The Evolution of Earth; Our Ever Changing Earth; Special Editions; by Claude J. All¿gre and Stephen H. Schneider; 10 Page(s)
Like the lapis lazuli gem it resembles, the blue, cloud-enveloped planet that we recognize immediately from satellite pictures seems remarkably stable. Continents and oceans, encircled by an oxygen-rich atmosphere, support familiar life-forms. Yet this constancy is an illusion produced by the human experience of time. Earth and its atmosphere are continuously altered. Plate tectonics shift the continents, raise mountains and move the ocean floor while processes not fully understood alter the climate.
Such constant change has characterized Earth since its beginning some 4.5 billion years ago. From the outset, heat and gravity shaped the evolution of the planet. These forces were gradually joined by the global effects of the emergence of life. Exploring this past offers us the only possibility of understanding the origin of life and, perhaps, its future.