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SCI 72 — Earth: Revolutionary Ideas about Our Planet's Past, Present, and Future

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jul 11—Aug 15
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jul 13
Unit: 1
Tuition: $360
Instructor(s): Michael McWilliams
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
 
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Summer
Live Online(About Formats)
Mondays
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Date(s)
Jul 11—Aug 15
6 weeks
Refund Date
Jul 13
1 Unit
Fees
$360
Instructor(s):
Michael McWilliams
Recording
Yes
Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
How does Earth work? Theories of Earth’s origin, its place in our solar system, and its possible future states have radically evolved over decades of scientific research. Less than a century ago, dominant paradigms held that continents were immobile, mountains formed by vertical crustal motion, and we had no explanation of why earthquakes and volcanoes occurred where they did. Further, geologists and astronomers were struggling with the paradox that new data suggested that Earth was older than the universe.

This course is designed to help us understand how Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems have worked together to create and sustain a habitable planet. We will briefly examine some of the most important revolutions in geoscience to understand how the solid Earth and its atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere systems interoperate, how these systems evolved to their present state, and what the long-term future looks like. Along the way, we will learn how old the Earth is; understand how and when the continents formed; infer what makes the plates move; and explain the geographical distribution of oceans, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Most importantly, we’ll discuss modern thinking about climate change, mass extinctions, and biological evolution on a geological timescale.

MICHAEL MCWILLIAMS
Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Emeritus, Stanford

Michael McWilliams has taught undergraduate, postgraduate, and Continuing Studies courses in geology, geochemistry, and geophysics. He has held numerous international science leadership roles, including chief executive of New Zealand's geological survey, and is a frequent contributor to academic publications. McWilliams received a PhD in geophysics from the Australian National University. Visit his personal webpage at argon39.com to learn more.