Fall 2012

Instructor: Seth Stein

T.A.s: Miguel Merino and Ashley Gilliam

Course Information:

Course Syllabus
Course Themes
Plate Boundaries Map
Seismic experiment photos

This website is based on a list of the major topics covered in class. For each topic, we give reading material from texts, information about the class demonstrations and laboratory exercises, and some of the supplementary resources available on the Internet. Try these out and tell us what you think!

Class Topics (Click to go to topic):

  1. Size, mass, & density of the Earth
  2. Seismic waves
  3. Minerals
  4. Composition of the crust, mantle, and core
  5. Radiometric age dating
  6. Origin of the elements and formation of the solar system
  7. Meteorites, formation of the planets
  8. Thermal evolution of planets
  9. Continental drift and paleomagnetism
  10. Earthquakes and plate tectonics
  11. Plate boundaries and kinematics
  12. Lab exercises
  13. Problem sets
  14. Sample midterm
  15. Extra Credit

TOPIC 1: Size, mass, & density of the Earth

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TOPIC 2: Seismic waves

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TOPIC 3: Minerals

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TOPIC 4: Composition of crust, mantle and core

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TOPIC 5: Radiometric age dating

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TOPIC 6: Origin of the elements and formation of the solar system

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TOPIC 7: Meteorites, formation of the planets

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TOPIC 8: Thermal evolution of planets

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TOPIC 9: Continental drift and paleomagnetism

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TOPIC 10: Earthquakes and plate tectonics

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TOPIC 11: Plate boundaries and kinematics

  • Exploring the concepts
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    Laboratory Exercises

    Attendance during the Lab period is mandatory to receive credit for the exercise. You can go to either lab. Exercises are due one week after the lab period. Make-ups not allowed except with advance approval. Late work will not be accepted.

    Problem Sets

    Problem sets are due one week after being assigned. Make-ups are not allowed. Late work will not be accepted..

    Extra Credit:

    Two options:

    1) Every Friday at 3:30 pm in Room F285, the EPS Department hosts a speaker who discusses current research. The list of speakers, titles, and dates is here. While not all the speakers cover topics directly relating to this course, and the talks are higher level than the course, it's an opportunity for enrichment. Thus we offer homework extra credit for a 1-page summary of each talk, on up to 3 talks, maximum total 5% of grade, due within two weeks after the talk and by time of second test.

    2) An alternative is to do a paper on one of the topics below. A paper can also be done to make up one missed lab, provided you have notified us in advance and been approved. Papers must be at least 5 pages of text, double spaced, with at least one additional page of graphics and one page with references. References may not include Wikipedia. Papers are due by the time of the second test.

    1) Determining which radioactive elements are present in the deep mantle and in what abundance is very important for understanding the formation and evolution of the earth. However, seismology cannot provide this information. Explain how new methods using neutrinos - elementary particles produced by radioactive decay - are starting to provide insight into this issue.

    2) Sending space missions to Mars is a risky business. Two spectacular failures involved the 1993 Mars Observer and1999 Mars Climate Observer missions. Use the official investigation reports, available online, to explain what went wrong in each and what lessons should be learned for future missions.

    3) The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is projected to cost $8.7 billion, already $2 billion over budget, so its future is unclear. Explain the mission's goals, what has caused the cost overruns, and the mission's current status. Compare the cost to using the funds for other purposes, such as student loans. If you were president, what would you decide to do and why?

    4) One major result of the warming of Earth's climate is the melting of Arctic ice. Discuss the data showing what is going on, possible future outcomes, and their possible political and economic consequences. What should U.S. policy be in this situation?

    Sample tests

    Sample midterm Click here.

    Sample second test Click here.

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    A "Small is beautiful" approach to upgrading a beginning geophysics course