This course is set up with ten Portfolio Projects. These are intended to permit you to see how we have come to learn much of what we know about the tectonics on Earth. On Thursdays we will work through these as a class. In doing so, each student should see how the work is done and understand the reason for each step and the results obtained. The projects will not be evaluated for a grade, but they will be available during Graded Learning Opportunities, where you may anticipate questions probing your understanding and comprehension of the techniques and processes involved. They will be yours to keep, and hopefully treasure, after completion of the course. If, in the future, you have reason to revisit one of the subjects covered, you will have your own explanation, with your own work, to help you understand it again.
These projects will often use simplifying assumptions such as a Flat Earth, or Constant Seismic Wave Velocities, in order to keep the math straightforward. We will use algebra, geometry and trigonometry, but will avoid using the calculus.
On Tuesdays we will discuss the context for these portfolios, emphasizing how the theory of Plate Tectonics evolved and learning about places on Earth where various components of the model were developed.
Review of 101 Concepts
01 Trig - Why it Works, How we Use It
Law of Sines
Law of Cosines
What can we learn from the Precession of the Equinox?
How do we know that we have a core?
How big is it?
What is it's density?
02 Wiechert: Earth Mass, Moment of Inertia
Mantle and Core
What is the Crust?
How can it be defined?
Is the base of the crust the Isostatic Compensation level?
Crust vx. Lithosphere
03 Mohorovičić Discontinuity
Discovery of the Crust
Networks of Seismographs
Online data sources
04 Jeffreys - Bullen Travel Time Curves
Earth's Seismic Velocities
Current understanding of Crust, Mantle and Core
Lithosphere, Asthenosphere and Lower Mantle
J. Tuzo Wilson and Transform Faults
Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen
Hot Spots and their tracks
05 H.F.Reid, Elastic Rebound
Focal Plane solutions
First Motions on faults
06 Interpreting the Bellingham Seismograms
Epicenters and Origin Times
John Dewey and Plate Tectonics
Plumes, or not?
07 Vectors - Adding and Resolving Them
NEGSA Meeting in Burlington, VT
08 Plate Motions on a Flat Earth
09 Triple Junctions - Varieties and Stability
10 Plate Motions on a Spherical Earth - NUVEL 1
The Tectonic History of New York State
Synthesis and Review
There will be two one-hour-long Graded Learning Opportunities, each worth 25% of your grade, and a two-hour Final Graded Learning Opportunity, worth 50% of your grade. Exams will try to probe your understanding and comprehension of the material. (See Learning Outcomes.)
This syllabus represents my plan for the semester as of the first day of the semester. It is subject to change at my discretion. If you desire to see it modified to include additional material, or omit material which you believe has been adequately covered in some other course, please bring this to my attention as soon as possible.
Please note that attendance is not required. If you attend class, it is expected that you are there to learn what is being discussed. Therefore, if you need to write a paper, surf the web, text message your friends, or engage in other activities which are not part of our classroom discussion, please do not come to class.