Plate tectonics is a revolutionary theory on a par with modern genetics. Yet, apart from the frequent use of clichés such as 'tectonic shift' by economists, journalists, and politicians, the science itself is rarely mentioned and poorly understood. The Tectonic Plates are Moving! explains modern plate tectonics in a non-technical manner, showing not only how it accounts for phenomena such as great earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, but also how it controls conditions at the Earth's surface, including global geography and climate. The book presents the advances that have been made since the establishment of plate tectonics in the 1960s, highlighting, on the 50th anniversary of the theory, the contributions of a small number of scientists who have never been widely recognized for their discoveries.
Beginning with the publication of a short article in Nature by Vine and Matthews, the book traces the development of plate tectonics through two generations of the theory. First generation plate tectonics covers the exciting scientific revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, its heroes and its villains. The second generation includes the rapid expansions in sonar, satellite, and seismic technologies during the 1980s and 1990s that provided a truly global view of the plates and their motions, and an appreciation of the role of the plates within the Earth 'system'. The final chapter bring us to the cutting edge of the science, and the latest results from studies using technologies such as seismic tomography and high-pressure mineral physics to probe the deep interior. Ultimately, The Tectonic Plates are Moving! leads to the startling conclusion that, without plate tectonics, the Earth would be as lifeless as Venus.
Part I: First Generation
1: Probably the best theory on Earth
2: The Paving Stone Theory of World Tectonics
3: Poles Apart
4: Plate Tectonics by Jerks
5: Plate Tectonics by Creeps
Part II: Second Generation
6: Scum of the Earth
7: Continents and Supercontinents
8: All at Sea
9: Chilling Out
10: Ups and Downs
11: The Final Frontier
Roy Livermore is a marine geophysicist. He spent twenty years with the British Antarctic Survey, mapping and exploring the Southern Ocean. He has participated in thirteen Antarctic research cruises, several as Chief Scientist. His interests include the effects of ocean gateways – specifically the opening of Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica – on global climate and evolution. He received his PhD from the University of East Anglia in 1985, where he worked with Fred Vine on the history of the geomagnetic field. This was followed by a postdoctoral appointment at Cambridge University, where he was involved in making global plate reconstructions. He retired from BAS in 2006.
"This book is full of delightful surprises [...] I highly recommend this book as one for you if you want to be properly informed and royally entertained."
– Pete Loader, Teaching Earth Science
"[...] a super read; I thoroughly enjoyed it! If you have the slightest interest in the history of plate tectonics, do read this book – you will not be disappointed!"
– Michael Brown, International Geology Review
"This book explains modern plate tectonics in a non-technical manner, showing not only how it accounts for phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, but also how it controls conditions at the Earths surface, including global geography and climate."
– Ian Angus, Green Left Weekly
"This is a great read for anyone interested in this fascinating subject."
– Chris Darmon, Down to Earth
"[A] packed account, richly contextualized."
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"Roy Livermores book provides a comprehensive and authoritative account of the development of plate tectonics theory, from the earliest days of sea-floor spreading to current ideas on mantle plumes and the tectonics of Mars. It clearly describes the critical interactions of science, technology, human personalities and historical accidents. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, written from the point of view of a knowledgeable insider."
– Roger C. Searle, Durham University, UK
"Far from being a dense, jargon-laden history book, Livermore brings an accessible writing style and brilliant humour to the story, which certainly had me chuckling. If you know anyone (including yourself!) who is keen to find out more about our planet, give them this book."
– Jonathan Scafidi, The Geological Society