Earth and Planetary Science 50 is a comprehensive and rigorous introduction to the Planet Earth and its geologic processes. Two broad themes will be stressed in the course: The theory of plate tectonics and its ramifications, and the interaction of geologic processes and society. Following an overview of basic geologic principles and plate tectonics, we will develop the basic ideas and skills necessary to understand geology, with emphasis on understanding the nature and origin of important minerals, rocks and geologic structures. We will then develop the unifying theory of plate tectonics and learn about the dynamics of the Earth’s interior, including earthquakes, and the tectonic processes which have formed the continents. The remainder of the course will be devoted to understanding interactions among the solid-Earth, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere; i.e., surface processes, such as weathering and erosion, river and groundwater systems, glaciation, environmental and resource geology and climate change.
This is an introductory level physical science course and we draw on basic, high school physics and chemistry from time to time to explain geologic processes. For example, an elementary description of chemical bonding is necessary to understand the genesis of rocks and mineral resources, and the study of earthquakes and seismic hazards relies on basic notions of wave motion and optics. If you are concerned about your background, please talk to the instructor.
Throughout the course we will emphasize the geologic splendor of our own backyard. California is truly a showplace for geologic processes. In addition to the lecture material, the two field trips offer an opportunity to see these rocks in the wild in such exotic places as the Marin Headlands, Point Reyes Peninsula, the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Hayward and San Andreas fault systems, and along the Pacific coast. It is often in the field where the key points studied in lecture and laboratory come home. There is no substitute for field observations and therefore the field trips are a requirement for the successful completion of the course; besides they are great fun and an opportunity to get outside and experience geology first hand.
The laboratories form a crucial component of this course, providing the student with the observational and analytical skills necessary to identify common rocks and minerals, understand and visualize geologic structures, read and interpret topographic and geologic maps, locate earthquakes, reconstruct past plate motions, and piece together geologic histories. Whatever your background and interests, we hope you will find the course challenging, intellectually stimulating, and above all, fun.
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