EARTH, PLANETARY, AND SPACE SCIENCES 13
EPS SCI 13—411-039-200
Public Affairs 2270; TR 2:00 P.M.—3:15 P.M.
Final Examination, Monday, June 12, 2017, 8:00 A.M.—11:00 A.M.
Midterm Examination in class, Thursday, May 4
Professor William I. Newman, 4640 Geology
Office Hours: M 4:00 P.M., W 4:00 P.M.; and by appointment
Erik Weidner, 1708 Geology (Physical Science)
Office Hours: W 10:00 A.M., T 11:00 A.M., R 4:00 P.M., and by appointment
Diversity Teaching Assistant (TBA)
TR 2:00 P.M.—3:15 P.M., Public Affairs 2270
W 11:00 A.M., 12:00 P.M., 1:00 P.M.; Geology 5655
8:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M., TBD
DESCRIPTION OF COURSE
Global urbanization together with a historical demographic population shift to coastal
areas, especially around the Pacific Ocean’s “ring of fire,” are placing increasingly large
parts of this planet’s human population at risk due to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunami
(commonly called “tidal waves” although misleading). While physically and
economically attractive, these and similar geographic regions were formed geologically
by plate tectonic processes that make them the home to more than 70% of terrestrial
seismic activity, including earthquakes and volcanoes as well as tsunami. In addition,
global climate change combines with a variety of geologic processes to create enhanced
risks from catastrophic mass movements (e.g., landslides), hurricanes, floods, and fires.
Soil subsidence (“sinkholes”) and erosion, including desertification, have substantial
effects in many parts of the globe. Pandemics, historically, have been a major cause of
human suffering and death, while population growth and anthropogenic impacts upon
Earth’s environment have re-emerged as formidable obstacles to mankind. Finally, we
know that impacts with space objects, especially asteroids and comets, have played a
major role in the evolution of life, and have resulted in mass extinctions over geologic
history and that “space weather,” the outcome of solar flares and prominences, could
immobilize our technologically advanced society.
The purpose of this course is to channel the interest that has emerged among UCLA
students in how these natural events affect the quality of human life and convert that
interest into an understanding of the physical and some biological processes that produce
these events. Moreover, recent events have demonstrated that we need to understand the
role of the media and political forums as well as science education in our ability to deal
intelligently with these topics. This has taken on increased urgency in an era of “posttruth”
and “alternative facts.” In addition, humans have had a profound influence on this
planet ranging from various forms of pollution and excessive resource usage to the threat
of pandemics and even limited-scale biological and nuclear warfare. The world today is
dramatically different from what it was during the height of American influence. In
addition to the science underlying natural disasters, we need to address questions of
emergency preparation and emergency response. This course, unlike most GE physical
science courses, could have a very direct impact upon your lives. In addition, we will
explore an additional dimension pertaining to the impact of natural hazards upon humans:
the highly-varied outcomes that depend upon the location of these events and the quality
of life enjoyed by those affected. We will come to appreciate that differences in
construction methods, infrastructure, and the availability of medical help, food, and
water, and the role of poverty, had major influences.
Owing to this course’s focus on the forces of nature and their global impact upon the
quality of life, this class dedicates a substantial part of its effort to issues pertinent to
natural hazards and their diverse effect upon the human condition. This course meets the
new diversity requirement established by the College of Letters and Science at UCLA as
established in http://www.registrar.ucla.edu/Academics/Diversity-Requirement/Collegeof-
This will be a primarily lecture-based course, with 3 lecture-hours per week given by the
professor and 1 discussion hour led by our two teaching assistants. During the discussion
sessions, one TA will focus on the physical and, sometime, biological effects associated
with natural hazards, disasters, and catastrophes, while the other will focus upon their
effect upon the human condition including the competing roles of politics, economics,
public health, infrastructure, differences in cultural norms, etc. Our purpose here is to
explore the full range of effects that the forces of nature have upon the very different
demographic groups sharing this planet.
We will spend approximately one lecture per textbook chapter plus have special lectures
on climate change, earthquake preparedness, epidemics and vaccination, famine and
water shortages, population growth, space weather, and energy needs. The discussion
sessions will focus on the class presentations and relevant text material, plus special
topics of current interest (e.g., the role of the media, science education, natural hazard
prediction, bio and nuclear hazards). A course website will be employed to provide up-todate
information on current events and other lecture materials. The course will also
include a mandatory one-day geology field trip to visit sites within 50 miles of Los
Angeles where the effects of these dynamic physical processes can be better appreciated
and understood. (We will survey student schedules on the first day of lectures to identify
the weekend days when the field trips are conducted. You will be asked to sign up for one
of them, on a first-come-first-served basis.) The field trip is a formal requirement for the
course and attendance will be taken; “hands on” instruction is the most-effective way of
learning—a University of California Liability Waiver must be executed before departing
on these trips. For those individuals who cannot come and provide medical
documentation attesting to their inability to participate, a 10-page single-space research
paper (including references and diagrams) will be accepted—the topic will be selected in
consultation with the professor and will also include a 15-minute interview concerning
the paper; from past experience, you will learn more from the field trip and have fun in
the process, so participation is strongly encouraged. (Students who do not participate in
the field trip nor qualify to write the substitute paper will have 10% deducted from their
aggregate score leading to their final grade.) If your schedule presents conflicts due, for
example, to official athletic activities where we receive formal notification from the
athletics department during the first week of class, we will seek to find some
accommodation. You must be present to hand in homework assignments and take the
mid-term and final examinations as well as attend the mandatory field trip. This course is
available for letter grades or P/NP; please make certain that you have registered using the
grading scheme that is most appropriate to your situation and major.
Performance in the course will be evaluated on the basis of a mid-term examination
(Thursday, May 4 in class) for 10% of the overall grade, a final examination (Monday,
June 12 at 8:00 A.M., with the location TBD) for 20% of the overall grade, and three
assignments for 10% each (given approximately every three weeks). In addition, there
will be two required research papers, valued at 10% and 20%, respectively, on diversity-related
issues; more detailed information regarding these will be provided in class. I will
be employing “active learning” methodologies using iClicker during my lectures to
assess how well you understand concepts introduced in class, and am allocating 10% of
the final grade to your iClicker score. You will be required to consult with our TA
charged with oversight of the diversity component, as to the selection of topics, finding
good resources for the papers, and advice regarding their writing. Importantly, the
research papers must be fact-based; while opinion has a role in working with facts,
opinions alone are not an acceptable substitute for knowledge. Papers will be submitted
through “Turn-it-In” with details to be announced, and plagiarism will be regarded very
unfavorably. We will have special presentations addressing paper writing and finding
reliable sources of information. While the Internet is an invaluable tool, remember
“Sturgeon’s Law” which notes that 90% of what you will find on the net is demonstrably
false. Turn-it-In can identify how much of your material is “cut and paste,” and that is
strongly discouraged; if it assesses your research papers as having more than 10% of its
material copied without attribution, there will be major penalties. Erik Weidner, our
physical science TA, will collect in class your assignments and will be charged with
grading them, as well as providing advice during office hours regarding the science
underlying the topics that we will explore. A fundamental aspect of this course is to
integrate the scientific and human dimensions of natural disasters.
Attendance and participation in the discussion sessions is critical to your understanding
of the topics addressed. These issues are very real and will provide the formal lecture
topics and discussion sessions a sense of urgency not often encountered in physical
science courses; moreover, they will help integrate what you learn scientifically with the
human dimension. Particular attention will be given to the interplay between natural
hazards and social factors.
Our textbook (required) are available through the ASUCLA bookstore. Our principal
textbook is Keller, E.A. and DeVecchio, D.E. 2012. Natural Hazards, 4th edition, Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. I also have adopted as a text, Mann, M.E. and Kump,
L.R. 2015. Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming, New York, NY: Dorling-
Kindersley. Both books are available for purchase online. I have appended to this
syllabus a long list of books that are particularly valuable in researching your papers, as
well as the various topics addressed in this course.
As indicated earlier, we will be employing adaptive learning technologies during the
lectures. iClicker2 or iclicker+. iclicker is a response system that allows you to respond
to questions we pose during class. Clickers are likely to significantly increase your
learning in the classroom. You may not use the iclicker mobile app, because that
overloads the wireless network in such large classes. Clickers are available either for
purchase at the bookstore, on ebay or amazon, OR through a UCLA clicker loan program
that you can read more about here: http://lendme.oid.ucla.edu/. You will need to go to
www1.iClicker.com to register your remote. Please do so before our class on April 11.
In addition to meeting the UCLA College of Letters and Science physical science GE
requirement (5 units) and its diversity requirement, we are a partner in the University of
California Climate and Sustainability Education Resource Library. You may find some
helpful resources at http://cserl.ucop.edu/courses/eps-sci-13 and can proceed from there
to other UC resources relating to climate and sustainability.
Owing to the increasing urgency identified in the scientific community regarding climate
change, a substantial focus of our course, particularly during the second half of the
quarter, will be on climate change. Indeed, global warming and its attendant effects will
dramatically alter human life during the coming century in ways that we are only
beginning to appreciate. This course is designed to teach you some real-life lessons about
the planet we live on emerging from natural disasters and issues germane to
sustainability. I hope that it will promote substantial thought and discussion among you.
This is your planet, and your lives depend on it!
References for EPS SCI 13, Natural Disasters, S2017: Prof. W. I. Newman, x5-3912
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Belton, M.J.S., Morgan, T.H., Samarasinha, N., and Yeomans, D.K. 2005. Mitigation of
Hazardous Comets and Asteroids, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Bennett, J. 2016. A Global Warming Primer, Boulder, CO: Big Kid Science.
Bradley, R.S. 2011. Global Warming and Political Intimidation: How Politicians
Cracked Down on Scientists as the Earth Heated Up, Amherst, MA: University of
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Chen, F.F. 2011. An Indispensable Truth: How Fusion Power Can Save the Planet, New
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