Plate Tectonics and People

Reading & Discussion Assignment

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To begin, I would like you to read an excerpt from the book Earthshaking Science, by Susan Hough. It is a part of a chapter that tells a brief historical account of the plate tectonics revolution. I think this is an ideal starting point for this course and hopefully, it will stir your interest because, in Lesson 2, you will be researching the scientific contributions made by various scientists who had a part in formulating plate tectonics. The discussion of this reading will last throughout the week, so be sure to read it early and check in to the discussion forum often. See the Overview page for specific dates.

Earthshaking Science Excerpt


Read the following excerpt from Earthshaking Science, available in Canvas.

  • Hough, Susan, "Plate Tectonics Revolution", excerpted from Earthshaking Science: What we know (and don't know) about earthquakes, Princeton University Press, 2002, pp. 1-12. (Read up to the bold heading Seismology and Plate Tectonics)

Submitting your work

Once you have finished the reading, engage in a class discussion as described below.

This discussion will take place over the entire week devoted to Lesson 1 and will require you to participate multiple times during that period.

  1. Find Lesson 1 - Plate Tectonics Revolution Discussion Forum in Canvas
  2. You will see the questions below already there:
    • What types of evidence did Wegener call on for his continental drift hypothesis? Why was his hypothesis not accepted by other scientists of the time?
    • Hough calls Harry Hess's 1962 paper "The History of Ocean Basins" an idea paper. What is meant by this? Why was this paper so important?
    • Discuss some of the technological advances that aided the plate tectonics revolution.
    • I think it is too easy to read an account of a scientific revolution and assume that people back then were just ignorant. (Why didn't they get it? It's so obvious!) However, science is often more of a steady march than a series of dazzling leaps. There are unsolved problems now that will be solved by today's scientists and future generations will scoff at us for not "getting it" at the time. What is your favorite unsolved problem today? (In any field, not just Earth science.)
  3. Respond to a thread that includes responses to these questions. If you feel that your response has already been "said" by another student, then post a response to someone else's remarks that expand on what has already been said, asks for clarification, asks a follow-up question, or furthers the discussion in some other meaningful way.
  4. By the end of the activity, I would like you to post at least one original thought/opinion/question and at least one thoughtful response to someone else's post.

Grading criteria

You will be graded on the quality of your participation. See the grading rubric for specifics on how this assignment will be graded.