THE THIRD PLANET
E. R. SWANSON – spring 2009
GEOLOGY - THE SCIENCE OF THE EARTH
OUR PLACE IN TIME
The “Geo” in geology comes from a Greek word meaning earth.
The rest of the word is
also Greek (from logos).
“Logy” forms part of many words where it is used to indicate that
something is being studied.
Biology, sociology, and proctology are other examples.
The field of
Geology contains many subfields such as paleontology (study of fossils), petrology (study of rock),
and my favorite, volcanology.
Geology is primarily the study of the solid part of the earth, but
Geology is considered to be much more than just a rocky field.
The oceans and atmosphere are
also part of the third planet?
While the study of the atmosphere is specifically called meteorology
and oceanography is the study of the ocean, the all encompassing term of
is used to
include the study of earth’s airy, watery and rocky realms.
If forced to split geology into just two broad divisions, a reasonable split might be called
physical and historical geology
Historical geology is the easiest to define, because quite simply it
history of the earth
Historical geology includes the history of life on earth as revealed
through fossils, but it also covers Earth’s formation, various episodes of mountain building, the past
positions of continents and past sedimentary rock formations deposited as oceans streamed across
Physical geology tends to cover almost everything else.
It includes the study of earth’s
composition, earth’s minerals and rocks as well as the physical processes that affect this
Earth’s physical processes are commonly divided into those powered by earth’s internal
heat engine, things such as plate movements, earthquakes and volcanoes; and those processes
affected by the external solar heat engine that drives atmospheric and oceanic circulation.
Atmospheric and oceanic processes are involved in the erosion, transportation and deposition of
sediment at the base of mountain ranges, along rivers, and in the ocean, deserts or areas of
Geology and Human Affairs
Why do I have to take a geology course?
Is this some sort of torturous “right of passage”
for non-science majors, dreamed up as one of those hurdles to be overcome on the way to obtaining
a college degree?
Well yes, but there is more to it than that.
Geology is actually considered to be
of some importance.
You have the right to know something about the importance or relevance of
what you are asked to study; so here it is.
First, as you probably expected and as I have to admit,
you could live a perfectly happy and satisfying life without having to know a thing about geology.
That is, of course, unless geologists stopped doing what they do.