Indiana University Bloomington

COLL-C 105: Earth Processes and Planets


Processes that operate and have operated on, in and around the Earth, Mercury, Venus, the Moon, and Mars contributing to their evolution through approximately 4.56 billion years; evaluate the evidence using principles of geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, geography and mathematics. Critical approach course for non-science majors


Office GY 521 Ph. 855 6654/5582 (Email:
(Office Hours: MTW 9:00-10:00 a.m. and by appointment)
Associate Instructor: TBA (Office: GY TBA; Office Hours: TBA)

1. Fill out address slips
2. Form study groups
3. See Basu if you have serious problems with quiz dates.

ATTENDANCE: is your responsibility; we discuss contemporary topics and discoveries in solar system exploration, which are NOT in the reading assignments. Except for Feynman, material within the pages of reading assignment but not discussed in class will not be in the quizzes.

REQUIRED: Clipboard binder to keep all handouts that you print from Oncourse Resources. Bring all handouts and notes to every class meeting. STUDY (read) notes and assignments in advance of class time; we will combine the traditional lecture-format with a discussion-format.

NOTE TAKING: You will have lecture outlines and some facts for every class through ONCOURSE. Please print the day's lecture outlines (or save in a laptop) and bring to class to take notes. Put the hardcopies in a three-ring binder in sequential order for review before quizzes and to assist in writing papers. You may use a laptop or a similar e-device to take and retain notes, but NOT for communication through the internet, e-mail, text-messaging etc. during class-time. Printed handouts will NOT be distributed after the first class.

Take good notes: You must write down and retain whatever is written or drawn on the chalkboard; use the handouts to take notes in the class; rewrite notes as soon as possible after class. See me during office hours to check the 'goodness' of your notes.

GRADING: Grading will be on an "A F" scale; "P F" will not be permitted and an "I" will be allowed only for medical reasons and extremely extenuating circumstances.

There is NO final examination.
We will conduct weekly quizzes – about 16 in all during the semester. Quizzes will emphasize inferences that you may draw from the facts garnering arguments not only from geology but also from school-level physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, mathematics, geography, etc. All quizzes will be cumulative, i.e., on material from Day 1 up to the day of the quiz. The average of the 12 best scores earned by a student will constitute 50% of the total course grade for the student. Grading will be on a sliding scale, relative to class average, but will not be harsher than the 90%, 80%, 70%, 60% (A, B, C, D, F) boundaries. Thus, theoretically everybody could get an A.

We will assign bi–weekly papers. Each will be 250 to 1000 word summaries of topical science news that we will assign (for example: Baptistina Asteroid Not Responsible for Dinosaur Extinction NASA). One may add illustrations. We will also require each student to research, find and write a précis (in about 100 words) of a recent science-news relevant to the paper. Upload the papers in "Assignmnet" of Oncourse according to the instructions for each paper. The 5 best scores on these papers – about 7 or 8 assigned in the semester – will constitute 50% of the total course grade.

Marginal upward adjustment, e.g., B to B+, may be made – no guarantee – depending on the quality of class discussion. INSTRUCTION on writing: Try to learn writing precisely without repetition; flowery expressions with metaphors confuse science. Expressions such as "in other words" have no place in science writing. Try to learn writing without emotion. A rational opinion or inference drawn from 'facts', should be argued with data. At least for this course, leave it to the reader to be angry or happy, and to pontificate if they please. Try to learn writing without adjectives or adverbs for the sake of emphasis. For example, "very carefully" in "Analyses were conducted very carefully" is not only unnecessary but is also self aggrandizing. We will provide feedback on your writing throughout the course such that your future writing in the sciences, law, business, corporate reports, etc. is more precise and more effective.



Class #27570
Coll-C 105
TR/11:15A-12:30P GY 143

Principal Text: Grotzinger and Jordan (abbr. GJ): Understanding Earth (2010; 6th Ed)

Additional assignments (get from e-reserve):

  • Feynman: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (Bantam ed., 1986)
  • McSween (abbr. HM): Meteorites and Their Parent Planets (2nd Ed. 1999)
  • Fedonkin and others (abbr. MF): The Rise of Animals (2007)
    (All are Reserved in the GEOLOGY Library on the 6th Floor of the Geology Building)

Please Note: "STUDY" means a lot more than a quick cursory reading.

MUST READ (ASAP): Feynman: Pages 191-198 (You may e-search and find the pages) These pages recount in an interesting way what I strive to achieve philosophically in all courses I teach. If you have not read the super-short stories in this book, I heartily recommend that you do. After all, Mr. Feynman has been often described as the "most intelligent person of the [20th] century"!



T 8/21 Introduction; course outline; "what, where, when, how, & why" in science and in this course; diverse approaches to answer questions such as "what if?" and "if so or if not, then what?"; surfaces of planetary bodies; impact scars, internally forced uplifts and subsidence. Processes and predicted products. Wear colorful clothes on Thursday August 23.
Study: Feynman: Pages 191 198 (MUST); GJ: p. 1-8; 258-262; HM: p.26-27.
R 8/23 TODAY: Wear colorful clothes. The BIG picture from space. Remote sensing; reflectance spectra; inferring mineral and chemical compositions of targets; mixing physics and chemistry. Paper 1 assigned. QUIZ
Study: HM: p. 91-94
T 8/28 An overview of the earth. Products to infer processes. Many new terms to look up in the Glossary or Google.Study: GJ: p. 7-19.
R 8/30 Plate Tectonics. QUIZ Study: GJ: p. 25-50.
T 9/4 Rocky planetary bodies; rocks and minerals; igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Can we study rocks and minerals without relying on the principles of physics and chemistry? Study: GJ: p.61-67; 72-75.
R 9/6 Linking physical and chemical properties of minerals through their atomic structures: a crystal chemical approach. Paper 1 due. Paper 2 assigned. QUIZ Study: GJ: 56; 59-67.
T 9/11 Minerals; physical and chemical properties. Study: GJ: 67-72.
R 9/13 Mineral and chemical compositions of principal rocks; the rock cycle. QUIZ Study: GJ: 72-79.
T 9/18 Water on planetary surfaces; evidence from minerals and rocks at the surface; geomorphic features; Earth as a prototype. Wear colorful clothes today.
Study: GJ: 603-616
R 9/20 Geomorphologic processes - craters; karst; valleys; floodplains; Earth’s oceanic ridges and trenches. Paper 2 due. Paper 3 assigned. QUIZ
Study: Look up the above terms in Google or Wikipedia or any other source (e.g., introductory textbooks in the Geology Library); come prepared to discuss in class.
T 9/25 Rocks from space; meteorites barely processed or hugely processed; chondrite-achondrite- iron and stony iron meteorites; track how heating - a physical process - brings about geological changes. Source of the heat? Study: GJ: 219-221; HM: 7-10.
R 9/27 Origin and early evolution of planetary bodies; evidence from meteorites and remote sensing of earth-like planetary bodies. QUIZ Study: MF: p. 6-18; GJ: 215-219
T 10/2 Geological time scale; radioactivity. Study: GJ: fig. 1.17 and fig. 10.19; p. 191-208.
R 10/4 Radio-activity; contribution to global and spot heating/melting through geologic time; metamorphism; magma generation. Paper 3 due. Paper 4 assigned QUIZ
Study: GJ: p. 203-206; 147-150; 95-97
T 10/9 Igneous processes; physical and chemical variability of igneous rocks.
Study: GJ: p.89-102
R 10/11 Bowen's reaction series; basalt and granite in Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. QUIZ Study: GJ: p.89-102
T 10/13 Geophysical approaches to decipher the interiors of rocky planetary bodies; equations for P & S waves; density and rigidity of interiors of planets.
Study: GJ: 344; 369-372; 374-377.
R 10/18 Thermal and chemical layering of planetary bodies. Paper 4 due. Paper 5 assigned. QUIZ Study: GJ: 378-379; 11-15 (recapitulate).
T 10/23 Geographic distribution of igneous rocks on Earth; plate tectonics revisited. When did plate tectonics begin on Earth? Study: GJ: 25-50 (recapitulate); MF: 12-13.
R 10/25 Plate tectonics on Earth through time. QUIZ Study: GJ: 245-271.
T 10/30 Surface processes on planetary bodies; interaction between the atmosphere, hydrosphere and the lithosphere; the rock-cycle. Study: GJ: 77-79; 421-431.
R 11/1 Planetary surfaces - revisited; major geomorphic responses; canyons in Mars and Venus; contrast with lunar rilles; a photogeologic big-picture approach. Wear colorful clothes today. Paper 5 due. Paper 6 assigned. QUIZ Study: GJ: 219-239.
T 11/6 Action of water, ice and wind on planetary surfaces. Study: GJ: 483-488; 515-523; 569-573
R 11/8 Sedimentary processes and sedimentary rocks; primary sedimentary structures – a civil engineering approach. Study: GJ: 113-120;126-128;494-497. QUIZ
T 11/13 Interpreting remotely sensed primary sedimentary structures – Mars as a case study. Study: GJ: 237-239
R 11/15 Chemical, biochemical and bioclastic rocks. Why are these rocks absent from other rocky planetary bodies (as far as we know at present)? Paper 6 due. Paper 7 assigned. QUIZ Study: GJ: 134-139; 294-300.
T 11/27 Origin of the solar system; evolution of earth-like planets. Study: GJ: 215-236
R 11/29 Origin of life. QUIZ Study: GJ: 215-236; MF: 18-24
T 12/4 Earliest life on Earth; archaea, bacteria, eukarya; limits of physical and chemical tolerance; what biologists tell us about past life; a biological approach to study the imprints of life in rocks. Study: GJ: 275-293 website
R 12/6 Time markers in the evolution of life on Earth. Paper 7 due. Paper 8 assigned. QUIZ Study: GJ: 294-300. website
T 12/11 What were the continents and oceans on Earth, and other rocky planetary bodies doing while life evolved? Study: GJ: 46-47
R 12/13 Is it reasonable to expect past or present life on other rocky planetary bodies? Testing the answers by combining physical, chemical, biological, and geological approaches. In-class oral Course Evaluation – Free for All: Discussion for the Benefit of the Next Class. Paper 8 due. OPTIONAL QUIZ Study: GJ: 300-302
Attendance taken – one percentage point will be added for attending and participating in the discussion in this class.