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Plate Tectonics Plate tectonics are a relatively new theory that has revolutionized the way geologists think about the Earth According to the theory the surface of the Earth is broken into large plates The size and position of these plates change over time The edges of these plates where they move against each other are sites of intense geologic activity such as earthquakes volcanoes and mountain building Plate tectonics is a combination of two earlier ideas continental drift and sea-floor spreading Continental drift is the movement of continents over the Earths surface and in their change in position relative to each other Sea-floor spreading is the creation of new oceanic crust at mid-ocean ridges and movement of the crust away from the mid-ocean ridges The Earth is divided into three chemical layers the core the mantle and the crust The core is composed of mostly iron and nickel and remains very hot even after 45 billion years of cooling The core is divided into two layers a solid inner core and a liquid outer core The middle layer of the Earth the mantle is made of minerals rich in the elements iron magnesium silicon and oxygen The crust is rich in the elements oxygen and silicon with lesser amounts of aluminum iron magnesium calcium potassium and sodium There are two types of crust Basalt is the most common rock on Earth Oceanic crust is made of relatively dense rock called basalt The outermost layers of the Earth can be divided by their physical properties into lithosphere and asthenosphere It is made of lower density rocks such as andesite and granite The lithosphere is the rigid outermost layer made of crust and uppermost mantle The lithosphere is the plate of the plate tectonic theory The asthenosphere is part of the mantle that flows a characteristic called plastic behavior It might seem strange that a solid material can flow The flow of the asthenosphere
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