Software shows how Earth evolved millions of years ago

Earlier, at the click of a mouse, scientists could only virtually inspect our planet's surface using widely available mapping software.

The new piece of free software is developed by a Sydney University geophysics team and international collaborators.

Released late last year, GPlates1.0 allows anyone to easily visualise the earth's tectonic plates, continents and oceans far back in geological time, according to a Sydney University statement.

"It's a little bit like having Google Earth with a time slider," said Dietmar Müller, Geophysics professor at the Sydney's School of Geosciences.

"You ask the software to show you, for example, how the supercontinent Pangaea and the large oceans surrounding it were assembled 200 million years ago.
"It delivers that by calculating the probable positions, orientations and motions of the tectonic plates through time," said Müller.

GPlates does much more than merely visualise the appearance of the Earth's surface. Its users can reconstruct the topography of the continents and the oceans through time and then use that geological and geographic data as a boundary condition for a range of computer simulations.

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