Chapter 8 Earth as a Planet
Collaborative Group Activities
- If we can predict that lots of ground movement takes place along subduction zones and faults, then why do so many people live there? Should we try to do anything to discourage people from living in these areas? What inducement would your group offer people to move? Who would pay for the relocation? (Note that two of the original authors of this book live quite close to the San Andreas and Hayward faults. If they wrote this chapter and haven’t moved, what are the chances others living in these kinds of areas will move?)
- After your group reads the feature box on Alfred Wegener: Catching the Drift of Plate Tectonics, discuss some reasons his idea did not catch on right away among scientists. From your studies in this course and in other science courses (in college and before), can you cite other scientific ideas that we now accept but that had controversial beginnings? Can you think of any scientific theories that are still controversial today? If your group comes up with some, discuss ways scientists could decide whether each theory on your list is right.
- Suppose we knew that a large chunk of rock or ice (about the same size as the one that hit 65 million years ago) will impact Earth in about 5 years. What could or should we do about it? (The film Deep Impact dealt with this theme.) Does your group think that the world as a whole should spend more money to find and predict the orbits of cosmic debris near Earth?
- Carl Sagan pointed out that any defensive weapon that we might come up with to deflect an asteroid away from Earth could be used as an offensive weapon by an unstable dictator in the future to cause an asteroid not heading our way to come toward Earth. The history of human behavior, he noted, has shown that most weapons that are built (even with the best of motives) seem to wind up being used. Bearing this in mind, does your group think we should be building weapons to protect Earth from asteroid or comet impact? Can we afford not to build them? How can we safeguard against these collisions?
- Is there evidence of climate change in your area over the past century? How would you distinguish a true climate change from the random variations in weather that take place from one year to the next?