ejected into space, formed into bars, cooled, and re-inserted as section axles. Oil found during the process can serve as lubricant, and additionally can fund the process.
||//someone is bound to make a mistake
and northeast africa might remain
separated from northern africa for
millions of years.// This is likely - in
fact, almost inevitable. On the other
hand, Australia has been disconnected
from Europe for tens of millions of
years, and it hasn't troubled either party
too much. I like the concept of
removing and replacing segments, but
people would probably object to this if
they happened to live (or be vacationing
in) the segment in question.
||On the whole, I think I'd stick with the
existing model, whereby all segments
remain attached. I suppose, at a pinch,
that we could simplify things by having
an "empty" segment. This would
basically be a continental land mass
made of aerogel (so, I suppose, a
continental aerogel mass) which was
easier to lift out and replace. When
removed, this would leave you with a
spare hole, and the other pieces could
be slid into it much like those little
square puzzles (but spherical, and of
course larger, and of course without the
ability to form an image of Homer
Simpson by putting the pieces in the
||But on balance, I think the Rubik
configuration would be most satisfying.
||Incidentally, I've done some numbers on
the cost effectiveness of Continental
Convective Tectonic Navigation. It all
comes down to a question of payload x
speed. For aircraft, payload is on the
order of 10 tons, and speed is, say,
500mph, hence payload x speed is
5000t.mph. For a goods train, I'm
guessing payload is 1000 tons
(thinking, 100 cars of iron ore), and
speed is, say 50mph, giving
50,000t.mph. For a big oil tanker, I'm
guessing 500,000 tons at 30mph =
15,000,000t.mph. For a continental
segment, payload is probably not a
limiting factor, but let's suppose that
we wanted to move 10^18 tons of stuff
(I'm guesstimating the total tonnage of
goods moved between two continents
in the course of a million years), at an
average speed of 2 inches per year (3 x
10^-9mph). This translates into
3x10^9t.mph, or 200 times more
efficient than an oil tanker.
||And if you slice the top layer of crust from the lower section, you could slide the Middle East over and then transport all the oil directly to America (or rather manoeuvre America over the oil).
||[Maxwell] Your calculation is basically just work minus friction and such, not efficiency. It would take 200 oil tankers to move 10^18 tons 2 inches/year. There are about 3500 oil tanker in use now, which could move 10^18 tons about 17.5 inches/year. It would take them over 3600 years to move one mile, which would require over 1.1 Tl of fuel, I think. That speed could maybe help protect cities from volnanic eruptions and such, but there would probably be much more efficient ways to do that.
||The mention of aerogel brings up a larger issue which will become unavoidable.
||For instance, if an empty aerogel section is made and used instead of, for instance, England, the mass distribution on that longitude will be vastly changed, and effectively the earth will start to wobble in space. This will drastically alter all traditional constellation observation, specifically the astrological calendar. Human personalities, responding to the shift in astrological signs, will distort and wobble in relation to the new movements of the earth itself. Relationships will crumble, alliances forming and falling and -- in the end -- societal meltdown.
||This will happen even if aerogel empy spaces are not used, as the earth maintains its current axis by having a bulge around the middle. If Ecuador were replaced with Antarctica, a similar scenario would follow.
||[mylo] Good point, and one which I
hadn't considered. I think we'd be OK
as long as the aerogel section were
quite thick (say, between 50 and 200
Everest Units). If this were the case,
most of its mass would be further from
the axis of rotation than the rest of the
crust, and this would compensate for its
reduced total mass.
||Having an entire crustal segment made
of a 100EU-thick slab of aerogel would
have other advantages. For example,
spacecraft could just tunnel their way
up through it, wormwise, and emerge
on the upper surface at orbital height.
||Oooh oooh oooh! I just had a thought. It
wouldn't take a good advertising exective
long to work out that, by rearranging the
sectors carrying most of Africa, the left
part of Australia, and India/Burma/Bay of
Bengal - you can make a pretty good
representation of the Apple logo. Now
that would cost.
||// Africa, the left part of Australia, and India/Burma/Bay of Bengal // [MaxwellBuchanan] You should use New York, shirley.
||Nice idea but I see one great problem, to wit, //The current boundaries of tectonic plates are completely unsatisfactory.//. No they aren't. From where I'm sitting, in a volcano and earthquake free area, I am thoroughly satisfied with the current boundaries. I can be entertained by volcanoes, earthquakes and other geological disasters from the safety of my own front room, via TV. In fact, they're the only interesting programmes on TV. Perhaps we could re-visit this idea when conditions change?
||Wow, it has REALLY been a long time since I smoked weed.
||// I am thoroughly satisfied with the
current boundaries.// Well, that's the kind
of attitude that kept mankind doing
arithmetic on horses and using Roman
numerals to plough the fields with.
||Now, we could get some highly skilled lullaballoon captains to fly around with those high strength space tethers attached to the tectonic plates and put an extremely slow torque-couple on the new 'Rubiks' Earth to perform the first geostationary tug-pull to get the us to China and back home again so that we could brag about traveling the entire world over in the period of a single lifetime. Oh yes, we must get started on building a giant exacto-knife right away, perhaps we could sharpen the Mars potato-moon by sending our disposable 1 way amputatee Earth prisoners over there on a sacrificial science mission with giant nail files.
||I object. Amputee earth prisoners are always two-way, especially if you use an exacto blade.
||The temptation to just peel the stickers off and stick them back on in the arrangement you're trying to get to would be too great...
||//We need to glue together the edges of the old, messy plate boundaries. The ways to do this are too obvious and simple to need describing here// - Bun
||//Obviously, it would be silly to stop here.// - Another
||//It wouldn't take much to harness the convective forces of the mantle// - And another
||[Hippo] I think cheating like that would
be hard to conceal.
||[Quantum Flux] No disrespect, but I
think space-tugs would be a rather
inelegant solution. I've done extensive
experiments involving boiling soup,
which is widely recognised as a good
analogue of the mantle. Croutons make
quite servicable continents until they go
soggy. The application of little salt,
sugar or even a small amount of cold
water is sufficient to switch the pattern
of convection. Finding good analogues
for salt, sugar and water on a geologic
scale is more problematic, but should
||Amusing choice of category.
||Really good idea [+], and the last paragraph is the icing on the cake.
||It's sort of like those slide-the-squares-around puzzles, since the action of the plates wouldn't really be the same as on a Rubik's-type puzzle.