What is Astronomy 205: Intelligent Life in the Universe?
This course is designed to allow non-science and science majors to delve into the emerging field of Astrobiology, which can be described as the scientific search for (intelligent) life elsewhere in the Universe. One of the fundamental questions that astrobiologists attempt to answer, and the one that underpins our course is, Are We Alone?
What topics will the course cover?
The course will cover topics such as:
How is the course graded?
Two Midterms = 30% (15% each)
Final Exam = 25%
Homework/Quizzes/In-class assignments = 15%
Book Report (see below) = 15%
Class Participation (see below) = 10%
Class Attendance (see below) = 5%
TOTAL = 100%
Midterm grades were assigned using the following scale:
A = 86 – 100%
B = 76 – 85%
C = 66 – 75%
D = 56 – 65%
How is the class participation grade determined?
The expectation is that you will have 11 "participation credits" by the end of the term. That works out to a little less than 1 credit/week on average. You do not need 1 credit every week, but you are expected to space your participation out over the semester. If you get all your credits in the last 3 weeks of class, that does not count as class participation (that's class panic!)
You will receive 3 credits for:
Each current news, magazine or internet article relevant to astrobiology (topics covered in lecture or identified in article as astrobiology) that you present to the class. Highlight 4 important points from the article.
You will receive 5 credits for:
Attending an Astronomy "Open House" night at the College of Charleston. Turn in a sheet listing 4 scientific thoughts you got from the experience.
Attending any lecture on campus on a topic covered in lecture or on astrobiology. Turn in a sheet listing 4 important things you heard in the talk.
Writing a one page review of a TV program or movie related to astrobiology.
Planning your own field trip to observe something related to a topic in the lectures and reporting on it.
How is the class attendance grade determined?
The class will meet 46 times during the course of the semester. Attendance will be taken each class using a roster sign-in sheet. Your attendance grade will simply be based on how often you attend class, using the same grading scale as for the course.
Some of the best and, in some senses, most reasonable descriptions of extraterrestrials occur in science fiction novels. These can range from the 18 inch long creature in Mission of Gravity to the solar system size creature in The Black Cloud. I want each of you to read one science fiction novel this semester, which relates to this course. You will then turn in a report about the book (details available here). Some suggested novels are given in the following list. However, you are free to choose novels not on the list; just get my approval before you start reading.
Approved science fiction novels:
In the Ocean of Night, Gregory Benford
Great Sky River, Gregory Benford
Iceborn, Gregory Benford and C. Carver
Mars, Ben Bova
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
Iceworld, Hal Clement
2010, Arthur Clarke
Rendesvouz with Rama, Arthur Clarke
The Songs of the Distant Earth, Arthur Clarke
Neptune Crossing, J. Carver
A Thunder on Neptune, G. Eklund
Dragon’s Egg, Robert Forward
The Listeners, James Gunn
The Black Cloud, Fred Hoyle
The Jupiter Theft, Don Moffitt
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Contact, Carl Sagan
The Ophiuchi Hotline, J. Varley
The Cassiopeia Affair, C. Zerwick and H. Brown