GEOL2910H: Geophysics of the Inner Solar System

Instructor:                    Alex Evans

Lincoln Field 301,

Course Website: 

Time and Location:       T/Th 10:30am-11:50am in MacMillan Hall 101

This graduate level course will survey the current state of knowledge for geophysical processes and mechanisms related to the formation and evolution of terrestrial bodies within the inner Solar System. The course will apply fundamental science concepts in physics and chemistry to examine key topics within planetary geophysics, including planet-wide magma oceans, planetary collisions and impacts, volcanism, tectonics, and magnetism. Course is formatted to allow for lecture content and presentation and discussion of relevant themes and concepts. No prior background in the geological sciences is required.

Date Topic Reading Assignments Notes
Thu, 06-Sep 2018 Introduction; Lecture on Planet Formation/Knowledge/Structure Jacobsen (2003) PS1 available
Tue, 11-Sep 2018 Differentiation I Spohn (1991)
Thu, 13-Sep 2018 Differentiation II Hillgren et al. (1994)
Tue, 18-Sep 2018 Magma Ocean I Elkins-Tanton (2012)
Thu, 20-Sep 2018 Magma Ocean II van der Kaaden & McCubbin (2015)
Tue, 25-Sep 2018 Lecture; Core Dynamo / Magnetic Field I Stevenson (2003)
Thu, 27-Sep 2018 Core Dynamo / Magnetic Field II Johnson et al. (2015)
Tue, 02-Oct 2018 Lecture; Mantle Thermochemical Evolution I Tosi et al. (2013)
Thu, 04-Oct 2018 Mantle Thermochemical Evolution II Laneuville et al. (2013) PS1 due; PS2 available
Tue, 09-Oct 2018 Lecture; Gravity & Loading Konopliv (2006)
Thu, 11-Oct 2018 Lecture; Magmatism/Volcanism I Wilson and Head (1994)
Tue, 16-Oct 2018 Magmatism/Volcanism II Andrews-Hanna et al. (2013) PS2 due; PS3 available
Thu, 18-Oct 2018 Lecture on Crustal Formation, Evolution, and Thickness No Reading Assignment
Tue, 23-Oct 2018 Crust I Wieczorek et al. (2013)
Thu, 25-Oct 2018 Crust II James et al. (2013)
Tue, 30-Oct 2018 Lecture; Impacts French (1998) – Chapter 3
Thu, 01-Nov 2018 Fracturing/Porosity Soderblom et al. (2014)
Tue, 06-Nov 2018 Flexure/Loading Evans et al. (2010)
Thu, 08-Nov 2018 Lecture Deformation I; Tectonics I Banerdt et al. (1992)
Tue, 13-Nov 2018 Lecture Deformation II; Tectonics II Schultz (2000) PS3 Due
Thu, 15-Nov 2018 Lecture Deformation III; Creep and Relaxation I Mohit and Phillips (2006)
Tue, 20-Nov 2018 Lecture Deformation IV; Creep and Relaxation II Parmentier and Zuber (2007)
Thu, 22-Nov 2018 No Class – Thanksgiving Recess No Reading Assignment
Tue, 27-Nov 2018 Venus I Bindschadler (1995)
Thu, 29-Nov 2018 Venus II Smrekar et al. (2007)
Tue, 04-Dec 2018 Presentations Final Project/Paper Due
Thu, 06-Dec 2018 Presentations
Tue, 11-Dec 2018 Presentations

Course Grading/Requirements

    For each paper reading assignment, a one-page summary is due on the day of discussion. Late summaries will not be accepted. The one-page summary must be formatted as follows:
  • Type of paper (review vs. research) must be listed in header.
  • An estimate of the total time spent reading the paper must be provided in the header
  • A few (2–3) sentences must be included that summarizes each section of the paper. Copying sentences from the paper is not allowed. Neatness, organization, and grammar will count towards grade.
    Each student will be assigned to lead the discussion for one or more papers. During this paper discussion, the student should try not to just go through the paper in order. The goal is to focus the discussion on an alternative points of view point, discussion topics that arise from the paper.
  2. PROBLEM SETS (30%)
    There will be three problem sets throughout the semester. For each problem set, students will provide both the questions and the answers. Each problem set will cover a different set of the course topics discussed throughout the course. Late problem sets will be reduced in grade by 10% for every day overdue. This is not a collaborative exercise!
    Students are expected to actively participate in the class discussions, and answer questions posed by the instructors on the day of lectures.
  4. FINAL PROJECT (15%)
    At the end of the semester, each student will give a short presentation on a topic of their choice that is related to one of the course topics covered earlier in the semester. The topic may be related to their research.
    The rules for the presentations are as follows:
  • Each presentation will be limited to 15 minutes with 3 minutes allotted for questions. The presenter may also use the board and speak without props.
  • Presenter is expected to acknowledge differing hypotheses
  • Each presentation must include one flaw or error, introduced on purpose by the presenter. The error/flaw should be something the class can readily identify (i.e., not an erroneous error bar or data point on plot)
  • During each presentation, each student will be expected to identify and record the flaw from each presentation as well as the flaw introduced into their presentation. This is not a collaborative exercise!
  • Each student must ask at least one critical question for each presentation day.
    Where not specifically prohibited above, students may work and collaborate on their assignments. However, all students must hand in own work – distinct from and independent of another classmates’ work. If a student does work collaboratively, the student must provide the list of names of the people that he/she worked with on their assignment.