Mid-Ocean Ridges: Experiment
Seafloor Spreading Experiment with Cardboard Plates!
The global mid-ocean ridge is more than 60,000 kilometers long
and is topographic feature on the seafloor in every ocean basin.
Because the Earth is a sphere, the tectonic plates that make
up the surface of our planet are curved. When the plates spread
apart they are actually rotating around a pole, a place on the
Earth's surface which acts like a pivoting point for the curved
To visualize the process of the Earth's plates spreading here is
a simple exercise you can do at home or at school. All you need are
a pair of scissors, a piece of sturdy cardboard, a thumbtack and
1. Cut two pie-shaped pieces out of cardboard. These will be your
2. Overlap them along one of the long edges
and put a thumb-tack through the pointy ends of each plate. Label
one Plate A and one Plate B. Draw a line with a pencil or marker
along the overlapped edge.
Rotate one plate away from the other and draw another line over
the overlapped edge. Draw two straight lines between the two you
have already drawn, one close to the pivot point and the other
near the curved edge of the cardboard. One line will be much shorter
than the other.
You can see for yourself that when you swivel the plates apart, the
part of each plate closest to the swivel point moves the least, while
at the same time the end of the plate that is farthest away from
the swivel point moves the most.
The speed or velocity "V" of a plate (or anything for that
matter!) can be calculated by knowing how far the plate moves, and
dividing that number by the amount of time it took to move that distance.
The formula for this is an important one to know: V= D/T.
The experiment you just did with the cardboard tectonic plates allowed
you to prove that the velocity at which the Earth’s tectonic
plates separate at the mid-ocean ridge axis varies depending on where
you are in the world.
How do scientists find out the velocity or spreading rate between
different tectonic plates? Magnetics is the