Colliding Continents

2006, Science  -  50 min Leave a Comment
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How will our planet look hundreds of millions of years from now? In Colliding Continents, a fast-paced and enlightening documentary from Naked Science, geologists and other experts look to our distant past in search of answers.

The structure of our planet - large masses of land cleanly separated by massive bodies of water - didn't happen overnight. The Earth beneath our feet positioned itself over the course of billions of years, and resulted from periods of mass construction and deconstruction. This natural evolution continues today.

"Change is part of nature," observes one of the film's interview subjects.

Indeed, the face of our planet has altered in appearance throughout its history. Mountains have crumbled, oceans have dissipated and our continents have toppled into each other to create the tapestry we know today. The landscape of the future will surely result from similarly intense forces.

In order to grasp where we're going, we must first examine where we've been. In South Africa, the filmmakers capture what is believed to be one of the Earth's oldest rock formations. The granite content of these land masses date back 3.5 billion years, and they provide essential clues as to how our earliest continents were born.

Meanwhile, paleontologists are able to discern the age of fossils across continents, and reasonably deduce where they might have originally existed in relation to one another. This gives us a perspective on how the continents might have shifted over time.

We can see these processes in action in Iceland. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are shifting, gradually pulling the continents further apart while the Atlantic Ocean widens between them.

These and many other scientific observations have set the groundwork for understanding the topography of our planet up to 250 million years from now. At that time, the Earth will likely be devoid of separate continents, but will instead consist of one giant land mass. Major cities will fall, temperatures will plummet and the world as we know it will be completely unrecognizable.

Colliding Continents is an ambitious and absorbing film that successfully constructs the both the history and future of our planet.

Directed by: Tom Stubberfield