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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Physics of the Earth (EASC08016)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryA comprehensive introduction to the physics of the Earth, concentrating on earthquake and controlled-source seismology, physical geodesy and the Earth's gravity field, and geomagnetism and geo-electricity. The course emphasises interpretation and understanding using the techniques of physics and mathematics.

Course description Part 1: Seismology: vibrations, waves and earthquakes (Ian Main)
L1. Basic elasticity: stress & strain tensors, elastic moduli
L2. Elastic waves: derivation of the 1-D wave equation for plane P and S waves
L3. Seismic refraction: two-layer problem for flat and dipping layers
L4. Seismic refraction: linear velocity change, Ray Tracing, Travel Time Curves
L5. Seismic recording: basic principles of the mechanical seismometer
L6. Seismic reflection: calculation of reflection coefficient at normal incidence
L7. The convolution model for a seismogram
L8. Seismic attenuation: geometric spreading, anelastic attenuation, and scattering

Part 2: Electricity and Magnetism (Wyn Williams)
L9. Fundamental units in magnetism and electricity
L10. The geomagnetic field; The magnetic field of a dipole; Multipole and spherical harmonic representation of the geomagnetic field
L11. Introduction to hydromagnetic dynamos
L12. Geomagnetic instrumentation and design
L13. Solar-terrestrial interactions of the geomagnetic field
L14. Telluric currents and the conductivity structure of the Earth.
L15. EM methods of prospecting
L16. Magnetic properties of rocks

Part 3: Gravity (John McCloskey)
L17. Gravity and the gravitational constant, G
L18. The geo-potential
L19. Theory of the reference Earth model
L20. Earth's gravity field
L21. Interpretation: theory
L22 Interpretation: modelling

Tutorials Wednesdays
Seismology: Weeks 2,3,4,5
Electricity and Magnetism: Weeks 6,8
Gravity: Weeks 10,11

Practical Sessions Tuesdays
P1. Seismograms: seismic phases, travel-time curves, and earthquake location (Wk4: Assessed)
Week 4: Tuesday  (Assessed)
Handin: Week 6: Tuesday 12noon

P2. EM survey interpretation (Wk7: Assessed)
Week 7: Tuesday (Assessed)
Handin: Week 9: Tuesday  12noon

P3. Interpreting gravity and magnetic anomalies (Wk11: Assessed)
Week 11: Tuesday  (Assessed)
Handin: Week 13: Tuesday  12noon

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Mathematics for Physics 2 (PHYS08036) OR Algebra and Calculus (PHYS08041)
It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Introduction to Geophysics (EASC08008) OR Earth Science Fundamentals for Geophysicists (EASC08022)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students must demonstrate a good understanding of first-year level mathematics, and be interested in applying physics to the study of the Earth.
Additional Costs None.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesSee above
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  26
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 9, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 3, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 149 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam: 70%, Course Work: 30 %, Practical Exam: 0%.

The exam consists of a single 3hr written paper in April/May.
Past exam papers:

The coursework consists of three reports based on 3 of the Practicals (see below), each contributing 10% to the overall mark. The reports should not exceed 1500 words. These three practical assessments must be handed in during Semester 2 with a report describing the aims, background, method, results and conclusions from each practical exercise.

These assessments will be submitted electronically on the Learn submission page. Any assessment handed in without a satisfactory explanation after the due date will be subject to an automatic penalty, so if you are aware of a problem, please do let the Course Organiser, the Course Administrator, and your Personal Tutor know before the hand-in date.

If you want to attain the best marks it is worth looking at the Common Marking scheme to understand how you will be assessed.
For information regarding the School of Geosciences policy for Special Circumstances please see:

All details related to extensions procedures and late penalties can be found in the
Assessment Deadlines
P1 Week 6, 12noon (ASSESSED) via Turnitin submission box on Learn
P2 Week 9, 12noon (ASSESSED) via Turnitin submission box on Learn
P3 Week 13, 12noon (ASSESSED) via Turnitin submission box on Learn
Feedback The tutorials are an opportunity to get feedback on exam relevant questions. You will get the most out of these by attempting the questions in advance. They are available on learn.

In the first week there is a formative Practical, which will be marked and the results returned to you prior to the hand-in of the second assessment which contributes to your mark. You will have the opportunity to get group feedback on the first report in a meeting with the CO, Ian Main.

Further subject specific questions can be directed towards the relevant lecturers and/or the demonstrators.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have a broad, comprehensive overview of the physical processes operating in the solid Earth and its core and a quantitative understanding of the principles of the geophysical techniques by which this information is derived.
  2. Gain practical experience and understanding of geophysical exploration techniques and how observations can be interpreted.
  3. Experience of carrying out routine lines of enquiry into professional level problems;
  4. Critically evaluate evidence based solutions to these problems.
  5. Convey complex information to a range of audiences for a range of purposes which is a valuable transferable skill.
Reading List
Recommended purchase:
Lowrie, W., 1997. Fundamentals of Geophysics, Cambridge Univ. Press.
Additional texts where funding allows:
Kearey, P.K., 1991. An introduction to Geophysical Exploration, Blackwell.
Stein S. and M. Wysession, 2003. Introduction to seismology, earthquakes and Earth structure, Blackwell. (Recommended purchase for those continuing to honours in geophysical subjects).
Shearer, P. 1999. Introduction to Seismology, Cambridge University Press.
Reference texts:
Fowler, C.M.R., 2005. The Solid earth: an introduction to Global Geophysics, Cambridge University Press.
Mussett, A. and A. Khan, 2000. Looking into the Earth, Cambridge University Press.

All of these are available in the reserve collection of the KB library.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Quantitative analysis, report writing, science communication.

Students MUST have passed: Mathematics for Physics 1 (PHYS08035) AND Mathematics for Physics 2 (PHYS08036) AND

It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Introduction to Geophysics (EASC08008)

Course organiserProf Ian Main
Tel: (0131 6)50 4911
Course secretaryMs Katerina Sykioti
Tel: (0131 6)51 5251
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