The earth beneath our feet is not dead; it is constantly moving, driven by forces deep in its core. Nor is the planet's crust all of one piece; it is composed of numerous plates, which are moving steadily in relation to one another. This movement is responsible for all manner of phenomena, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and the formation of mountains. All these ideas, and many more, are encompassed in the concept of plate tectonics, which is the name for a branch of geologic and geophysical study and for a powerful theory that unites a vast array of ideas. Plate tectonics works hand in hand with several other striking concepts and discoveries, including continental drift and the many changes in Earth's magnetic field that have taken place over its history. No wonder, then, that this idea, developed in the 1960s but based on years of research that preceded that era, is described as "the unifying theory of geology."