1 Billion Years of Tectonic Plate Movement in 40 Seconds
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1 Billion Years of Tectonic Plate Movement in 40 Seconds

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1 Billion Years of Tectonic Plate Movement in 40 Seconds

According to plate tectonic theory, the Earth’s surface is made up of slabs of rock that are slowly shifting right under our feet.

Because of this constant movement, today’s Earth looks a lot different from what it did millions of years ago. Today’s animation looks at the Earth’s tectonic plate movement from 1 ga (geological time for 1 billion years ago) to the present-day, via EarthByte on YouTube.

Editor’s note: The video starts at time 1,000 ma (1,000 million years ago), and ticks down at the rate of about 25 million years every second.

The Emergence of Plate Tectonic Theory

Plate tectonics is a relatively new theory—in fact, according to National Geographic, it hadn’t become popular until the 1960s. However, the concept of continental movement was brewing long before it became widely accepted.

In 1912, German scientist Alfred Wegener proposed a theory he called continental drift. According to Wegener’s theory, Earth’s continents once formed a single, giant landmass, which he called Pangaea.

Over millions of years, Pangaea slowly broke apart, eventually forming the continents as they are today. Wegener believed this continental drift explained why the borders of South America and Africa looked like matching puzzle pieces. He also pointed to similar rock formations and fossils on these two continents as proof to back his theory.

Initially, the scientific community wasn’t on board with the theory of continental drift. But as more data emerged over the years, including research on seafloor spreading, the theory started to gain traction.

The Supercontinent Cycle

Nowadays, it’s believed that Pangea was just one of several supercontinents to mass together (and break apart) over the course of geological history.

The exact number of supercontinents is largely debated, but according to the Encylopedia of Geology, here are five (including Pangea) that are widely recognized:

  • Kenorland: 2.7-2.5 billion years ago
  • Nuna/Columbia: 1.6-1.4 billion years ago
  • Rodinia: 950–800 million years ago
  • Pannotia: 620-580 million years ago
  • Pangea: 325-175 million years ago

According to the theory, this cycle of breaking apart and coming together happens because of subduction, which occurs when tectonic plates converge with one another.

The supercontinent cycle also ties into ocean formation. The below example of the Wilson Cycle specifically keys in on how the Atlantic Ocean, and its predecessor, the Iapetus Ocean, were formed as supercontinents drifted apart:

the Wilson Cycle

Source: Hannes Grobe

The Importance of Plate Tectonics

Plate tectonics has been a game-changer for geologists. The theory has helped to explain tons of unanswered geological questions, assisting scientists in understanding how volcanoes, mountains, and ocean ridges are formed.

It’s also valuable for the oil and gas industry since it explains how sedimentary basins were created, allowing geologists and engineers to target and locate vast oil reserves.

Since the theory of plate tectonics is relatively new, there’s still a lot to be discovered in this field of research. However, in March 2021, a report was published in Earth-Science Reviews that, for the first time, visualized a continuous plate model that shows how Earth’s plates have shifted over the last billion years.

The video above visualizes this particular report and accurately depicts the Earth’s tectonic plates’ movement or the observed shift in Earth’s tectonic plates over the years.

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Demographics

3D Map: The World’s Largest Population Density Centers

What does population density look like on a global scale? These detailed 3D renders illustrate our biggest urban areas and highlight population trends.

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global population density map

A 3D Look at the Largest Population Density Centers

It can be difficult to comprehend the true sizes of megacities, or the global spread of 8 billion people, but this series of population density maps makes the picture abundantly clear.

Created using the EU’s population density data and mapping tool Aerialod by Alasdair Rae, the 3D-rendered maps highlight demographic trends and geographic constraints.

Though they appear topographical and even resemble urban areas, the maps visualize population density in squares. The height of each bar represents the number of people living in that specific square, with the global map displaying 2km x 2km squares and subsequent maps displaying 1km x 1km squares.

Each region and country tells its own demographic story, but the largest population clusters are especially illuminating.

China vs U.S. — Clusters vs Sprawl

population density spikes around China

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Zooming into the most populated country in the world, China and its surrounding neighbors demonstrate massive clusters of urbanization.

Most people are familiar with the large density centers around Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, but the concentration in central China is surprising. The cities of Chengdu and Chonqing, in the Sichuan Basin, are part of a massive population center.

Interestingly, more than 93% of China’s population lives in the Eastern half of the country. It’s a similar story in neighboring South Korea and Taiwan, where the population is clustered along the west coasts.

population density spikes in the united states

Click here to view the high resolution version.

The U.S. also has large population clusters along the coasts, but far more sprawl compared to its Asian counterparts. Though the Boston-Washington corridor is home to over 50 million residents, major centers spread out the population across the South and the Midwest.

Clearly visible are clusters in Florida (and not exclusively focused around Miami like some might believe), Illinois, Georgia, and Texas. The population is sparse in the West as expected, but California’s Los Angeles and Bay Area metros make up for the discrepancy and are just behind New York City’s density spikes in height.

India & Southeast Asia — Massive Density in Tight Areas

population density spikes around India

Click here to view the high resolution version.

At 1.38 billion people, India’s population is just behind China’s in terms of size. However, this sizable population fits into an area just one-third of China’s total land area, with the above map demonstrating what the same amount of people looks like in a smaller region.

On one hand, you still have clear clusters, such as in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and Bangladesh’s Dhaka. On the other, there is a finite amount of room for a massive amount of people, so those density “spikes” are more like density “peaks” with the entire country covered in high density bars.

However, we can still see geographic trends. India’s population is more densely focused in the North before fading into the Himalayas. Bangladesh is equally if not more densely populated, with the exception of the protected Sundarbans mangrove forest along the coast. And Pakistan’s population seen in the distance is clustered along the Indus River.

population density spikes in Southeast Asia

Click here to view the high resolution version.

Geographic constraints have always been the biggest deciding factor when it comes to population density, and nowhere is this more apparent than Southeast Asia.

Take Indonesia, the fourth largest country by population. Despite spanning across many islands, more than half of the country’s 269 million inhabitants are clustered on the single island of Java. The metros of Jakarta and Surabaya have experienced massive growth, but spreading that growth across oceans to entirely new islands (covered by rainforests) is a tall order.

When the distance is smaller, that cross-water growth is more likely to occur. Nearby in the Philippines, more than 100 million people have densely populated a series of islands no bigger than the state of Arizona.

Indeed, despite being one of the most populated areas in the world, each country in Southeast Asia has had its own growing problems. Some are limited by space (Singapore, Philippines), while others are limited by forests (Thailand, Vietnam).

A World of Different Density Pictures

Though the above maps cover the five most populated countries on Earth, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, they only show a small part of the global picture.

As the full global density map at the top of the page highlights, the population patterns can accurately illustrate some geographic patterns and constraints, while others need further exploration.

For example, the map clearly gives an outline of Africa and the sparse area that makes up the Sahara Desert. At the same time, landmasses like Australia and New Zealand are almost invisible save for a few clusters along the coast.

To get a closer and more intricate picture of each country’s density map, head to Alasdair Rae’s long thread of rendered maps and start scrolling up to find yours!

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Misc

The Type of Business Every Country Wants to Start

This series of maps shows a regional breakdown of the most popular types of businesses people want to start, based on online search results.

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The Type of Business Every Country Wants to Start

View a higher resolution version of this map.

Every year, millions of new businesses are started across the world—in 2021, nearly 5.4 million new business applications were filed in the U.S. alone.

And since startups and new businesses play a significant role in shaping a country’s economic growth, encouraging entrepreneurship is vital. But what types of businesses around the world are people most interested in starting?

These maps by ZenBusiness show the most popular types of businesses that entrepreneurs in nearly every country want to start, based on analyzing relevant internet search results.

Most Searched Businesses Around the World

To source the data, ZenBusiness analyzed searches from Ahrefs, specifically looking for the term “start a business” and its equivalents in local languages as of February 2022.

They then found the relevant topic or keyword with the highest search volume, and organized the results into 11 different industries:

  • Beauty & Cosmetics
  • Food & Drink
  • Logistics & Infrastructure
  • Personal Services
  • Recycling
  • Software Development
  • Business & Financial
  • Leisure & Tourism
  • Marketing
  • Real Estate
  • Retail & E-Commerce

The data showed that the industries entrepreneurs are most attracted to vary greatly from country to country, depending on a variety of factors such as infrastructure, business climate, and culture.

Here’s a breakdown of the most searched businesses around the world, broken down by region.

Africa

Map of the most searched businesses in Africa

From cooking gas refills in South Africa to supplements in the Gambia, entrepreneurs across Africa seem to be interested in starting a wide range of businesses (at least according to their searches).

But while the results varied across the region, the most-searched industry was personal services such as cleaning, interior design, and contracting. Cleaning was especially popular, ranking first in six different African countries.

One African country worth highlighting is Morocco, where freight is the most-searched startup term across the country. This makes sense considering Morocco is home to several major ports, including the Port of Tanger Med, which is Africa’s largest port by cargo capacity.

Europe

Map of the most searched businesses in Europe

In Europe, real estate is the most-searched industry, ranking number one in seven different countries across the continent. Over the last decade, the European Union’s real estate market has boomed—between 2010 and 2021, home prices in the EU increased by 42%.

Retail is also a popular industry across Europe, with clothing-related searching taking the top spot in five different European countries.

Middle East & Central Asia

Map of the most searched businesses in the Middle East

From soap production in Uzbekistan to dropshipping in Azerbaijan, the Middle East & Central Asia have the most diverse searches compared to any other region.

One particularly interesting top search was in the United Arab Emirates, where imports and exports ranked first. The UAE’s economy is heavily reliant on trade, especially oil, which makes up 30% of the region’s GDP and 41% of public revenues.

Rest of Asia & Oceania

Map of the most searched businesses in Asia and Oceania

Asia and Oceania had an interesting mix of unique business searches. For instance, pig farming ranked number one in the Solomon Islands, and lawn moving took the top spot in New Zealand.

But generally speaking, retail was one of the most-searched-for business types across this region, with clothing taking the top spot in countries like Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

North America

Map of the most searched businesses in North America

Across North America, retail takes the top spot for most searched business type. In fact, the top searches in nearly half of the region’s countries are related to the retail or e-commerce industry.

The U.S. currently has the largest retail market in the world, although China is close on its heels. In 2021, America’s retail market was valued at over $6.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

South America

Map of the most searched businesses in South America

Food was the top searched industry across South America, ranking number one in half the countries across the region. In Brazil, sweets took the top spot, which might not be surprising considering the country is the top sugar cane producer worldwide.

Clothing was also a popular business idea, taking the top spot in five South American countries.

Which countries surprised you the most with their new business interest?

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