It often seems a parade of researchers are trying to foist new things I don't want on me: a new organ, a new planet, a new dwarf planet, a new continent.
I would like to respectfully decline. No, thank you, I have quite enough continents already.
A group of scientists is currently arguing in favor of a new continent in GSA Today. Here's the deal on the "new continent," which is not a new continent: it's underwater, and it's not new. Not only is it about 100 million years old, these researchers have been fighting for it to be recognized as a continent for a decade. They are going to have to keep fighting, because there's no international body that designates what is and is not a continent.
The landmass, which would be called Zealandia if it were a continent, which it isn't, contains two above-water parts: New Zealand and New Caledonia. The rest of the 5-million-square-kilometer mass is submerged.
"If you could pull the plug on the world's oceans, then Zealandia would probably long ago have been recognized as a continent," New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer told Nature. First of all, you can't pull the plug on the world's oceans, and if you tried, I would stop you. (Do you have any idea how many fish you'd kill? To say nothing of the invertebrates!) But forget that — this quote highlights the exact conceptual problem Mortimer faces: a continent is a continuous expanse of land and is identified mainly by convention. Europe and Asia are considered separate continents, for instance. They are, however, a continuous landmass, Eurasia, and are treated as such by geologists. "Zealandia" is 6 percent land and pretty much all sea — so he'll have to win over a bunch of people like me in order to get it acknowledged by convention.