Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/56

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44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

emission of material from below the over-crust has caused this crust to press downward, and therefore laterally, and so to effect great bends, folds, and plications; and these, modified subsequently by surface denudation, constitute mountain-chains and continental plateaus. As Hall long ago pointed out, such lines of folding have been produced more especially where thick sediments had been laid down on the sea-bottom. Thus we have here another apparent paradox—namely, that the elevations of the earth's crust occur in the places where the greatest burden of détritus has been laid down upon it, and where, consequently, the crust has been softened and depressed. We must beware, in this connection, of exaggerated notions of the extent of contraction and of crumpling required to form mountains. Bonney has well shown, in lectures delivered at the London Institution, that an amount of contraction almost inappreciable in comparison with the diameter of the earth would be sufficient; and that, as the greatest mountain-chains are less than one six-hundredth of the earth's radius in height, they would, on an artificial globe a foot in diameter, be no more important than the slight inequalities that might result from the paper gores overlapping each other at the edges.

7. The crushing and sliding of the over-crust implied in these movements raise some serious questions of a physical character. One of these relates to the rapidity or slowness of such movements, and the consequent degree of intensity of the heat developed, as a possible cause of metamorphism of rocks. Another has reference to the possibility of changes in the equilibrium of the earth itself as resulting from local collapse and ridging. These questions in connection with the present dissociation of the axis of rotation from the magnetic poles, and with changes of climate, have attracted some attention, and probably deserve further consideration on tbe part of physicists.

In so far as geological evidence is concerned, it would seem that the general association of crumbling with metamorphism indicates a certain rapidity in the process of mountain-making, and consequent development of heat, and the arrangement of the older rocks around the Arctic basin forbids us from assuming any extensive movement of the axis of rotation, though it does not exclude changes to a limited extent. I hope that Professor Darwin will discuss these points in his address to the Physical Section. I wish to formulate these principles as distinctly as possible, and as the result of all the long series of observations, calculations, and discussions since the time of Werner and Hutton, and in which a vast number of able physicists and naturalists have borne a part, because they may be considered as certain deductions from our actual knowledge, and because they lie at the founda- tion of a rational physical geology.

Keeping in view these general conclusions, let us now turn to their bearing on the origin and history of the North Atlantic. Though the Atlantic is a deep ocean, its basin does not constitute so