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Animated life: Pangea, Wegener and the continental drift

8 minutes

How an Earth science outsider finally put the Pangea puzzle together

For centuries, scientists – and pretty much anyone who had ever laid eyes on a world map – noticed that the continents seemed to fit together like puzzle pieces. But it wasn’t until the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener became convinced that the continents once formed a mega-continent and had been drifting away ever since, that anyone truly began to understand why. While on a field expedition in Greenland in 1906-08, Wegener noticed how ice caps looked like puzzle pieces after they had fractured and drifted apart. He concluded that something similar must have happened with the continents and began publicising his ‘continental drift’ hypothesis in 1912. But even though it offered a compelling explanation for some of geology’s most fundamental unanswered questions, continental drift received an icy reception from the geology community, who viewed Wegener as a naive outsider. It wasn’t until 50 years later – well after his death during yet another Greenland expedition – that his theory, confirmed and slightly altered by the discovery of plate tectonics, became widely accepted. 

Part of Sweet Fern ProductionsAnimated Life series, this short animation recounts Wegener’s extraordinary life story, and makes a case for the importance of outsiders and interdisciplinarity in science. 

To learn more about continental drift and plate tectonics – and endemic sexism in the scientific community –  watch Marie Tharp: Uncovering the Secrets of the Ocean Floor.

Director: Flora Lichtman, Sharon Shattuck

Website: BioInteractive

Video/Music

What happens when rock stardom doesn’t quite work out?

10 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/Metaphysics

Stephanie regrets passing up a great opportunity. Can modal realism help?

5 minutes

Video/Demography & Migration

On the US-Mexico border, loved ones on both sides can see each other but cannot touch

12 minutes

Idea/Space Exploration

To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it

Ramin Skibba

Video/Mathematics

Going from A to B isn’t always a straight line – but it can be very good fun

2 minutes

Essay/Human Evolution

Sex makes babies

As far as we can tell, no other animal knows this. Did our understanding of baby-making change the course of human history?

Holly Dunsworth & Anne Buchanan

Video/Cosmology

We are born of supernovas – our spectacular and totally ordinary origin story

4 minutes

Idea/History of Science

The most wonderful words in science: ‘We have no idea… yet!’

Daniel Whiteson

Essay/Evolution

Aliens in our midst

The ctenophore’s brain suggests that, if evolution began again, intelligence would re-emerge because nature repeats itself

Douglas Fox