The ground may pretty feel solid to you, but there’s a lot happening under your feet! The Earth’s outer shell is divided into huge sections called tectonic plates, which float on the hotter, softer rocks of Earth’s mantle, or center. Every year, these plates move between 0.4 and 4 inches a year. How do we know? Geophysics.
Geophysics is the study of the physical characteristics of Earth and other planets. As a geophysics major, you’ll develop a strong background in physics, mathematics, Earth sciences, and computer science. You’ll also learn to recognize and measure the subtle features and movements of Earth that human senses cannot detect. You’ll be trained in how to take electrical, magnetic, radioactive, and gravitational measurements. These techniques are used by geophysicists to explore for oil, natural gas, minerals, and groundwater. They’re also used in the related field of seismology, the study of earthquakes. The small measurements geophysicists take of the shape, motion, and energy of the Earth are used to understand big geologic events, like tidal waves, volcanoes, landslides, and of course—earthquakes.