Read the Rocks

Find out how scientists piece together the planet's geologic history.
Register now:
September 19, 2016 - October 30, 2016
Climate Change, Earth: Inside and Out, Evolution, The Ocean System, Space, Time and Motion, Water
See the full calendar.

Authoring Scientists

Ro Kinzler
Dr. Kinzler began working as a scientist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Ed Mathez
Dr. Mathez is a curator in the Museum's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

About the Course

Feel like you're standing on solid ground? In fact, the Earth and its atmosphere form a dynamic system in a state of constant flux. This seminar shows you the world through geologists' eyes. You'll see how geologists "read the rocks," delve into the geological events that shaped the planet over millions of years, and consider the interconnected systems that cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and major climate changes. A grasp of the scale and nature of geologic change helps you understand how the Earth supports life. Read more.

Key Science Concepts

The present is the key to the past. Studying current Earth processes helps scientists piece together the planet's geologic history.

The Earth can be viewed as a set of dynamic systems—the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere—that interact with each other. The interactions of these systems through time have determined the character of the Earth.

Geologic time: The processes that have governed the evolution of the Earth operate over time scales so much longer than human experience that they are difficult to comprehend.

Nearly everything we know about the Earth—including the age of the planet and when life first appeared—has been learned from evidence contained in rocks.

Interactions among rocks, the oceans and life have controlled the evolution of Earth's atmosphere.

Climate is a complex system controlled by the interaction of the atmosphere, the oceans and the solid Earth. The climate system is affected by human activities.

The flow of solid rock in the Earth's mantle (convection) drives plate tectonics and has shaped the planet's surface over millions of years.

A watery planet can support life. At volcanic vents on the ocean floor, life thrives on the chemical energy created when superheated, mineral-rich water spews into the deep sea.

Course Textbook

The Earth Machine: The Science of a Dynamic Planet
Author: Edmond A. Mathez and James D. Webster
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Edition: April 2007
Paperback: 378 pages
ISBN: 0231125798
Buy online: Amazon

Graduate Credit

This course is approved for graduate credit and continuing education units from leading institutions at an additional cost. Read more.

Adams State UniversityBank Street College of EducationCity University of New YorkFramingham State UniversityHamline UniversityNorthwest Missouri State UniversityWestern Governors University

Related Courses

Interested in more from Seminars on Science? Consider these related offerings:

The Ocean System
Integrated Science
The Solar System
Earth and Space Science
Climate Change
Earth and Environmental Science

Course Preview

Watch a video about mantle convection, read about the origins of the atmosphere, and explore a sample discussion.

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"Great content resources! I learned a ton about complex Earth science topics in a very efficient and effective way."
—high school physics and earth science teacher
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73% of educators say this course was more valuable than professional development available at the local level.

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