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THE EARTH'S CRUST IS made up of tectonic plates massive slabs of rock, which float on the planet's mantle, a vast ocean of molten rock. The way these plates move and interact with one another can build mountains and shift continents, slowly sculpting the planet over many millions of years.

Understanding what happens when plates come together is not a simple task. But a new Australian study has found that the shape of the boundaries between the plates may reveal a lot about Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Rubber

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The researchers were interested in the forces that curved the central west coast of South America and are linked to the White Converse Shoes Womens Sale formation of the Andes mountain range. Because the mountain range is relatively young only about 30 Converse All Star Modern High Top

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million years old the forces shaping this particular range are still in action.

The other is that there was less lubrication between the plates in the Central Andes in comparison to the rest of the boundary, making it more difficult for the plates to slide past each other in that particular region.

"This research is interesting because it helps us figure out how much tectonic force variation was required to build and shape the Andes," says Dr David Boutelier, a research fellow at Monash University's School of Geosciences in Melbourne.

There are a couple of different ideas about how the Andes might have taken on their characteristic shape, says Dr David Boutelier, a research fellow at Monash University's School of Geosciences in Melbourne who was not involved in this study.

´╗┐Geography yields clues to Earth

Shifting tectonic plates The curvature of the western coast of South America is linked to the formation of the Andes. (Credit: Getty).

Most of the time, plates shift as a matter of course, "at Converse Modern Collection

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To study these forces, the team created a simple laboratory model of the region using a tank full of glucose syrup (to simulate the Earth's upper mantle) and two slabs of silicon putty.

By changing the force on each plate one of which slides under the other, to match the way the actual plates are moving along the Andes researchers were able to figure out how the boundary might have been shaped.

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Characteristic shape of the AndesOne idea is that the plates have been pushing on each other in roughly the same way all along the South American coastline, but the continental plate was weaker near the Central Andes for some reason, and was therefore more easily pushed east.

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Associate Professor Patrice Rey, a geoscientist at the University of Sydney, says the idea behind the study is not new, but that the experimental work the group has done provides evidence that many forces are at work at plate boundaries.

rates on the order of a centimetre per year," Giampiero says, andwhen one plate shifts below its neighbour, mountains can form.

the forces that have helped create the world map as we know it.

"That curvature [of the Andes] is the result of the amount of force that these two plates trade with each other," Giampiero says.

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