Course EAS 8803/4803: Earthquake Physics

Fall, 2010

Zhigang Peng
ES&T 2256

Syllabus (PDF version)
Supplementary Lecture Material


When: Tues., Thurs., 3:05 - 4:25 pm
Where: ES&T L1116

Office Hours: Before class, from 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm, or by appointment.

Course Objectives: This course consists of a series of lectures and discussions on the current status of physical processes that control fault slips and earthquakes.

Required Text:
  • Scholz, C.H., The Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting, 2nd Ed., Cambridge Univ. Press, 471 pp., 2002.
  • Stein, S.A.,& M. Wysession, An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure, Blackwell Publishing, 498 pp., 2003.
    Additional material will be either handed out in class or made available on the course website.

Course Outline:

This is an approximate outline of topics and timing and is subject to change throughout the semester.
Classes Date Topic
1-2 Aug 22 - 26 Brittle Fracture of Rocks
3-4 Aug 31 - Sept 2 Rock Friction
5-6 Sept 7 - 9 Mechanics of Faulting
Sept 14 no class: zpeng SCEC meeting
7-9 Sept 16 - 23 Mechanics and Quantifications of Earthquakes
10-11Sept 28 - Sept 30 Collective Behaviors of Earthquakes and Faults
12-13 Oct 5 - 7 The Seismic Cycle
14 Oct 12 Midterm
Oct 14, 19 no class: zpeng Earthscope workshop (Oct 11-14), Fall break (Oct 16-19)
15-16Oct 21 - 26 Student Presentions for Mid-term Projects
Discussions/Debates of Emergent Research Topics
17-18 Oct 28 - Nov 2 The Continuum Between Earthquakes and Slow-Slip Phenomenon
19-20Nov 4 - 9 Fracture, Friction and Earthquake Rupture
21-22Nov 11 - 16 Earthquake Triggering: Static vs. Dynamic
23-24 Nov 18 - 23 Earthquake Statistics: Characteristic vs. Gutenberg-Richter
Oct 25 No class: thanksgiving
25-26Nov 30 - Dec 2 Earthquake Prediction: Optimistic vs. Pessimistic
27-28Dec 7 - 9 Student Presentations for Final Projects

Class Communications: You will occasionally receive class information via email to your prism account. Because this information may not be communicated in class, you should be sure to read messages identified as [EQ Physics]. In emailing us for class, please add [EQ Physics] to the subject line and identify yourself by name in the message since not all prism accounts clearly identify the email's author.


Midterm exam (20%), Midterm project (20%), Discussions (30%), Final course project (30%).

Exam: There will be a midterm exam* (20%) covering all material presented during the lecture portion of the course. Reference to texts or other documents such as previous semester course materials during the exam is strictly forbidden. Using these materials will be considered a direct violation of academic policy and will be dealt with according to the GT Academic Honor Code. The use of electronic devices (e.g. cellular phones, computers etc.) other than non-programmable calculators during exams and quizzes is not allowed.

Discussion: Approximately half of this class will be comprised of detailed discussion of five topics of modern research in the field of earthquake physics (listed in the course outline). Before each discussion, you will be expected to read the assigned papers and submit (electronically) a 2-page summary (double-space, 12 font-size, not including reference) of the topic. After discussion is completed on that topic, you will submit a new 3-page synthesis of your understanding of the current state-of-the-art of that topic. Your grade will depend on both your written summaries (15%) and synthesis (15%), and in class participation (10%). In the last three topics that involve debates, we will divide the classes into opposite groups and present their arguments.

Project: There will be two course projects. The first project is due immediately after the midterm and is a fixed topic. The final course project is open to any topics related to earthquake physics. This can be a literature review of a selected topic, or research project involving calculations, data analysis, or theoretical results done in consultation with the instructor. The topic needed to be approved by the instructor before the midterm. Your paper should be written up in a journal form with length, figures and referencing in a format suitable for submission to journals like Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). Please check the AGU author guide for more details. You will present your term paper in a 15 minute AGU-style talk; a 12 minute presentation with 3 minutes of questions. The midterm project will count as 20%, and the final project will count as 30% of your overall course grade.

Academic Honesty:

It is expected that all students are aware of their individual responsibilities under the Geor gia Tech Academic Honor Code, which will be strictly adhered to in this class. The complete te xt of the Georgia Tech Academic Honor Code is at

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