Friday, 3 November 2006

S103: Block 3 - The Earth and its place in the Universe, TMA-3

Block 3 is a bit of a strange block in this course. Its called "The Earth and its place in the Universe" The overall theme of the whole course is "Taking the world apart and then putting it back together". I'm not too sure how much the theme helps, and how much it constrains some of the topics.

Anyway, block 3 starts with some astronomy, and where we are in the universe. Then it moves onto newtons laws of motion, which are I suppose vaguely related. It then goes into volcanoes, plate tectonics and the rock cycle. You kind of get the feeling a number of bases had to be covered and two or three books have been condensed and glued together. The text is fine and very readable, and no jumps so its not a cut and paste job, but the swift change of subjects does feel a little odd for one book.

Book 3 also introduces the practical kit which arrives at about this time, although I had to wait a while as I was a couple of weeks ahead of schedule at this point. It has a collection of rock samples, a set of fossils and some other bits and pieces to be used in experiments later. One of the exercises is to identify the rocks with help of the notes. This is very similar to one of the lab sessions in SXR103.

The TMA for this one is not too bad.
The first question involves working out orbital periods, and involves drawing another graph. Its basically getting you derive Keplers laws. There were a few who stumbled on this one based on some of the forum comments. Its one thing to draw a graph, its another skill to use a graph to work out a value, or even to realise you can use a graph in this way.

The next question is about earthquakes, and you have to draw a cross section of the crust and fill in lots of details. Its not too bad but took be about 5 goes to get an appropriate scale to fill the page. I also resorted to colour to show the different structures.

Finally the 3rd question looks at magnetic survey data and gets you to work out the plate drift rate.

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