ST132: Origins: Order vs Chaos

David Bercovici

September 26, 2017

7:00 p.m., Lovejoy 100

Although our existence on a habitable planet can largely be taken for granted, how Earth arrived at this state of ‘habitability’ is far from obvious. How the planets even formed is still not well understood. There are not only numerous hurdles to forming a solar system let alone a planet, but their formation must all be done extremely quickly (on a cosmological/geological time scale) before the Sun ignites its fusion furnace. Once a terrestrial planet is created, its evolution is controlled by how it slowly cools to space, which drives its internal motion by convection, much like any fluid, such as soup or coffee, cools. On Earth, convection led to plate tectonics, which in turn led to the formation of continents and ocean basins, and set the geological carbon cycle that keeps our oceans liquid and makes our atmosphere and climate habitable. But only Earth has plate tectonics amongst all the terrestrial planets we know, and why that so also remains a major scientific mystery. David Bercovici received his BS in Physics from Harvey Mudd College (1982) and his Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics from UCLA (1989). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1989-1990), he joined the faculty at the University of Hawaii (1990-2000). He moved to Yale in 2001 and has been there ever since as Professor and even Chair (2006-2012).