The Birth of the Earth System and the Convection Paradigm
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Jul 5, 2007
The second portion of the lecture sequence and the problem set are used in an advanced geophysics course that I teach, intended for upper-division undergrads or grad students in geophysics, physics, or mechanical engineering.
However, I note that if my upper-level survey course in geophysics (for geology seniors and grad students) was a month longer, it would include this entire activity. That is, geology seniors and grad students who have worked through my other contributed activity (on cooling times) have successfully completed this activity as well.
Designed for a geophysics course
Designed for an introductory geology course
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Students *must* have been exposed to partial derivatives, Fourier's Law, and the diffusion equation (i.e., my other contributed activity, activity 1) prior to the second portion of the lecture sequence or the problem set.
How the activity is situated in the course
The second portion of the lecture sequence, and the problem set, are situated about 2/3 of the way through my advanced geophysics course—it makes sense to cover gravity and Earth's internal constitution before beginning heat flow.
The first portion of the lecture sequence requires only about one and a half hours of lecture. The entire sequence ideally (including peripheral topics and applications of heat flow) requires about 2 weeks of lecture time (= 6 hours of lecture).
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- understanding the nature of advection, and how to express it mathematically
- understanding how convection works in a fluid
- being able to quantify some of the forces acting within a fluid
- determining the relative importance of terms in a differential equation—the technique of scaling equations (necessary for dealing quantitatively with the complex Earth System)
- deriving and exploring applications of dimensionless numbers
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- appreciating the pervasiveness of convection in the Earth System, and throughout the Universe
- appreciating the origin of the Earth System
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
Uses geophysics to solve problems in other fields
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment (Microsoft Word 47kB Jul5 07)
- Solution Set (Microsoft Word 50kB Jul5 07)