Seeing Is Believing

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Science  12 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6104, pp. 207-208
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228953

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The lava lamp on my son's bureau gives him a vantage point to ponder the colorful blobs rising and falling as their temperature and density change. Geologists are not so privileged. Some of Earth's most impressive geologic features, such as the massive granitic plutons of California's Sierra Nevada mountains, are direct consequences of magma transport but we cannot directly observe these transport processes. On page 250 of this issue, Fialko and Pearse (1) use satellite data and computational modeling to infer the transport process in one location. They conclude that a magmatic diapir—a roughly spheroidal mass of partially molten material—is rising beneath a portion of the Altiplano Plateau in the central Andes.