Chapter 1.doc

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24 Apr 2012
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Introduction to Physical Geology and the Environment
What is Geology?
derived from Greek words geo and logos, meaning “the study of the Earth”
this discipline came into being in the late eighteenth century
the first known geologic map was published in England in 1815 by William Smith
ohe is referred to as “the father of English geology”
in North America, geological mapping began in the mid-19th century
Sir William Logan was the first to describe the geology of Canada
What Is Plate Tectonics?
the plate tectonics theory considers the outermost rigid shell of the earth to be divided into a number of
plates that are in motion relative to one another
most geologic activity occurs at plate boundaries
the movement of continents on the earth’s surface was first suggested by Alfred Wegener
ohe recognized that today’s continents had been clustered together in a large land mass but had
then moved apart – he called this pangea
ohe could not explain how it had happened, that is why his theory was rejected
plate tectonics has operated for at least 3.5 billion years
oin this time, new plates have been formed and the older ones have been destroyed by
subduction
the process where the sea floor slides beneath a continent or island arc
geochemists – study the chemistry of rocks or minerals
petrologists – study the make up of rocks and how they form
What is the Scientific Method?
a process by which scientists first identify a problem, they then select a methodology to collect data in
order to help solve the problem. They then analyze and interpret the information, and come up with a
solution. Using data that is accurate, they form a hypothesis
The Earth
the earth is very old and unique within the solar system in having oceans, an atmosphere, and life
internal processes driven by the earth’s heat interact at the surface with external processes driven by
solar power to create complex and ever changing landscapes and geographies
The Origin of the Solar System
the universe was formed by the clumping together of gas and debris in the aftermath of the big bang
that occurred some 15 billion years ago
the solar system consists of the sun and the nine planets and space debris that orbit the sun
it was created from a could of hydrogen and helium gas and dust particles called nebula
othis cloud of gas and dust began to rotate and contract, creating a core surrounded by a
flattened disc
othe core collapsed to the point where nuclear fusion began, and the sun was formed sometime
fewer than 5 billion years ago
odust in the outer disk condensed to form rocks and metals that combined to form large rounded
planets
oaccretion – the process of building large bodies of matter through collisions and gravitational
attraction
those planets that formed close to the sun are called terrestrial planets
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