Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Roy Livermore

The secret of the Earth

One of the questions currently keeping astrobiologists (the people who would like to study life on other planets if only they could find some) awake at night is, what is the crucial difference that allowed the emergence and evolution of life on Earth, while its neighbours remained sterile? In their violent youth, all the inner planets started out with so much surplus heat energy—from planetary accretion and radioactive decay—that their surfaces melted to form magma oceans hundreds or thousands of kilometres deep.

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Fifty years on: what has plate tectonics ever done for us?

In 2004, John Prescott, then Deputy Prime Minister in Tony Blair’s New Labour government, remarked, “the tectonic plates appear to be moving”, referring to the impending downfall of Mr Blair. Since then, the tectonic plates metaphor has been applied to just about every major political transition, including events following the UK referendum on leaving the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as US President.

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