Asthenosphere: Using Silly Putty as an Analogy

3min 42s Novice

What is the asthenosphere?

There are many misconceptions about the asthenosphere. This classroom demonstration on the viscoelastic properties of the asthenophere region of Earth's mantle below the lithospheric plates. Silly Putty is used as a model to show how the asthenosphere is elastic when exposed to short-duration forces (like seismic waves) but plastic when exposed to long-duration forces (like the load of the Hawaiian Islands on the Pacific Plate). Lecture by Dr. Robert Butler, University of Portland, Oregon.

Classroom activity is included.


The asthenospere:

  • is not liquid 
  • is viscoelastic: elastic under short-term stress and/or flows with long-term stress
  • silly Putty is viscoelastic


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In this activity students will evalaute Silly Putty and Oobleck, both of which demonstrate proprieties of both solid and liquids, as a potential concrete model for Earth's Asthenosphere.

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