EART 206 Syllabus



Erik Asphaug, A 108, Office Hours: M 9:00-10:00, Tu 11:00-12:00

Paul Koch, A250, Office Hours: M 1:00 - 3:00 PM

Quentin Williams, A212, Office Hours: F 1:00 - 3:00 PM

Time: Tu, Th 2:00-3:45 E&MS Room D250


Class website: http://es.ucsc.edu/~pkoch/pages/classes.htm


This course is designed to introduce students to a broad range of fundamental issues in Earth Sciences by reading and presenting classic papers that may or may not have been great, but certainly were key in the development of modern ideas in Earth Sciences. In many instances the classic paper is paired with a more recent paper for modern perspective. This class also provides a chance for students to practice their critical thinking and hone their scientific presentation and discussion skills.


Grading in the class will be based on attendance, participation, and presentations that students will give on the papers. Students with more than two unexcused absences will fail the class. Students will chose papers to present at the first class meeting. Each presentation should lay out the logic and methods of the paper and cover the main conclusions. Historical context, on both the ideas and the lead authors, is relevant and welcome. In many cases, supplemental reading is supplied that will help presenters (and anyone else curious about the topic). A faculty point person is assigned for each day (indicate by initial in parentheses after the general subject heading in the syllabus). Before making their presentations, students should touch base with this faculty member to ensure that their thinking about the paper is on track and to let the faculty know (roughly) what they plan to present.


All students are expected to read every assigned paper. If there are points you do not understand, ask the presenter to clarify. If we get a sense that students are not reading the papers, we will begin to assign graded written exercises that will be turned in at the start of each class.






Introduction to Class

Tu 1/6       Introduction and Logistics


Age of the Earth (QW)

Th 1/8      1. Kelvin, L., On the secular cooling of the Earth, Trans. Royal Soc. Edinburgh, vol. XXIII, 295-310, 1862. (Quentin)

2. Badash, L., The age-of-the-Earth debate, Sci. Am., 261, 90-96, 1989. (Quentin)

3. Stacey, F.D., Kelvin's age of the Earth paradox revisited, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 13155-13158, 2000. (Quentin)


Supplemental Reading

1. England, P.C., P. Molnar, and F.M. Richter, Kelvin, Perry and the Age of the Earth, American Scientist, 95, 342-349, 2007. (Paper debunking the idea that radioactive heat production was the chief reason for the failure of Kelvin's calculations)

2. Lindley, D., Never at Rest, American Scientist, 96, 504-508. (Review of a recent collection of essays [probably from some death centary event]. Explores why the reputation of someone as obviously brilliant and successful as Kelvin, in the end, has dwindled in comparison to his contemporaries (e.g., Maxwell, Faraday, Joule, Botzmann).



Tu 1/13      1. Patterson, C., Age of meteorites and the earth, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 10, 230 237, 1956. (Priya)

2. Wilde, S.A., J.W. Valley, W.H. Peck, and C.M. Graham. Evidence from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago, Nature, 409, 175-178, 2001. (Beth)


Supplemental Reading (all related to Wilde et al.)

1. Halliday, A.N., In the beginning..., Nature, 409, 144-145, 2001. (News & Views on Wilde et al. and Mojzsis et al.)

2. Mojzsis, S.J., T.M. Harrison, and R.T. Pidgeon, Oxygen-isotope evidence from ancient zircons for liquid water at the Earth's surface 4,300 Myr ago, Nature, 409, 178-181, 2001. (Earth surface conditions reconstructed from old zircons)

3. Watson, E.B., and T.M. Harrison, Zircon thermometer reveals minimum melting conditions on earliest Earth, Science, 308, 841-844, 2005. (Deeper Earth conditions reconstructed from old zircons)

4. Hopkins, M., T.M. Harrison, and C.E. Manning, Low heat flow inferred from >4 Gyr zircons suggests Hadean plate boundary interactions, Nature, 456, 493-496, 2008. (Speculations on tectonic processes based on studies of old zircons)


Life and Evolution (PK)

Th 1/15    1. Darwin, C., Chapter XIV, Recapitulation and Conclusion, pp. 459-490, in On the Origin of Species, 1859. (Paul)

2. Koch presentation on Origins



Supplemental Reading

1. Mayr, E., Introduction, pp. vii-xxvii, in On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: A Facsimile of the First Edition, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1964. (The party line on Darwin and his role, written by one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th [and early 21st] century. He died in 2005 at the age of 100, having written his last book at age 97.)

2. Gould, S.J., Eternal metaphors of palaeontology, pp. 1-26, in Patterns of Evolution, A. Hallam (ed.), Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1977. (A slightly long and pompous, but highly readable and interesting philosophical paper on the core questions that drive a great deal of paleontological research, and how all the core questions pre-date the theory of evolution).



Tu 1/20    1. Gould, S.J., and N. Eldredge, Punctuated equilibrium comes of age. Nature, 366, 223-227, 1993.


2. Alroy, J. et al., Phanerozoic trends in the global diversity of marine invertebrates, Science, 321, 97-100, 2008. (Tess)


Supplemental Reading

1. Eldredge, N., and S.J. Gould, Punctuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism, pp. 82-115, in T.J.M. Schopf (ed.), Models in Paleobiology, Freeman, Cooper and Co., San Francisco, 1972. (The paper that started it all, almost.)

2. Gould, S.J., and N. Eldredge. Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered, Paleobiology, 3, 115-151, 1977. (A mid-stream update. Heading off into the fringes somewhat?)

3. Sepkoski, J.J., Jr., R.K. Bambach, D.M. Raup, and J.W. Valentine, Phanerozoic marine diversity and the fossil record, Nature, 293, 435-437, 1981. (The famous "consensus paper", wherein a bunch of paleontologists get together in the hope that if they all say it at the same time, the problems with their data will disappear. It didn't work.)

4. Sepkoski, J.J., Jr., A factor analytic description of the Phanerozoic marine fossil record, Palebiology, 7, 36-53, 1981. (The title is pretty self-explanatory. A rigorous analysis (using those data) recovers patterns first analyzed in detail by Phillips in 1860 [Life on Earth].)


Origin of the Moon and Solar System Dynamics (EA)

Th 1/22    1. Stevenson, D.J., Origin of the Moon - The Collision Hypothesis, An. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 15, 271-315, 1987. (Erik)

2. Asphaug presentation on the Moon


Tu 1/27    1. Agnor, C.B., R.M. Canup, and H.F. Levison, On the character and consequences of large impacts in the late stage of terrestrial planet formation, Icarus, 142, 219-237, 1999. (Tina)

2. Goldreich, P., and S. Soter, Q in the Solar System, Icarus, 5, 375-389, 1966. (Naor)


Structure and Composition of the Earth (QW)

Th 1/29    1. Williamson, E.D., and L.H. Adams, Density distribution in the Earth, J. Wash. Acad. Sci., 13, 413-428, 1923. (Guangsheng)

2. Washington, H., The chemical composition of the Earth, Am. Jour. Sci., IX, 351-378, 1925. (Stephen)


Supplemental Reading

1. Dziewonski, A.M., A.L. Hales, and E.R. Lapwood, Parametrically simple Earth models consistent with geophysical data, Physics Earth Planet. Inter., 10, 12-48, 1975.


Tu 2/3     1. Taylor, S.R., The origin and growth of continents, Tectonophysics, 4, 17-34, 1967. (Lucas)

2. Hawkesworth, C.J., and A.I. Kemp, Evolution of the continental crust, Nature, 443, 811-817, 2006. (Stephen)


Planetary Volcanism (EA)

Th 2/5      1. Peale, S.J., P. Cassen, and R.T. Reynolds, Melting of Io by tidal dissipation, Science, 203, 892-894, 1979. (Tess)

2. Smith, B.A., E.M. Shoemaker, S.W. Kieffer, and A.F. Cook II, The role of SO2 in volcanism on Io, Nature, 280, 738-743, 1979. (David)


Supplemental Reading

1. Lopes-Gautier, R., A.S. McEwen, W.B. Smythe, et al., Active volcanism on Io: Global distribution and variations in activity, Icarus 140, 243-264, 1999.


Seafloor Spreading, Reversals, Subduction and Tectonics (QW)

Tu 2/10    1. Vine, F.J., Spreading of the ocean floor: New evidence, Science, 154, 1405-1415, 1966. (Kerri)

2. Cox, A., Geomagnetic reversals, Science, 163, 237-245, 1969. (Naor)


Supplemental Reading

1. Parsons, B., and J.G. Sclater, An analysis of the variation of ocean floor bathymetry and heat flow with age, J. Geophy. Res., 82, 803-829, 1977.

2. Stein, C., and S. Stein, A model for the global variation in oceanic depth and heat flow with lithospheric age, Nature, 359, 123-129, 1992.


Th 2/12    1. Benioff, H. Orogenesis and deep crustal structure: Additional evidence from seismology, Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 65, 385-400, 1954. (David)

2. Isacks, B. and P. Molnar, Mantle earthquake mechanisms and the sinking of the lithosphere, Nature, 223, 1121-1124, 1969. (David)

3. Atwater, T., Implications of plate tectonics for the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of western North America, Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 81, 3513-3536, 1970. (Erin)


Earth Hotspots (EA)

Tu 2/17      1. Wilson, J.T., Evidence from islands on the spreading of ocean floors, Nature, 197, 536-538, 1963.(Lucas)

2. Morgan, W.J., Convection plumes in the lower mantle, Nature 230, 42-43, 1971. (Lucas)

3. Courtillot et al., Three distinct types of hotspots in the EarthÕs mantle, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 205, 295-308, 2003. (Beth)



Fluids and Surface Processes (EA)

Th 2/19    1. Hubbert, M.K., and W.W. Rubey, Role of fluid pressures in mechanics of overthrust faulting: Part 1, Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 70, 119-139, 1959. (Erik)

2. Gilbert GK The convexity of hill tops, J. Geol., 17, 344–350, 1909. (Erik)

3. Molnar, P., and P. England, Late Cenozoic uplift of mountain ranges and global climate change: chicken or egg?, Nature, 346, 29-34, 1990. (Erik)


Atmospheric Evolution (PK)

Tu 2/24    1. Sagan, C. and G. Mullen, Earth and Mars: Evolution of atmospheres and surface temperatures, Science, 177, 52-56, 1972. (Paul)

2. Canfield, D.E., The early history of atmospheric oxygen: homage to Robert A. Garrels, An. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 33, 1-36, 2005. (Paul)


Past Climates (PK)

Th 2/26    1. Arrhenius, S., On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature on the ground, Phil. Mag., 41, 237-276. (Quentin)


                Supplemental Reading

1. Crawford, E., ArrheniusÕ 1896 model of the greenhouse effect in context, in Rodhe, H. and Charlson, R. (eds.), The Legacy of Svante Arrhenius Understanding the Greenhouse Effect, p. 21-32, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, MediaPrint, Uddevalla AB 1998.


Tu 3/3      1. Hays, J.D., Imbrie, J., and Shackleton, N.J., Variations in the earth's orbit. Pacemaker of the ice ages. Science, 194, 1121-1132, 1976. (John)

2. Petit, J.R., J. Jouzel, D. Raynaud, et al., Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica, Nature, 399, 429-436, 1999. (Erin)

3. North Greenland Ice Core Project members, High resolution record of Northern Hemisphere climate extending into the last interglacial period, Nature, 431, 147-151, 2004. (Erin)


Supplemental Reading

1. Bassinot, F.C., L.D. Labeyrie, E. Vincent, et al., The astronomical theory of climate and the age of the Brunhes-Matuyama magnetic reversal, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 126, 91-108, 1994.

2. Shackleton, N.J., The 100,000-year ice-age cycle identified and found to lag temperature, carbon dioxide, and orbital eccentricity, Science, 289, 1897-1902, 2000.

3. EPICA community members, Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core, Nature, 429, 623-628, 2004.


Hard times on the planet (PK, QW or EA)

Th 3/5      1. Alvarez, L.W., W. Alvarez, F. Asaro, et al., Extraterrestrial cause of the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinction: experimental results and theoretical implications. Science, 208, 1095-1108, 1980. (Derse)

               2. Renne, P.R., Z. Zhang, M.A. Richards, M.A., et al., Synchrony and causal relations between Permian-Triassic Boundary Crises and Siberian flood volcanism, Science, 269, 1413-1416, 1995. (Priya)


Supplemental Reading

1. Peters, S., Environmental determinants of extinction selectivity in the fossil record, Nature, 454, 626-629, 2008. (Sea level rises again)


Tu 3/10    1. Harland, W.B., and M.J.S. Rudwick, The great infra-Cambrian ice age, Sci. Am., 211, 28-36, 1964. (Guangsheng)

2. Kirschvink, J.L., Late Proterozoic low-latitude global glaciation: The snowball Earth, in The Proterozoic Biosphere, J.W. Schopf and C. Klein, Eds., p. 51-52, Cambridge U. Press, 1992. (Guangsheng)

3. Hoffman, P.F., A.J. Kaufman, G.P. Halverson, et al., A Neoproterozoic snowball Earth, Science, 281, 1342-1346, 1998. (Tina)


Supplemental Reading

1. Hoffman, P.F., and D.P. Schrag, D.P., The snowball Earth hypothesis: testing the limits of global change, Terra Nova, 14, 129-155, 2002.


Th 3/12    1. Keeling, C.D., R.B. Bacastow, A.E. Bainbridge, et al., Atmospheric carbon-dioxide variations at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, Tellus, 28, 538-551, 1976. (John)

2. Molina, M.J. and F.S. Rowland, Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes - chlorine atomic-catalysed destruction of ozone, Nature, 249, 810-812, 1974. (John)

3. Steadman, D.W., Prehistoric extinctions of Pacific island birds - Biodiversity meets zooarchaeology, Science, 267, 1123 -1131, 1995. (Derse)