Chapter 1

Sputnik and the shape of the Earth

Story

Geodetic data from the Soviet Sputnik satellite, the first artificial satellite of the Earth launched in 1957, had been interpreted by Walter Munk and Gordon MacDonald of Scripps. The shape of the Earth was not quite that of a spinning fluid ball; they suggested that the Earth’s mantle was so viscous that convection was not possible. “I didn’t believe this,” says McKenzie, whose early PhD work had shown him that all materials creep at a high enough pressure. “My PhD taught me a great deal,” he says “The interpretation of the observations was slightly wrong, though, so my PhD is actually wrong.”

IMAGE REFERENCE: Sputnik, Wikimedia.