Lithospheric dynamics online



One of the enchanting aspects of the natural sciences concerns the roles of observation and generalization. The subject matter of the natural sciences is often complex and, consequently, the source of endless fascination. However, this complexity, which requires documentation through careful observation and analysis, may belie relatively simple principles and symmetries (such as time invariance) which govern the dynamics, and which can only be understood by generalization and abstraction. In many intriguing ways these two different approaches lead in opposing directions and the tension thus created provides the lifeblood of our science. While the different approaches may require very different skills and temperaments, both are important to the development of our science, no one more so than the other. This course fundamentally (and unashamedly) concerns the results and outcomes of the process of generalization (in which the Earth is necessarily considered a very simple beast responding to simple pleasures provided by the laws of nature). However, more than anything else, the questions addressed, and conclusions articulated, here represent the fruits of many hours spent observing at the outcrop scale where geology can appear very complex, indeed. While I believe many benefits accrue from the world-view that results from the process of generalization, I begin with an important disclaimer: careful observation and analysis will always be remembered and used long after once fashionable interpretation has been ridiculed and disbanded. After all, the time-honored tradition of the sciences is that, like biological species, theories have a finite lifespan.


These pages contain an online version of my text "Lithospheric dynamics" developed to accompany a course at Adelaide University from 1990-1999 in conjunction with John Foden, and now at Melbourne University. The text is intended for senior undergraduate students.

The text was prepared in LaTeX, mostly prior to 1994. To view the latex version directly in a browser you will need to download a version of IBM's techexplorer Hypermedia Browser, which can be obtained from


The many students whom struggled through my courses wondering what on earth I was on about have contributed (albeit mostly in an unwitting way) to my undesrtanding of both the subject matter and its presentation. Many associates have also contributed either directly or indirectly. I am particularly indebted to John Foden, who wrote most of the chapter on "Isotope dynamics", and whom, apart form his great friendship, helped develop the a great course, way back then when Universities were about learning! Others deserving some sort of acknowledgement (even if I can't quirte remember what for) include Simon Turner, Thomas Flottmann, Roger Powell, Martin Hand, David Coblentz.....