Students and Faculty Reenact 500 Million Years of Earth History in Stanford Field

Illustration for article titled Students and Faculty Reenact 500 Million Years of Earth History in Stanford Field

Somewhere around 200 students and faculty gathered on a field at Stanford University last Saturday to re-enact half a billion years of plate tectonics. Costumed and organized in color-coded groups to represent the continents and oceans, the groups moved in sync to simulate Earth undergoing continental drift, complete with asteroid impacts, mass extinctions, and Coast Guard emergency flares to simulate volcanoes.


The demonstration started at 250 million years ago, when the most of the dry land on Earth was glued together to form Pangea. The tectonic tape was run forward, continents spreading and shifting about until to 250 million years in the future, when geologists believe a new supercontinent will reassemble itself. In the middle the group paused at the present day and the people making up Antarctica opened and closed black jackets they were wearing to display white shirts underneath, simulating ice ages (bottom of the picture).

Oddly enough, it wasn't just a random idea. The leader of this strange interpretation of Earth's history, Stanford student Kat Hoffman got her inspiration from a similar (though way more psychedelic) video on protein synthesis put together by the Nobel-Prize winning chemist Paul Berg in 1971. Berg was also at Stanford, and the fact that almost forty years later members of Stanford University are willing to repeat the process tells us two things: 1) people there are dedicated to coming up with fun ways of visualizing science and 2) there is almost certainly something in the water in Northern California.


Hoffman says her video will be out later this summer.

Source: Stanford University

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@Ed Grabianowski: The wider the brush the more economical the coverage. I've got a lot of people to bad-mouth and I don't have the time to go one by one.

@Annalee Newitz: Science isn't retarded, people feeling the need for forced pre-planned, brief, shallow social interaction in place of long term relationships and face to face conversations is retarded. We had one here where they all showed up and had a giant pillow fight (leaving the remanents for the locals to clean up btw). Grown people in a public park having a pillow fight. Maybe they're not retarded, but definitely dangerously immature. And since you've stricken the Flash Mob thing from the header clearly this isn't retarded at all, its a well planned learning experience.

@pixelwax: Thanks sock puppet!! I gotta hit the can, take over wouldja?