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High School Sophomore Projects a New Pangea in 250 Million Years

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Frank Manheim (formerly of Woods Hole Field Center and now Reston) reports selecting Dante Bonner, a lanky sophomore from Lee High School, Northern Virginia, as one of four winners of USGS Earth and Environmental Science awards at the Fairfax County Schools' Science Fair, March 13 and 14. Bonner's bold presentation projected current Earth plate-tectonic movements into the future. Drawing on recent concepts, he concluded that in 250 million years the Earth's continents would again form a single landmass.

A current consensus of geological thinking holds that 250 million years ago the continental plates migrated away from unified "Pangea" to reach current positions. Bonner, who modeled plate boundaries on a globe, said his main interests were in art and writing, but that he was intrigued by plate-tectonic theory that he learned in his Earth-science class. Discussion with Bonner showed he was fully conversant with convergent and divergent plate movements, transform faulting, triple junctions and other plate tectonics terms.

He acknowledged that his early assumptions were "too simple"—showing the kind of self-critical attitude desired in scientists. Note to geophysicists: has anyone projected plate movements this far into the future? If not, maybe we need to bring young Bonner on to guide the research community into a fruitful new field!

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