Physics of the Solid Earth

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The overall goals of this course are to provide basic Matlab programming skills, a deeper understanding of various important topics in geophysics (such as earthquake seismology, seismic wave propagation, gravity, magnetics and plate tectonics) and how Matlab programming can be used to study these geophysical topics. This is done by giving a general introduction to Matlab, especially using programming exercises, by teaching a selection of the above mentioned geophysical topics, and finally by linking Matlab and geophysics using specific Matlab exercises related to these geophysical topics.

In this course the students will acquire basic skills in Matlab programming, an intermediate understanding of various topics in geophysics and understand how these are linked. Matlab programming is introduced using a variety of techniques, with a special emphasis on programming exercises. The Matlab part of the course includes the use of about 70 Matlab commands as well as a basic introduction to programming techniques (such as program structure (input, computations and output), designing and testing a program, commenting and basic debugging techniques). These Matlab skills are used in the creation and manipulation of arrays and matrices, plotting (1D and 2D), reading and writing files, polar and spherical coordinates, basic statistics, 1D integration and 1D differentiation. The geophysical part of the course is taken from a variety of important geophysical topics in seismology, magnetics, gravity and plate tectonics. Applications of these topics in Matlab include the computation of epicentral distances, the computation of travel times, analysis of seismicity (local/regional/global) and computation of the magnetic field.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:

The student

  • Understands various basic issues related to computer programming (including concepts of input, computation and output, use of comments, correct choice of variable names, publishing programs as a pdf, basic debugging strategies)
  • Has a good basic understanding of basic fundamental concepts in numerical issues (such as reading data files, array and matrix manipulation, the use of statistical commands, plotting various geophysical quantities in 1D, 2D and 3D)
  • Understands the basic principles of various topics in solid Earth physics (for example in seismic exploration, global seismology, plate motion and magnetism) and why computer programming is important in these fields

The student

  • Can write small computer programs that numerically manipulate (for example by differentiation and integration) various functions that are of importance in solid Earth physics.
  • Can explain the importance of the use of computer programming in solid Earth physics
  • Has a good understanding of a number of relevant topics in geophysics (including seismology, gravity, magnetics and plate tectonics)
  • Can write small computer programs related to a number of topics in solid Earth physics (such as seismic exploration, earthquake seismology, plate tectonics and magnetism and gravity)

General competence
The student

  • Can write small computer programs in Matlab that help in understanding and solving problems in geophysics
  • Can write small computer programs in Matlab to numerically solve some mathematical problems that are of relevance in computational geophysics
  • Has knowledge of the importance of computational geophysics in industry and academia

Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Basic principles in geophysics,geology and linear algebra
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a program of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Teaching and learning methods

Total teaching of 12 weeks

Teaching using active learning techniques: 4 hours/week,

Supervised exercise sessions: 2 hours/week

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Mandatory active participation in all classes; all exercises have to be handed in and all exercises have to have a pass grade. Compulsory assignments are valid in two (2) semesters (the semester that the course is taught and in the following semester).
Forms of Assessment
  • Exercises (25%), quizzes (25%), written exam (4 hours) (50%).
  • All exam parts must be passed to get final assessment in the course.

    Grading Scale
    The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.
    Assessment Semester
    Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.
    Reading List
    The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and Deecember 1st for the spring semester.
    Course Evaluation
    The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department
    Examination Support Material
    Non-programmable calculator, according to the faculty regulations
    Programme Committee
    The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
    Course Coordinator
    The course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB, or you may contact
    Course Administrator
    The Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Earth Science has the administrative responsibility for the course and program