Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


The use of Global Positioning System (GPS) in a wide variety of applications has exploded in the last few years. Hikers, sailors, and aviators use the system as a navigation aid but many others use GPS in ways that were not considered during its design. Some of the most stringent uses come from meteorology, where the system is used to track water vapor in the atmosphere, and from geophysics, where it is used to measure continental drift, deformation leading up earthquakes, and mean sea-level rise. In this seminar we explore how positions on the Earth were determined before GPS; how GPS itself works and the range of applications in which GPS is now a critical element. This seminar is followed by a research project in the spring semester where results from precise GPS measurements will be analyzed and displayed on the Web.


Thomas Herring is Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. He uses GPS to measure millimeter–level motions of the Earth's surface in California, Central Asia, and China with the long–term aim of understanding earthquakes and other deformation processes. He also studies the Earth's atmosphere with GPS through the refraction of GPS signals.


Every couple of weeks you will be asked to bring in reports on topics and projects assigned (e.g., the first of these will be to determine the latitude and longitude of MIT without using a map or GPS). You may work together on these projects, but you should submit your material. We will spend the first 30 minutes of each seminar in general discussions.


Grading in class will be pass / no record and based on attendance and submitting the project reports.