Teach the Earth > Structural Geology > Structure, Geophysics, and Tectonics 2012 > Courses > Physics of the Earth

Physics of the Earth

Rob Sternberg

Franklin & Marshall College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


To gain a basic understanding of physics applied to the solid earth. (For this course, the "solid earth" will exclude the atmosphere, ionosphere, and hydrosphere, although these could be included in a broader definition of geophysics.) The emphasis will be on applications to problems of global and regional geophysics and geology, but applications to environmental geophysics will also be included.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geophysics
Resource Type: Course Information
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Geophysics
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division elective course cross-listed in geosciences and physics, with prerequisites of introductory geology, introductory physics, and one semester of calculus (the latter two newly added). The course has a required three-hour laboratory.

Course Goals:

Geoscience students should be able to solve problems illustrating the importance of physics and math as tools for understanding how the Earth works.

Physics students should be able to solve problems demonstrating how the techniques of physics can be useful in the geosciences.

Students should be able to design Excel spreadsheets to solve problems typical of geophysics.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

I think that this course is the only course in our geosciences curriculum that regularly utilizes physics, algebra, and trigonometry to solve key problems in the geosciences.

This is the only course in the physics curriculum that exposes students to the geosciences.

Use of spreadsheets is encouraged for a number of homework assigmenbts, and required for several laboratory activities.

I grade homeworks and administer tests. I so far am not a devotee of more contemporary assessment tools.

Skills Goals

quantitative abilities
working in groups
spreadsheet design

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

I assign homework and lab exercises and design exams that incorporate the kinds of problems and skills I mentioned above.
See previous comment about assessment.

Attitudinal Goals

building students' confidence in the use of quantitative analysis
building students' confidence in applying physics and math to understanding the geosciences

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

See above.


See above.


Syllabus for F&M course - Phsyics of the Earth (Acrobat (PDF) 103kB Jan14 16)

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