In his rock deformation laboratory here at Washington University in St. Louis, Phil Skemer applies huge amounts of heat and pressure to rock samples. Crushing rocks may sound just like fun, but he and his team are seeking answers to fundamental questions about how Earth works. Why does our planet have plate tectonics, when neighbors like Venus do not? To look for clues, Skemer uses - and builds - instruments that replicate the intense conditions found deep in the interior of the Earth.
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