UniServe Science News Volume 16 July 2000


Discovering Science: Topics in Earth Sciences - Two

Ron Boyd
School of Geosciences, The University of Newcastle

This package is a CD-ROM from the Open University Discovering Science Course, covering their Topics in Earth Sciences - Two. It mainly deals with marine geological themes, in particular: plate tectonic motion, sea floor spreading, mid-ocean ridges and earthquake wave motion. It is an interactive CD-ROM suitable for use on PCs running Windows 3.1/95 and higher (as tested). It requires installation to your hard drive and 5.5 Mb of space. I reviewed it on a Dell Precision Workstation running Windows NT with 128 Mb of RAM, a 650 MHz processor and a 48X CD-ROM RW drive.

The program as tested on my computer installed easily, and ran well throughout. The only problem I encountered was occasional sound bites which did not finish or missed short segments. The content consists of eight modules which are suitable for teaching introductory marine geology themes to first year students in an earth science course. The material could be used as laboratory exercises, or as stand alone exercises for students to explore themselves. This review was conducted only on a single CD-ROM which is part of at least a seven CD-ROM course in Science with two CD-ROMs in Earth Science. As a complete course in introductory earth science, these CD-ROMs would not cover it however they would be most useful in supplementing individual sections of a course.

The CD-ROM consists of five main, separate modules. These are:

  • Journey to the centre of the Earth (an interactive exercise using four types of wave motion to infer the properties of the crust, mantle and core);
  • Exploring the mid-Atlantic Ridge (an interactive exercise based around piloting a submersible to two ridge sites and exploring a range of features found there);
  • Rates of sea-floor spreading (calculating ridge spreading rates from magnetic anomalies);
  • Plate tectonics on a sphere (spherical geometry as applied to plates on the earth); and
  • Plate motion in the past and the future (simulations of past and present plate distributions and real time motion of plates from -400 Ma to +100 Ma).
  • The material contained on the CD-ROM was accurate and up-to-date. The best features were clearly the interactive graphics, simulations and video clips. For example, there were excellent videos of black smokers in action, submersibles at the mid ocean ridge, motions of plates at scales of hundreds of millions of years and the specific motion of P, S, Love and Raleigh waves. Most instructive!

    There are also extensive questions and answers and many exercises to create graphs of sea-floor spreading, wave motion, etc. In short, I would highly recommend this CD-ROM chiefly for its contribution in graphically illustrating some marine geological features in a very clear and innovative way. The content is standard introductory earth science as covered in most texts, but the quality of illustration and student interaction is first rate.

    Discovering Science: Topics in Earth Sciences - Two is available from:
    Educational Media Australia
    214 Park St
    South Melbourne, Vic 3205
    Tel: (613) 9699 7144

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    UniServe Science News Volume 16 July 2000

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