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Outlines recent advances in computing, satellite technology and mass spectrometry which now make it possible to monitor changes at the Earth's surface that were previously considered too slow or too extensive for direct measurement. The author looks at how these developments can be applied to a wide range of large and small scale phenomena including plate tectonics, the faulting and folding of rocks, weathering and sedimentation, the movement of glaciers, and the growth of coral reefs.