Q:

What does plate tectonics mean?

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Quick Answer

According to About.com, plate tectonics is the scientific theory that attempts to explain the movement of the Earth's lithosphere, which has formed the landscape features seen across the globe. It provides geology with a comprehensive theory that explains how the Earth works.

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What does plate tectonics mean?
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Full Answer

Plate tectonics affect human beings in different ways as they cause earthquakes, volcanism and mountain-building. They also induce the recycling of elements within the biosphere, and between the geosphere and biosphere. The theory states that the Earth's outermost layer, the lithosphere, is broken into seven large, rigid pieces known as plates: African, North American, South American, Eurasian, Australian, Antarctic and Pacific. Other minor plates exist which include the Arabian, Nazca, and Philippines.

The plates move in different directions and at different speeds in relation to each other, and sometimes crash together, pull apart or sideswipe each other. The place where two plates meet is known as a plate boundary, and boundaries have different names, which depend on the movement of the plate. When the plates crash, it is called a convergent boundary. When the plates pull a part, it is called a divergent boundary. When the plates sideswipe, it is known as a transform boundary. There are driving forces that contribute to the movement of the earth, such as mantle convection, gravity and the rotation of the earth.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the difference between continental drift and plate tectonics?

    A:

    Plate tectonics is the theory that explains the structure, composition and internal workings of the Earth on a worldwide scale, while continental drift refers to the theory that the continents all used to be connected in one megacontinent which scientists dub Pangaea. Both theories attempt to explain the movement of parts of the Earth's crust.

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  • Q:

    What are the boundaries of the lithospheric plate?

    A:

    Three types of boundaries, divergent, convergent and transform fault boundaries, occur in the lithosphere plate. As the plates diverge or pull apart from each other and converge or come together, tremendous amounts of energy are released, resulting in the transformation of the Earth's surface.

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  • Q:

    What drives the process of plate tectonics?

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    Very slow currents in the relatively plastic lower mantle, or aesthenosphere, are thought to push the crustal plates along and drive the process of plate tectonics. These currents are caused by convection, with the mantle rock being heated from below via radioactive decay and thus becoming less dense than the rock above. These hotter rocks move slowly upward, displacing the rock above and forcing it down in an elliptical motion.

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  • Q:

    Why do plates move?

    A:

    Plates move because of gravity, which is the main driving force behind plate tectonics. Another reason why plates move is due to convection.

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