Experiment showing convection using dye. (Source: http://wn.com/Experiment_Convection_Currents)

By Brendan

Last week I wrote about the first episode in the BBC series, “Men of Rock” which investigated “Deep Time”. This I watched the second episode, “Moving Mountains” which details the progression of idea on the formation of mountains (specifically the Scottish Highlands) from early stages through to the modern theory of plate tectonics. Included is Edward Bailey’s discovery of large calderas (one of my favourite types of volcano, at least based on what I blog about) in the highlands, trilobites, sandbox experiments and abseiling on the Old Man of Stoer, a huge sea stack. It also includes Arthur Holmes early thoughts on convection within the Earth, again with lab based experiments included.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this episode was that it shows both the field- and lab-based science that helped develop our knowledge of how mountains are created. Interspersed with the spectacular scenery of Highlands we not only presenter Iain Stewart abseiling down cliff faces and walking around the hills but also using a sandbox to explain the deformation of sedimentary layers and coloured dye in a fish tank to illustrate convection. Now if only he work experimental petrology in there somehow. So often geological documentaries focus purely on the scenery and fieldwork whilst neglecting what happens back in the lab, which is actually where most of us spend the majority of our time.