The last half of this century witnessed incredible leaps in our understanding of planet Earth. Beyond the technological achievements, these decades have produced a substantial body of evidence in support of a revolutionary hypothesis, first posed by Alfred Wegener in the early 1900s, that the continents move around the planet, like ice cubes in a glass.
The theory of plate tectonics, as it is now known, embodies a century or more of scientific research, bringing together the efforts of oceanographers, geophysicists, climatologists, palenotologists and more. It represents to my mind what the scientific method is all about and provides an awesome example of how science works.
Another example of how science works is a revolutionary hypothesis first proposed by an atmospheric chemist the the late 70s. This hypothesis, known as the Gaia Hypothesis, states that the Earth is alive. While perhaps agreeable to many an artistic or spiritual soul, the very statement of the hypothesis rankled some scientists. Still, two decades later, the Gaia Hypothesis is still with us.
Whether the Gaia Hypothesis will stand the test of time is uncertain. But its impact on how we think of our planet, how we view the processes that creates our atmosphere and climate and oceans and even the mountains, is unmistakable.
I think you will find it fascinating. Herein is described one of the more controversial scientific hypotheses of our time, the Gaia Hypothesis.
What is Gaia?
The Gaia Hypothesis proposes that our planet functions as a single organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival. Formulated by James Lovelock in the mid-1960s and published in a book in 1979, this controversial idea has spawned several interesting ideas and many new areas of research. While this hypothesis is by no means substantiated, it provides many useful lessons about the interaction of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes on Earth. Thus, it is a good starting point for our study of oceanography, providing a broad overview of the kinds of processes that will interest us throughout the semester.
Throughout history, the concept of Mother Earth has been a part of human culture in one form or another. Everybody has heard of Mother Earth, but have you ever stopped to think who (or what) Mother Earth is? Consider these explanations.
The Hopi name for Mother Earth is Tapuat (meaning mother and child), symbolized by a form of concentric circles or squares, as shown below. These forms symbolize the cycle of life, the rebirth of the spirit, its earthly path, and, possibly, its return to the spiritual domain. The lines and passages within the “maze” represent the universal plan of the Creator and the path that man must follow to seek enlightenment.
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