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The Earth
Current scientific thinking is that mountain ranges are formed by large-scale movements in the earth's crust.

The Earth

Earth, the planet on which we live, is not a solid ball of rock. The Earth and its atmosphere provide everything needed to sustain life. The Earth consists of several layers, and the surface and atmosphere that we know today has changed a lot since it was first formed. For the GCSE, you need to know about the processes that build mountains, create oceans, eathquakes and volcanoes, how and why the atmosphere has changed naturally as well as how human activities have resulted in further changes in the atmosphere. This GCSE Chemistry quiz is all about the layers withing the Earth - the inner core, the outer core, the mantle and the crust.

Before the 1960s, ideas about the processes that changed the Earth were barely understood. There were various theories about the age of the Earth. The Romans believed it to be about 2000 years old; the ancient Egyptians believed it was about 40,000 years old; the Babylonian civilisation believed anywhere between 200,000 and 400,000 years old. In modern times, a seventeenth century Irish archbishop named James Ussher used the Bible to decide that the Earth was created at 6pm on the 22nd October, 4004 BC. Other dates from different versions of the Bible differ by up to 1,500 years.

Charles Darwin is known for his book On The Origin of Species By Natural Selection. He believed that the Earth was several hundred million years old, as he realised that evolution needed timescales like that to have happened. He didn't take into account the fact that for most of its history, there was little or no life on Earth, so his guess was remarkably accurate. At about the same time, Lord Kelvin used ideas about the cooling of the Earth and came up with a value of about one tenth of Darwin's figure which caused a few arguments. Today we know about the mantle and the core - things unknown to scientists of the past - and we now believe that the real age of the Earth is much greater, it was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. That's what science is all about, as new techniques are developed and new information is discovered, theories and 'facts' change. .

Before the 20th Century, no-one really knew how mountains were formed, or why rocks could be folded and broken. Earthquakes and volcanoes just happened, no-one had managed to satisfactorily explain why they happened. The first person to start to make sense of things was the German scientist, Alfred Wegener. He noticed that the continental shelves of some of the continents matched up closely. He also realised that identical fossils and rocks were now separated by thousands of miles of ocean. He devised the idea of continental drift. Other scientists rejected his idea as there was no mechanism to make it happen. In the 1960s, that evidence began to appear and the theory of plate tectonics was developed and is now very widely accepted.

Try this quiz and see how well you understand the layers which make up the Earth - the inner core, the outer core, the mantle and the crust.

Choose the correct order of layers within the earth starting from the centre.
Inner core, mantle, outer core, crust
Mantle, outer core, crust, inner core
Inner core, outer core, mantle, crust
Crust, mantle, outer core, inner core
Studying earthquake waves has enabled scientists to learn a lot about what the Earth is like inside
The mantle...
is almost entirely solid but can flow
has an average thickness of 6km under oceans and 35km under continents
is mainly liquid, iron and nickel
is mainly solid, iron and nickel
Because the mantle can flow, convection currents occur
The crust...
is almost entirely solid but can flow
has an average thickness of 6km under oceans and 35km under continents
is mainly liquid, iron and nickel
is mainly solid, iron and nickel
It is broken into large plates that are moved around by the currents flowing in the mantle
Alfred Wegener put forward a theory to explain the change in positions of the continents. His theory was that...
the continents had drifted apart
the continents had been forced apart by earthquakes
volcanic eruptions had caused them to separate
the shrinking crust had forced them apart
 He had spotted patterns that strongly suggested that continents once had been fitted together, like the pieces of a giant jigsaw
Why did other scientists not accept Wegener's theory at the time?
They thought that the earth's crust was too thick
They had no way to explain how the continents could move
They thought the earth was expanding
They thought that the continents moved too slowly
Wegener had overestimated how fast the continents were moving apart
Current scientific thinking is that mountain ranges are formed...
by the earth's crust expanding as it heats up
by earthquakes in the mantle
by large-scale movements in the earth's crust
by weathering and erosion of old mountain ranges
Mountains are seen to be forming where the Earth's plates are moving towards each other
It is now accepted that the interior of the earth remains hot because of...
friction between the moving tectonic plates
volcanic activity at the plate boundaries
friction between the core and the mantle
natural radioactive processes
Lord Kelvin did not know about this which is why his estimate of the age of the Earth was so far out
The Atlantic Ocean is about 5,000km wide. It is thought that is has been widening by about 2cm per year since it first formed. How many years has it taken to reach its present width?
1,000 million years
250 million years
25,000 years
1,000 years
Wegener thought that the European and American plates were moving apart at 250cm per year
What causes the tectonic plates to move?
Tidal waves
Strong ocean currents
Convection currents
Weight of the land on top of the plate
Convection currents occur within the mantle
There are volcanic islands in several places in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. They have probably been formed there because...
magma has erupted until it is above sea level
the tides have washed up a mound of sediment
there is debris from oil drilling
sediments have piled up along an oceanic ridge
Between 1963 and 1967, an eruption of an underwater volcano created a new island, just south of Iceland. It is called Surtsey and scientists have been studying it ever since
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Sustainable development

Author:  Kate Gardiner

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