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Polflucht (from German, flight from the poles) is a geophysical concept invoked in 1922 by Alfred Wegener to explain his ideas of continental drift. He suggested that a differential gravitational force (horizontal component of centrifugal or Eötvös force) and the Earth's flattening would cause continental masses to drift slowly towards the equator.

The hypothesis was expanded by Paul Sophus Epstein in 1920 but the force is now known to be far too weak to cause plate tectonics. The strength of the layers of the Earth's crust is much stronger than assumed by Wegener and Epstein.


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Continental drift The movement of the Earths continents relative to each other

Continental drift is the hypothesis that the Earth's continents have moved over geologic time relative to each other, thus appearing to have "drifted" across the ocean bed. The speculation that continents might have 'drifted' was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596. The concept was independently and more fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912, but his hypothesis was rejected by many for lack of any motive mechanism. Arthur Holmes later proposed mantle convection for that mechanism. The idea of continental drift has since been subsumed by the theory of plate tectonics, which explains that the continents move by riding on plates of the Earth's lithosphere.

Plate tectonics The scientific theory that describes the large-scale motions of Earths lithosphere

Plate tectonics is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of Earth's lithosphere, since tectonic processes began on Earth between 3.3 and 3.5 billion years ago. The model builds on the concept of continental drift, an idea developed during the first decades of the 20th century. The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Milutin Milanković Serbian mathematician, astronomer, geophysicist, climatologist, and engineer

Milutin Milanković was a Serbian mathematician, astronomer, climatologist, geophysicist, civil engineer and popularizer of science.

Abraham Ortelius Flemish cartographer

Abraham Ortelius was a Brabantian cartographer and geographer, conventionally recognized as the creator of the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Ortelius is often considered one of the founders of the Netherlandish school of cartography and one of the most notable figures of the school in its golden age. The publication of his atlas in 1570 is often considered as the official beginning of the Golden Age of Netherlandish cartography. He is also believed to be the first person to imagine that the continents were joined before drifting to their present positions.

Alexander Logie du Toit FRS was a geologist from South Africa and an early supporter of Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift.

Alfred Wegener German meteorologist, geologist and astronomer

Alfred Lothar Wegener was a German polar researcher, geophysicist and meteorologist.

Hans Stille German ocean geologist known for alternative mechanisms of plate tectonics

Hans Wilhelm Stille was an influential German geologist working primarily on tectonics and the collation of tectonic events during the Phanerozoic. Stille adhered to the contracting Earth hypothesis and together with Leopold Kober he worked on the geosyncline theory to explain orogeny. Stille's ideas emerged in the aftermath of Eduard Suess' book Das Antlitz der Erde (1883–1909). Stille's and Kober's school of thought was one of two that emerged in the post-Suess era the other being headed by Alfred Wegener and Émile Argand. This competing view rejected Earth contraction and argued for continental drift. As Stille opposed continental drift he came to be labelled a "fixist".

Expanding Earth hypothesis

The expanding Earth or growing Earth hypothesis asserts that the position and relative movement of continents is at least partially due to the volume of Earth increasing. Conversely, geophysical global cooling was the hypothesis that various features could be explained by Earth contracting.

Paul Sophus Epstein Russian-American mathematician

Paul Sophus Epstein was a Russian-American mathematical physicist. He was known for his contributions to the development of quantum mechanics, part of a group that included Lorentz, Einstein, Minkowski, Thomson, Rutherford, Sommerfeld, Röntgen, von Laue, Bohr, de Broglie, Ehrenfest and Schwarzschild.

History of geology History of the scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of the Earth

The history of geology is concerned with the development of the natural science of geology. Geology is the scientific study of the origin, history, and structure of the Earth.

Antonio Snider-Pellegrini French geographer

Antonio Snider-Pellegrini (1802–1885) was a French geographer and scientist who theorized about the possibility of continental drift, anticipating Wegener's theories concerning Pangaea by several decades.

Frank Bursley Taylor was an American geologist, the son of a lawyer in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was a Harvard dropout who studied privately financed in large part by his wealthy father. He became a specialist in the glacial geology of the Great Lakes, and proposed to the Geological Society of America on December 29, 1908 that the continents moved on the Earth's surface, that a shallow region in the Atlantic marks where Africa and South America were once joined, and that the collisions of continents could uplift mountains. His ideas were based on his studies on mountain ranges as the Andes, Rockies, Alps and Himalayas, concluding that these mountains could have been formed only as a result of titanic lateral pressures that thrust the earth's surface upward. His theory was either ignored or opposed by other scientists of his time. He wrote a total ten papers on the subject of continental drift Taylor's ideas about continental drift were independently discovered by Alfred Wegener in Germany three years later, in January 1912, and the theory of continental drift is historically often referred to as the "Taylor-Wegener hypothesis," although Taylor himself disapproved of the hyphenated name. But even with Wegener's extensive extra research the idea did not achieve acceptance until the 1960s when a vast weight of evidence had accrued via Harry Hess, Frederick Vine and Drummond Matthews.

Roberto Mantovani geologist

Roberto Mantovani, was an Italian geologist and violinist. He proposed an early model of continental drift in which a single continent broke up and the continents were displaced by thermal expansion and volcanism.

Pangaea Supercontinent from the late Paleozoic to early Mesozoic eras

Pangaea or Pangea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It assembled from earlier continental units approximately 335 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, Pangaea was centred on the Equator and surrounded by the superocean Panthalassa. Pangaea is the most recent supercontinent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists.

The tetrahedral hypothesis is an obsolete scientific theory attempting to explain the arrangement of the Earth's continents and oceans by referring to the geometry of a tetrahedron. Although it was a historically interesting theory in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was superseded by the concepts of continental drift and modern plate tectonics.

The evolution of tectonophysics is closely linked to the history of the continental drift and plate tectonics hypotheses. The continental drift/ Airy-Heiskanen isostasy hypothesis had many flaws and scarce data. The fixist/ Pratt-Hayford isostasy, the contracting Earth and the expanding Earth concepts had many flaws as well.

Jack Oliver (scientist) American scientist

John "Jack" Ertle Oliver was an American scientist. Oliver, who earned his PhD at Columbia University in 1953, studied earthquakes and ultimately provided seismic evidence supporting plate tectonics. In the 1960s, Oliver and his former graduate student, Bryan Isacks, set up seismographic stations in the South Pacific to record earthquake activity, and the data collected led to the insight that part of the ocean floor was being pushed downward.

The evolution of tectonophysics is closely linked to the history of the continental drift and plate tectonics hypotheses. The continental drift/ Airy-Heiskanen isostasy hypothesis had many flaws and scarce data. The fixist/ Pratt-Hayford isostasy, the contracting Earth and the expanding Earth concepts had many flaws as well.

Boris Choubert French geologist

Boris Choubert or Schuberth was a French geologist. An adept of Wegener's theory, he was the first to precisely reconstruct the layout of the continental masses of Africa, America, Europe and Greenland prior to the fragmentation of Pangaea, thirty years before the article generally credited for this discovery.

Ridge push or sliding plate force is a proposed driving force for plate motion in plate tectonics that occurs at mid-ocean ridges as the result of the rigid lithosphere sliding down the hot, raised asthenosphere below mid-ocean ridges. Although it is called ridge push, the term is somewhat misleading; it is actually a body force that acts throughout an ocean plate, not just at the ridge, as a result of gravitational pull. The name comes from earlier models of plate tectonics in which ridge push was primarily ascribed to upwelling magma at mid-ocean ridges pushing or wedging the plates apart.