I'm writing a story, and in the story the protagonist designs a way to trigger artificial continental drift that takes place in 50 years, for all the continents to drift in the places he plans. Are there scientifically accurate ways for him to do this?

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    $\begingroup$ Not if he intends the continents to survive in any recognizable form. Continents are heavy. Very very very heavy. Moving them at such speed would melt the rocks, vaporize the oceans, and generally make Earth glow red-hot. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 14, 2018 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ What @AlexP said, and the ground would shake world-wide, knocking everything flat and burying the rest. There'd be lava everywhere. Maybe there's another way to deal with this. What's the protagonist's goal? What does he/she hope to achieve with this act? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 14, 2018 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ Kudos on having a supervillain protagonist! Even if the protagonist found an (unlikely) way to dampen all the mega-earthquakes that smashed human civilization, killed billions, and destroyed whole ecosystems, moving the continents around changes the ocean currents and heat distribution - might trigger an ice age. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 14, 2018 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ My answer here might interest you: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/101347/… $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Jul 14, 2018 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ Yes the character is a villain, who takes over a planet and wants to arrange the continents the way he likes. The antagonists are good people who try and stop him. $\endgroup$
    – H98
    Jul 14, 2018 at 23:38

2 Answers 2


I don't think you could do it without an intellectual and monetary power far beyond my own. It should be possible however for him to trick a substantial number of people into believing that he was actually able of performing this feat by printing enough faked maps, and making enough youtube videos.


The only known technology that could be capable of shifting tectonic plates is thermonuclear bombs. It will likely take quite a few of them, detonated in very specific spots deep within the crust. Your villain can probably disguise his preparations as a shale gas operation.

50 year is not a reasonable timescale. Even the most volatile plates move at a few feed per year.

Even if your villain has advanced alien technology, rearranging the continents in 50 years will cause constant earthquakes, which will ruin all human buildings and infrastructure, and massive volcanoes that will kill most life on earth, both with sulfur and CO2 that they release, and during the ice age triggered by all the dust in the atmosphere.

So your villain is either building an post-apocalyptic playground for himself, or is setting the stage for the most epic Death Metal video ever.


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