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Giulia Socolof 2/18/14 Slot B Partner: Mackenzie Kent Modeling Mantle Convection Currents Purpose: To model how mantle

convection currents affect tectonic plates on the surface. Hypothesis: If hot water is released into cold water with pieces of paper on top, then the paper will diverge from the point where the hot water flows into the cold water because of the theory of plate tectonics. Materials: Large beaker Green food coloring Small beaker Aluminum foil Rubber band Several small pieces of paper Hole puncher Hot water Cold water Plastic spoon Pencil with a sharp point Ruler Camera on iPhone Procedure: 1. Gathered materials 2. Filled large beaker with cold water 3. Used hole punch to cut out several small pieces of paper 4. Filled small beaker with hot water 5. Colored hot water green with food coloring, stirred with spoon 6. Covered small beaker in aluminum foil and secured it with rubber band 7. Submerged small beaker into large beaker 8. Sprinkled papers onto cold water in beaker, roughly same area 9. Began recording with camera 10. Poked small hole in aluminum foil using sharp pencil 11. Observed movement of paper: measured movement of paper from hole 12. After 30 seconds poked another hole in foil 4 cm away. Poked 2 more holes after 30-second periods. 13. Measured movement of paper from hole after each poked hold 14. Washed beakers, cleaned up 15. Repeated steps 2-14 two more times

Results: Average length paper diverged from hole poked: 4 cm


Table 1:

Qualitative Observations Made About Paper and Water Movements


Paper Movements Trial 1 The pieces of paper were observed to not have a lot of movement. This was because the paper was scattered more throughout the beaker upon dropping it in, so not all the pieces felt the effect of the rising water. The pieces of paper moved the most in this trial, because they were dropped in closer together than the first or third trials, so most, if not all of the pieces felt the effect of the rising water. The pieces of paper felt the middle amount of movement. This was mainly because the third trial took the longest, so the paper got heavy and difficult to move when it soaked up more water. Water Movements The hot water rose very fast, because the hole poked in the aluminum foil was inadvertently the largest of the holes poked in all the other trials.

Trial 2

The hot water took a normal time to rise, shorter than that of the first trial and longer than that of the third trial. It was observed that the hot water spread very quickly. The hot water took the longest to rise into the cold water as opposed to the earlier trials. This occurred because the hole poked in the aluminum foil was smaller than that of earlier trials.

Trial 3

Photo 1: Early in trial one, poking the second hole. Hot water has not risen yet.

Photo 2: The middle of trial one, students observed the colored hot water rise and push the papers apart

Photo 3: Later in trial one, the paper is spread apart throughout the beaker, and the green hot water has spread fully

Discussion: This experiment was done to model how mantle convection currents affect tectonic plates. Prior to the experiment, the students thought that the paper would diverge from the point where the hot water was released. The data collected shows that the hypothesis was accepted, because the paper diverged from the most recent hole poked in the aluminum foil by an average of four centimeters. This was why the students poked new holes four centimeters away from the old ones. The paper floating on top of the water represented the tectonic plates, and the cold and hot water represented the layers of the mantle, the hot water being closer to the core. The movement of the hot water could be observed because the hot water was colored, so the students found it fairly easy to observe the waters movement through the beaker of water. The pieces of paper diverged from the hole poked in the aluminum foil as soon as the stream of hot water reached the surface. The paper was able to move because the hot water spread once it reached the surface and took the pieces of paper with it. The hot water was able to rise because the heat spreads the water molecules out, making the water less dense and therefore able to float on top of the cold water. Once the water was at the surface, it spread all throughout the beaker because it was of the same density as the cold water. To design a model that would demonstrate convection currents on Earths crust, the student should place another layer of aluminum foil on top of the water and then place more small slips of paper on top of that instead of directly on the water. The experiment would be better if the size of the hole poked in the aluminum foil was more consistent, because the student inadvertently poked holes ranging from a quarter of a centimeter to nearly a centimeter in diameter. It would also be better if the pieces of paper did not soak up water, because towards the end it was observed that the paper was slightly heavier and therefore moved less. Overall, the experiment was successful. Conclusion: The purpose of the experiment was to model how convection currents in the mantle drive plate tectonics. Through the experiment, the students learned more about the theory of plate tectonics and the movements of Earths tectonic plates. This knowledge is important because it is necessary in order to further study and understand the structure of the Earth. The hypothesis was accepted, and the paper diverged from the point above which the hole was poked in the aluminum foil.