GG 304: Physics of the Earth & Planets

Instructor: Garrett Ito (, POST 810, office hours: Tue/Thu 4:00-5:00 p.m.)

T.A. and Lab Instructor: Ashton Flinders (flinders@

Prerequisites: calculus and introductory physics

Textbook: Fundamentals of Geophysics by W. Lowrie


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Course Objectives:

·Improve abilities in independent reasoning and problem solving, with emphasis on physics

·Enhance oral communication and team work skills

·Emphasize the use of the scientific method and effective writing skills with laboratory exercises

·Improve skills in mathematics, physics, and computer programming

·Provide firsthand experience with geophysical methods of measuring Earth structure.


General Information:

·Class time/place: 9:30 am – 10:20 pm, MWF, POST 708

·Class format:  About 1/3 lecture (usually Mon.) and 2/3 class discussion (usually Wed. & Fri.), focused on reading and homework assignments.  ASK QUESTIONS and do not leave class until your questions are answered.

·Homework:  Homework assignments are expected to be done by the date designated for discussion and will be turned each Friday.  I encourage you to work together on the problems but it is required that the work turned in is yours and yours alone.  Thus in all of your homework write-ups, it is important to make your own reasoning clear.  This includes writing explanations to equations and explaining why you think your answers are correct or not correct.  Little credit will be given to unsupported solutions.  Here are steps for producing an excellent geophysics homework solution:

(1) Write down the information (e.g., known variables) given

(2) Draw a picture when appropriate

(3) Identify the pertinent governing equations and/or derive equations necessary to solve the problem.  Briefly summarize (a few words is often sufficient) what the equations mean and/or why you use these equations.

(4) Solve the equations.

(5) Check your answer. Check units.  Does your answer make physical sense? Why? Why not?

BUG the instructor (or TA) with questions.  If you don’t ask, I’ll assume you understand everything. 

·Laboratory work: Tuesdays 1:30–4:20 pm, POST 733. Labs will involve field experiments (using seismometers, gravimeters, etc.) as well as computer programming and analysis.  Lab assignments are due the following Monday at the beginning of the lab.

·Late Homework/Lab policy: You have 3 ”grace days” for late homework and 3 grace days for late lab reports. That is, you can turn in a total of three assignments a day late, or one assignment three days late. Assignments turned in late without ”grace credit” will be penalized by 20% per day. Weekends count as 1.5 days. 

·Grading Policy:  Homework: 35%; Labs: 25%; Exams: 25%; Class participation: 15%


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                                 Working Course Syllabus                                


Math/Physics Review

Mon. 1/12  Physics:  kinematics & dynamics for linear and rotational motion                

Tue.  1/13  Lab1: Matlab & Planet Orbits see example Matlab script

Wed. 1/14  Discuss HW1A                                                                              

Fri.  1/16    No class (storm warning)


Chapter 2.  Gravity and figure of the Earth

Mon. 1/19  Martin Luther King Jr. Day Holiday

Tue. 1/20   Lab2: Vectors, Energy, Orbits, see example script

Wed 1/21   Discuss Lowrie section 1.1 and HW1B          

Fri 1/23      Lecture:  rotational motion,  forces, torques, and energy


Mon 1/26   Discuss 2.1-2.2 & HW2               

Tue 1/27    Lab3:  Use of gravimeter and tidal corrections.  Calibration data and Matlab scripts

Wed 1/28   Earth’s rotation, shape, tides, and gravity                                                                

Fri 1/30      CRUISE: The boat leaves port at 8:00 a.m.  Discuss 2.3-2.4 & HW3

Sat 1/31     CRUISE:  Earth’s shape, gravitational potential & acceleration field

Sun 2/2      CRUISE:  Gravity anomalies

                  Lab4:  Gravity of a buried prism:  example script and solution filegravprism.m


Mon 2/1     CRUISE:  Interpretation of gravity anomalies

Tue 2/2      CRUISE:  Discuss 2.4-2.5 & HW4 (download data file)                                                  

Wed 2/4     CRUISE:  Arrive port at 8:00 a.m. and do final gravity tie.                                                     

Fri 2/6        No class                                                      

Mon 2/9     No class                                                   

Tue. 2/10  No lab

Wed 2/11   Discuss 2.6 & HW5 & Bouguer anomaly file

Fri  2/13     Discussion and review for exam

Chapter 3.  Seismology and the internal structure of the Earth

Mon 2/16   Presidents’ Day Holiday                                               

Tue. 2/17   No lab.

Wed 2/18   In-class problem set 1 and HW 1-5 revisions due

Fri 2/19      Elasticity theory/Seismic waves

Mon 2/23   Seismic waves and energy propagation

Tue  2/24   Lab 5A:  Density structure of Mahukona from shipboard gravity survey (see gravity & bathymetry data files)

Wed 2/25   Discuss 3.2, 3.3 & HW6A                 

Fri 2/27      Discuss 3.3 & HW6B  

Mon 3/2     Earthquake seismology                                                    

Tue  3/3     Lab6 Courtyard seismic survey (SeisImager Instructions & Robinson & Coruh Handout)

Wed 3/4     Seismic wave propagation:  Reflections and refractions

Fri 3/6        Discuss 3.4-3.5 & HW7

Mon 3/9     Seismic wave propagation:  Probing Earth Structure, Read Robinson & Coruh Handout p. 39-50

Tue 3/10    Lab7:  Linray.  Matlab codes needed (linray.m, calc_raypath.m, vmod.m)

Wed 3/11   Discuss 3.6.1-3.6.5 & Hw8A

Fri 3/13      Discuss 3.6.1-3.6.5 & Hw8B

Mon 3/16   Review for exam                         

Tue 3/17    Lab 8:  Kualoa Seismic survey

Wed 3/18   In-class problem set 2 and HW 6-9 revisions due

Fri 3/20      No Class


Mon 3/23   Spring Break

Wed 3/25   Spring Break

Fri 3/27      Spring Break

Mon 3/30   No Class                                                            

Tue 3/31    Lab 8:  Seismic survey interpretation.  Additional Matlab code needed (linray_fit.m)

Wed 4/1     Geomagnetism:  Magnetic dipole: Lowrie pp. 281-287; 305-320

Fri 4/3        Geomagnetism & Earth’s Magnetic Field

Mon 4/6     Geomagnetism & Earth’s Magnetic Field   

Tue 4/7      Lab 8: Seismic survey interpretation

Wed 4/8     Discuss HW9 

Fri 4/10      Good Friday Holiday

Mon 4/13   Magnetic field anomalies, Lowrie pp. 274-279

Tue 4/14    Lab 9:  Kualoa Magnetics Survey

Wed 4/15   Magnetization, Discuss HW10A, see Burger Handout on Total field anomaly.

Fri 4/17      Total magnetic field anomaly over a dipole, Discuss HW10B   

Earth’s Heat

Mon 4/20   Earth’s Heat- Heat flow and the energy equation, Based on Fowler Handout p. 219-226            

Tue 4/21    Lab9: Interpretation of Kualoa Survey.  Data and initial Matlab code

Wed 4/22   Heat flow, Discuss HW11A (based on Fowler Handout p. 219-226)          

Fri 4/24      Continental geotherms, Discuss HW11B (based on Fowler Handout, p. 226-230)

Mon 4/27   Earth’s Heat                                                

Tue  4/28   Lab12: Interpretation of KM0903 magnetics data

Wed 4/29   Discuss Fowler pp. 232-243 (omit 235-236), HW12A

Fri 5/1        Discuss HW12B

Mon 5/4     Global Heat and Mantle Convection                                                        

Wed 5/6     Review

Wed. 5/13 In-class problem set 3 (Final Examination 9:45-11:45) and HW 10-14 revisions due