EOSC 310 (3 cr): The Earth and the Solar System

Course Description

In this course, we will explore the history of our universe and what allowed Earth to host intelligent life. We will start the story with the Big Bang, followed by the origin of the elements, formation of minerals and the organic molecules of life, origin of the solar system, layering and structure of planets, initiation of a stable climate, development of plate tectonics and solid Earth circulation, origin of life, and co-evolution of ocean, atmosphere, solid Earth and biosphere to create the conditions that made advanced life possible. Human beings then appear on Earth, to find a planet full of treasure stored up over 4.55 billion years, which permits civilization to occur. Are there laws to this planetary evolution? What is the place of intelligent life in the operation of a planet? What might be our role? Through this course, you will learn how we can be more than consumers of Earth’s resources and how we can alter the way with which we interact with our planet. If you have taken EOSC 110, you will not receive credit for EOSC 310.

Prerequisite: Second year standing.

Intended Student

This course is open only to students not registered in the Faculty of Science or Applied Science. No background in science or mathematics is required.

Course Content Overview

EOSC 310 is a course that is designed to provide you with a functional scientific literacy within the context of earth sciences. It is designed so that all students, however slight their background in science is, should be able to follow and enjoy it.

The following is a brief description of the course content:
Module 1: Solar System Formation & Planetary Development  – In this module, you will study Earth & life as natural systems, the Big Bang & formation of the galaxy, the synthesis of elements, formation of molecules, planets, and moons, as well as how the Earth’s interior segregated into its current layered structure.
Module 2: Dynamic planetary processes  – In this module, you will study moons, asteroids, comets, and impacts, what makes life on Earth comfortable, the start of plate tectonics, mantle convection, how Earth’s layers are linked to one another, how the origin of life is a planetary process, and the role of evolution and extinction in creating biodiversity.
Module 3: Climate Evolution & Supporting Life on Earth  – This module begins with a brief introduction to the coevolution of life and Earth to create a planetary fuel cell and continues on to explore the record of oxidation of the planetary surface, the importance of catastrophes, the causes & consequences of naturally induced climate change, the rise of humans, and the question: are we alone?

Course Evaluation

12 guided readings 20%
2–4 assignments 30%
2 midterm exams 20%
Final Exam 30%
Total 100%

Required Textbooks

Langmuir, Charles H. & Wally Broecker. How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. ISBN: 9780691140063 (E-book: ISBN 9781400841974)

EOSC310 Textbook Order Form