• Offered by Research School of Physics
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Physics
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mathematics, Physics, Engineering
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Hrvoje Tkalcic
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2023
    See Future Offerings
  • STEM Course

The course is an introduction to physics of the solid Earth intended for students with substantial background in physics and mathematics including calculus. The course will provide an overview of the structure and evolution of the Earth as a dynamic planet within our solar system. Physical principles will be applied to the following topics: theory of elasticity and elastic wave propagation; modern global seismology as a probe of the Earth's internal structure; earthquakes and the description of seismic sources; a simple but fundamental theory of thermal convection; the distinctive rheological behaviour of the upper mantle and its top layer, controlled by significant changes in the mechanical properties of the material, will then be explored to arrive at a comprehensive description of what forces drive and resist global plate motions.

Honours Pathway Option

Students taking the HP advanced option will undertake an individual project on a topic of interest from the course syllabus. Such project shall develop in consultation with the course lecturers, and may be in the form of a reading project or a laboratory/numerical experiment accompanied by a final report. The assessment of the project will be agreed upon and undertaken in a manner appropriate to the project itself (e.g. a written report or essay, a short talk etc.). Students taking the HP option may elect to substitute their project mark either with up to two (out of four) individual assignments or with one of the experiments and accompanying report normally undertaken during the course (this amounts to a total of 10-20% of the final grade). The assessment weight towards the exam will remain the same.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Discuss the theoretical basis for modern global seismology and employ methods based on such theory to understand earthquake phenomena and the seismological probing of earth structure.
  2. Explain the governing dynamics of mantle and lithosphere, and use such understanding to make reliable estimates of the forces controlling plate motions and their temporal changes.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Examination (40) [LO 1,2]
  2. Homework assignments (20) [LO 1,2]
  3. Lab assignments (20) [LO 1,2]
  4. Oral presentations (20) [LO 1,2]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

• Face-to face component which may consist of 3 x 1 hour lectures, 1 x 1 hour tutorial per week and 4 x 3 hour lab sessions throughout the semester.

• Approximately 70 hours of self directed study which will include preparation for lectures and other assessment tasks.

Inherent Requirements

Yet to be determined.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed PHYS2016 and PHYS2201.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

  • Bolt, B. (2004) Earthquakes, Freeman & Co. (QE534.3 .B65 2004)
  • Shearer, P.M. (1999) Introduction to Seismology, Cambridge University Press (QE534.2 .S455 1999) - available online as a pdf
  • Tkalcic, H. (2017) The Earth's inner core: revealed by observational seismology, Cambridge University Press, eBook access via Internet. ANU/ANV, ISBN 9781139583954
  • Davies, G. F. (1999) Dynamic Earth, Cambridge University Press (QE509.4 .D38 1999)
  • Poirier, J.P. (1991) Introduction to the Physics of the Earth's Interior, Cambridge University Press (QE509.P64 1991)
  • Stacey, F.D. (1992) Physics of the Earth, 3rd Edn., Brookfield Press (QC806.S65 1992)
  • Turcotte, D.L. & Schubert, G. (2002) Geodynamics 2nd Edn, Cambridge University Press, (QE501.T83 2002) 

Assumed Knowledge

It is desirable that students have completed PHYS3102, but it is not a course requirement.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $4320
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $6180
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6132 24 Jul 2023 31 Jul 2023 31 Aug 2023 27 Oct 2023 In Person View

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions