Expanding Earth Theory-A Critical Review, Part 3

PSI Blog 20200413 Expanding Earth Theory-A Critical Review, Part 3

[GB: Readers have been asking us to review the Expanding Earth Theory. Although that is a bit removed from our usual focus on regressive physics and cosmogony, PSI member Bill Howell, a professional geologist, has consented to do the job. His review consists of three parts.]

Bill Howell

Part 3: Possible Synthesis of the EET and PTT Models

5)  Assessment of the Expanding Earth and Plate Tectonic Models

It seems to me that the only reason for Maxlow to propose that solar plasma somehow created an additional 50 percent of the Earth’s mass (in only the past 200 million years) and the only reason to ignore the seismic evidence for deep crustal subduction, is to support the hypothesis that the Earth’s radius has expanded.  But it also seems to me that the only reason to even need that hypothesis is because the continents can seem to be fitted together into a single landmass that encompasses the globe by reducing the Earth’s radius in half.

Although this causal chain of thought is not irrational, it reminds me of the Ptolemaic method of building epicycles upon epicycles.  There is a simpler ‘alternative interpretation’ than an expanding Earth radius that can account for the existence of such a single landmass, but which also accepts subduction and a constant Earth radius.  In the remainder of this essay I will describe this alternative interpretation and provide some facts, interpretations, and speculation that support its validity.  But it does get a little complicated...

During the 1950’s, there was no professional consensus on how the ocean basins had formed nor any consensus that the continents had once been joined together, and mantle convection was considered a radical hypothesis not widely accepted by geologists and geophysicists.  But new geophysical data forced the geological community to reconsider Alfred Wegner’s continental drift hypothesis, which had previously been dismissed because a possible mechanism for moving the continents across the ocean basins could not be found. 

During this period of reassessment, serious scientific consideration was also given to the concept of an expanding Earth by Australian geologist Warren Carey (who subsequently inspired Dr. Maxwell’s interest in EET).  Carey had initially supported the concept of continental drift but later proposed that an expanding Earth could also explain the data.  Interestingly, Carey believed that only a cosmological perspective would provide a final solution to the problem [4]. 

Some of the new data that were obtained during this time were collected by the geophysicist Vening Meinesz.  Meinesz conceived of a model that H. H. Hess later developed into a 1962 paper titled History of Ocean Basins [7].  This paper subsequently acquired the nickname: ‘An Essay in Geopoetry’ and it is credited with leading the scientific community toward the theory of Plate Tectonics. 

The Meinesz-Hess model involved a unique event early in the history of the Earth that Hess called the “great catastrophe”.  It proposed that a single convective cell within the Earth’s interior had overturned.  This resulted in the formation of a nickel-iron core as denser materials descended toward the core, and lower-melting and lower-density silica-rich material was extruded onto the surface to form a single primordial continent.  An apt analogy is slag that will rise to the surface of a vat of molten material when metal is being extracted from ore by smelting.  Another analogy, which incorporates the effect from the Earth’s rotation, is what occurs when a fluid is spun in a centrifuge and the lighter materials are separated out.  Figure 5, which is taken from Hess’s 1962 paper, illustrates his concept of the “great catastrophe”.


Figure 5
Single cell (toroidal) Convective Overturn of Earth’s Interior
(After Vening Meinesz, 1952, from H. H. Hess, 1962: History of Ocean Basins)

In this ‘essay in geopoetry’, Hess wrote: “It is postulated that this heat and a probably much larger amount of heat resulting from the energy involved in the accumulation of the Earth were not sufficient to produce a molten Earth...  The proposed single-cell overturn brought about the bilateral asymmetry of the Earth, now possibly much modified but still evident in its land and water hemispheres.  After this event, which segregated the core from the mantle, single-cell convection was no longer possible in the Earth as a whole”.  (Note: in using the term ‘bilateral symmetry’, Hess is referring to the topographic elevation difference between the continents and ocean basins).

Hess went on to write that: ‘On the basis that continental material is still coming to the surface of the Earth from the mantle at the rate of 1 km3/year, accepting Sapper's (1927, p. 424) figure on the contribution of volcanoes over the past 4 centuries, and assuming uniformitarianism, this means 4 x 109 km3 in 4 aeons or approximately 50 per cent of the continents. So we shall assume that the other half was extruded during the catastrophe’ (emphasis added).

By removing the ocean basins, Dr. Maxlow’s model can reduce the present radius of the Earth by 50 percent; however, Dr. Maxlow has also constructed models that join continental crust together that are much older.  These models are based on the continental cratons that are the oldest crustal material found.  Cratons are billions of years old and are thought to be the original nucleus of all continental landmasses.  Dr. Maxlow writes (on page 57) that by removing all seafloor volcanic, continental sedimentary basin sediments and magmatic rocks, and any remnant Proterozoic orogenic rocks, his model can be extended back to the early Archaean (1,600 million years ago), and the remaining cratonic landmasses can be assembled into a single landmass encompassing the globe that reduces the size of the Earth by another 50 percent, or to about 27 percent of the Earth’s present radius. 

What Dr. Maxlow is saying then, is that the aerial extent of the continental landmasses during the Archaean is about 50 percent of the aerial extent that we see today.  Interestingly, this 50 percent reduction coincides with the volume of the primordial landmass that Hess assumed had originally been extruded during the ‘great catastrophe’.  So both Hess and Maxlow are suggesting that the original primordial cratonic landmass of the Earth was about 50 percent of the landmass that presently exists.  In order for this landmass to encompass the globe, Maxlow interprets this to mean that the Earth’s radius during the Archaean was even smaller than it was during the Jurassic, while Hess interprets this to represent the volume of landmass that was extruded from the Earth during the ‘great catastrophe.’ In other words, Hess and Maxlow simply have different interpretations about what the data mean.

6)  Conclusions Regarding the Validity of the Expanding Earth Theory

It seems to me that the fundamental factor that drives the EET is that it’s possible to reassemble the continents into a single primordial landmass, and that these ‘data’ are what led to the interpretation that the Earth’s radius has expanded over time.  The Meinesz-Hess model indicates that an overturning of the Earth interior could account for the same primordial landmass without requiring an expanding Earth.  Although the idea of a single primordial landmass is apparently a current controversy within PTT, such a concept is not a fundamental problem.  PTT simply interprets the ‘data’ (and evidence) to explain the shapes and positions of the continents using the process of subduction instead of interpreting it to mean that the Earth’s radius has expanded.

So it seems to me that the EET and PTT models are not in conflict with regards to the continents having once been assembled into a single landmass.  And if the Meinesz-Hess model is accepted, then there is also not even a controversy regarding whether a primordial continental landmass once existed.  The controversy then, is actually about how to interpret the data.  In my opinion, the evidence from deep earthquake foci, seismic tomography, geodetic and gravimetric data, paleontology, and the missing mass problem clearly support the interpretation of the PTT model and clearly discredit the interpretation of the EET model. 

End of Part 3

The synthesis proposed above could resolve the controversy among expanding Earth believers.  Of course, acceptance of the Meinesz-Hess model requires that there was once a single “great catastrophe”.  Meinesz developed his concept during the 1950’s based simply on the mathematics and geophysics of spherical harmonics.  He did not have any physical evidence to support it.  The study of the rocks brought back from the Moon landings appears to provide that supporting physical evidence.  But that is a Geostory for another day.

Bill Howell, 2020 howellb004@gmail.com


[7] History of Ocean Basins, H. H. Hess, Petrologic Studies - Princeton University, 1962

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