Fitness Landscapes of the earth (I) LO27364

From: Leo Minnigh (
Date: 10/09/01

Replying to LO27222

[Host's Note: Sorry... Part II got distributed just before Part I. My
apologies. ..Rick]

Dear LO'ers,

It took me nearly a month to climb a mountain that was presented for me by
At de Lange. (nice present, At, thank you :-)).
At has invited me to write something complex. He asked me to illustrate
his contributions on fitness landscapes with pictures from landscapes.
Landscapes on the earth's surface, so that we could enrich our thoughts
with something we could see around us, where we are familiar with. But
landscapes of the earth are also complex, as are At's contributions. How
to merge two complex things in the hope that we are able to climb to the
next step of the ladder. The actual mountain I will present in part II, we
need a pause to gain some extra free energy, I am afraid. So firstly, some
foot hills. Foot hills that I made; they reflect some of the thinking
steps I made before I started with the great climb. Ok, here we go.

I have made lots of mountain walks, several with my eldest son. We made
these walks quite heavy by enlarging our own weights with huge rucksacks.
Each day we started in a valley and climbed over a mountain pass. My tempo
of walking was somewhat comparable with the available amount of free
energy I took with me. I hardly could reach the pass. Apparently, my son
had much more of that free enetrgy in his rucksack, his walking pace
remained always steady. But when we arrived at the pass and seeing in
front of us the next valley and at the horizon the next pass we had to
make the next day, we were so delighted that we felt our level of free
energy increasing immediately. A glance to a challenging future is

Part of my thinking and writing on this subject took place during a
congress I visited last week. It was in Germany in a place called Baden
Baden (this name reminds me of the Malaysian language were plurals are
constructed by repeating the nouns; noun noun). This old small city is
famous of its hot and healthy water sources. Baden Baden lies on the
slopes of a hilly and middle-sized mountain area to the east: the Black
Forrest. To the west is the Rhine valley. The ransition from the flat
valley to the mountenous area is rather sharp. It is very special there,
because the Rhine valley is formed by huge faults in the earth's crust
which separate the French Vosges from the German Black Forrest by a deep
rift valley. It is like a small-sizd East African Rift valley. The hot
water springs, faults and some volcanic activity (to the north the Eiffel,
to the south, in the middle of the Rhine graben/valley is a
volcano-in-rest: the Kaiserstuhl (chair of the emperor)).
Splitting gives rise to hot matter.

James Cook has discovered many isles in the Pacific Ocean. Isolated isles
in an immense ocean. Cook found a algorythm to hop from one isle to the
other. It was not by trial and error (or was it?). No, he made use of a
horizontal plane that is situated some 4500 meters above the feet of these
isles and travelled with his ship on this plane and thus not caring about
all those mountain peaks wich not made it to sea level.
If you have a modern atlas where the topography of the Pacific Ocean is
illustrated, you will see that on the relatively flat bottom of this
immense ocean a lot of very sharp isolated peaks occur. As needles these
peaks sometimes reach the water level, some form mountain peaks above sea
level. It is a landscape comparable with what At has described.
Roaring from peak to peak, from isle to isle is possibly a lonesome
adventure, but wonderful things could be discovered.
I had my car with me during that congress in Germany. I took the
opportunity on the free Sunday to visit the Dresslers. What a fantastic
visit was this, to be in lively company with Winfried, Kirsten and their
children. A half day being in a family-sized learning organization. It
was as if I climbed another pass, with a magnificent view to what is
waiting for me in the future.
Joining could be a fantastic creative event.

There passes a young calf the window behind I am writing now. I am in the
country side in the east of the Netherlands. My wife and I had seen the
birth of this calf 4 months ago. Now it is walking and eating and it knows
not to touch the electrical wires that surround the meadow. Our dog Terra
was not aware of the electricity current that invisibly runs through that
wire. Maybe Terra will know it from now on.
Borders could be places of shocking events.

Fitness landscapes remind us to youth and enthousiasm, high peaks and deep
valleys. This picture coincides with the landscapes on the earth. In the
long history of our planet the present mountain chains such as the Rocky
Mountains and Andes, the Alpine chain running from Europe via Turkey to
the Himalaya are young features. The creation of most of these chains
commenced some 100-30 million years ago and last until now. That seems for
our short lives very old, but in relation with the total age of the earth
- ca. 4600 m.y. - the are young.

Geologically young mountains are characterized by great differences in
their relief - high peaks, deep valleys. This is all due to differential
erosion. Erosion is concentrated in the valleys, but obviously the high
sharp peaks become lower and rounded too. The erosion material is
transported as sediment to the sea. The faster the river in the valley
runs, the coarser the material that is carried away.
If erosion last long enough, the complete mountain chain disappears and a
smooth surface on an altitude between 1000 and 0 metres will be the final
result. One can imagine that in such case the central core rocks of the
mountain chain are the only track on the earth's surface that reminds of
the original mountains of the old days. Several of these remnants of old
mountain chains are present and visible on several continents.

That level of 1000 - 0 metres altitude is one of the two main surfaces of
the earth. Imagine a graph with on the horizontal axis the cumulative
surface area in square kilometres with a total of 510 x 10^6 sq.
kilometres, and on the vertical axis the altitude of that surface with
sealevel of zero metres in the middle of that axis. The following
cumulative profile of the earth could be presented (also called a
hypsographic curve). On the left side of this graph we start with a very
small surface area with the highest heights of 8 - 9000 metres. The graph
starts at this point and quickly goes down to an altitude of some 1000
metres. This results in a narrow mountain peak with the vertical axis as
one of its sides. After the curve has reached the 1000 metres level it
turns shaply to a slightly inclined orientation and passes the zero level
at the point of 150 x 10^6 sq. kilometres (this is the total land area on
earth) of the horizontal axis. Then, suddenly the graph dips steeply to a
depth of minus 3500 metres below sea level. The curve then continues with
a slight inclination to a depth of 5500-6000 metres below sea level at the
horizontal position of 500 x 10^6 sq. kilometres. Only 1 x 10^6 sq.k. are
left of the total surface area of the earth. Here the curve dips steeply
to depths of over 10.000 metres below sea level.
What do we see from this graph?
There are two main surfaces on earth, one between +1000m and -500m, and
the other surface at depths between -3500m and -6000m.
The first surface indicates that the main area of continents are below
1000m altitude, and the bottom of the oceans forms the other principle
surface. Of course, this must have a meaning.

The difference between continental crust and oceanic crust is their
chemical/mineralogical composition. Continental rocks are less dense
(granitic in composition, rich in Si, Na, K and Ca) than the rocks of the
ocean floor (basalt, rich in Mg, Fe, Si).
A second difference is that the continental crust is 30 to 60 km thick,
whereas the oceanic crust is only 5 km thick.
A third difference is that continental rocks could be as old as 4000
million years; the oldest oceanic crust is near the Koreas and the
Aleutian Isles and is ca. 250 my.

So, oceanic crust is roughly of the same order of age as the present
mountain chains.

It is the difference in composition that is the main reason of the two
main levels of the earth's surface. Continents - thick and light; ocean
floors - thin and heavy. It is somewhat comparable with blocks of
differentsorts of wood floating in water. The light wood higher and
thicker, the dense wood thin and low. This model is also illustrative for
the present mountain chains. Mountains have a kind of deep root, much
deeper than the rest of the continent.

(end of part I)

Take a great breath before starting the following mountain climb.

dr. Leo D. Minnigh
Library Technical University Delft
PO BOX 98, 2600 MG Delft, The Netherlands
Tel.: 31 15 2782226
        Let your thoughts meander towards a sea of ideas.


Leo Minnigh <>

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