Planet Earth

Planet Earth, an overview of selected geological topics, discusses how earthquakes, volcanoes, minerals and rocks, energy, and plate tectonics have interacted over deep time to produce a our dynamic island in space, and its unique resources.

About The Course

Earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building, ice ages, landslides, floods, life evolution, plate motions—all of these phenomena have interacted over the vast expanses of deep time to sculpt the dynamic planet that we live on today.  Planet Earth presents an overview of several aspects of our home, from a geological perspective.  We begin with earthquakes—what they are, what causes them, what effects they have, and what we can do about them. We will emphasize that plate tectonics—the grand unifying theory of geology—explains how the map of our planet's surface has changed radically over geologic time, and why present-day geologic activity—including a variety of devastating natural disasters such as earthquakes—occur where they do.  We consider volcanoes, types of eruptions, and typical rocks found there. Finally, we will delve into the processes that produce the energy and mineral resources that modern society depends on, to help understand the context of the environment and sustainability challenges that we will face in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    Students will need access to a high-speed internet connection, and an up-to-date browser. You will also need to download Google Earth.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

    A dinosaur could have walked from New York to Paris, without ever getting its feet wet.

Recommended Background

None; all are welcome!