Roberts, Andrew P Department of Geology, University of California, Davis, California.
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Reversals in the polarity of Earth’s magnetic field.That is, at different times in Earth's past, a compass would have pointed south instead of north. The Earth's magnetic field has reversed polarity hundreds of times. Recognition that the geomagnetic field has repeatedly reversed polarity played a key role in the revolution that transformed the geological sciences in the 1960s—the acceptance of the theory of plate tectonics. It is generally accepted that the geomagnetic field is generated by motion of electrically conducting molten metal in Earth's outer core. However, the mechanism by which the field decays and reverses polarity remains one of the great unknowns in geophysics. See also: Geomagnetism; Plate tectonics
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