Chapter 1.  Basic Geological Concepts.

After reading the chapter and attending al lectures and viewing the film, you should be able to:

  1. summarize the ideas of the origin of the earth (e.g., accretion as discussed in the film, The Third Planet.)  Can you propose an alternative, scientifically credible hypothesis?
  2. give a brief history of the field of geological study including at least the following person or topics:
    1. Aristotle
    2. Hutton
    3. Catastrophism
    4. Doctrine of Uniformitarianism
    5. Bishop Ussher
    6. Lyell
  3. describe the following ideas which led Hutton to his revolutionary proposal:
    1. sedimentary rocks at Siccar Point
    2. superposition
    3. principle of original horizontality
  4. explain how the concept of relative geologic time was derived from these ideas, as well as the principle of faunal succession.
  5. articulate the difference between absolute dating and relative dating.
  6. list, spell correctly, and give the absolute ages of the geologic time scale from Precambrian through the Recent.
  7. explain to an art major the mechanisms which formed and continue to form the “earth machine”, including the hydrologic cycle, erosion, sedimentation, weathering, mass wasting, etc.
  8. discuss the rock cycle, including the three major rock types, and the processes that form and destroy them (freezing of magma, lithification, metamorphism, melting, compaction, cementation, erosion, sedimentation, etc.)
  9. draw a simple cross-section of the earth’s structure, labeling layers and the approximate thickness of the crust (both oceanic and continental), mantle, and outer and inner cores.  Explain how we know these things even though we’ve never drilled that deep.
  10. contrast the concepts of the fixed nature of continents and continental drift.
  11. provide a brief summary of the history of the proposal of continental drift by Wegener.  Why were his ideas not widely accepted until the 1960s?
  12. summarize the physical evidence that caused a change of the basic paradigm in geoscience.  Be sure to include structural and glacial evidence, zoogeography of fossils, stratigraphy, paleomagnetic evidence (e.g., magnetic declination, polar-wandering curves, etc.)

Critical Thinking Questions and Activities:

  1. Were Wegener’s opponents intolerant and rigid thinkers, not too bright, or did they have sound reasons for disagreeing with his ideas?
  2. Do you think that there are other solidly entrenched ideas in science today that might be completely overturned (such as continental drift displaced the notion of fixed continents)?  Which currently held idea do you think is most likely to be proven false?  What role do you think offbeat research done by ‘quacks’ plays in science?