- Required texts: "Rare Earth" by Ward and Brownlee",
"Here Be Dragons" by
Koerner and LeVay, and "The Science of Aliens" by Pickover.
Considerable additional material will be presented in the lectures.
Optional: "Life in the Universe", by Bennett, Shostak and Jakosky.
In addition, a small number of bound sets of "Lecture Notes for AST
248", which summarize much of the material presented in the lectures,
are available for purchase for $12. It
is emphasized that the purchase of these notes is optional, but they
are helpful to some students. WE CAN ONLY ACCEPT MONEY ORDERS, made
payable to the P&A IFR Account # 900125. These are available at the
post office or the credit union in the SAC. No cash or personal
Many, but not all, transparencies displayed during lectures,
especially those that are text oriented, are posted on the course website.
- Final Grade:: The grade for the course
will be determined 67% by quizzes and 33% by a term report.
- Homeworks and Quizzes: There will be a
weekly homework assignments and accompanying quiz. You are encouraged
to do the homework and bring it with you each week, but it will not
be collected or graded. The quizzes will be multiple choice and you
may not use your notes or books. However, you are permitted to use
the one sheet of paper which contains your solutions to the homework
assignment. Although the homework will not be collected, the quiz
questions will be completely based on the assigned homework.
Obviously, it will be better for you if you complete the homework
before attending the lecture.
Each quiz will have five questions. The
10 highest quiz scores will count for 67% of the final grade. In general,
since 3 quizzes are not counted, there will be no makeups of quizzes.
- Term Reports: A term report which
counts 33% of the total grade is due by April 13. Term reports
handed in between April 14 and 20 will be downgraded by 1 letter grade. Term
reports handed in between April 21 and 27 will be downgraded by 2 letter
grades. Term reports handed in after April 28 and before May 7 will
be downgraded by 3 letter grades. No papers can be submitted after
May 7, except if an incomplete is sought.
The length should be at least 8 double-spaced typed pages. Typing or
word-processing is required. Topics are completely up to you.
Obviously, if you copy someone else's report, whether or not it was
written for this course this semester, you will be held accountable
and the case will be reported to the student judiciary. It is
preferable for papers to be handed in directly to me. You may submit
a plan or outline to me prior to completing your paper for
The topic for the paper is at your discretion, but should be of interest
as a recent development in astronomy. You should find at least three, and
preferably more, recent (i.e., within the last 5 years) sources on
which to base your report. Books and magazine or newspaper articles
are acceptable, as are internet web pages if you identify your sources
and conclude they are providing reliable information. TV
documentaries are not acceptable sources of information. Your report
should not use the lecture notes or the required or optional texts as
references; this will lead to downgrading.
Plagiarism - Copying from
currently or previously submitted papers, copying directly from the
WWW without attribution, or copying part of an article or book without
reference will result in an "F" for the report and a complaint will
be filed with the student judiciary.
Footnotes and detailed
referencing are not required, but your paper must include a
bibliography containing the sources from which material was taken. The
papers will be graded on the basis of originality, effort, clarity,
and the topic's relevance to the course. Book reports or rehashes of
class notes or readings are not acceptable. Especially check that you
are not duplicating material in the lecture notes by examining the course
The grades are arranged numerically according to your ID number.
If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability
that may impact your ability to carry out assigned course work,
contact the staff in the Disabled Student Services office (DSS), Room
133 Humanities, 632-6748. DSS will review your concerns and determine
with you what accommodations are necessary and DSS will advise me.
All information and documentation of disability is confidential.
This Syllabus is approximate. Numbers following each lecture's
topics are given to assist you in finding the relevant pages in
lecture notes or to chapters in the assigned texts, with these codes:
LN = lecture notes; HBD = Here Be Dragons, RE
= Rare Earth, SA = The Science of Aliens,
LU = Life in the Universe.
- 27 Jan: Overview, some
quotes and events, the historical
Astronomical notation and measurements: Distances,
luminosity, mass. The universe to
LN 1-7, 146-148, 170-171; RE 1; LU 1
Homework # 1, Due 3 February
- 3 Feb: Space Travel: Rocket formula
Space travel problems I, II. Alternate
III. Astronomy Basics. Properties of radiation: I , II , III .
Properties of stars: I , II , III . LN 7-15, 171-175, 177-179; HBD 8; SA 8; LU 12
Homework # 2, Due 10 February
- 10 Feb: Nuclear
nomenclature and burning in
stars. The birth of
the life-cycle of stars, their deaths and nucleosynthesis.LN 15-28, 33-35; RE 2; LU 1
Homework # 3, Due 17 February
- 17 Feb: Properties of
galaxies; Types of
galaxies. Cosmology I,II,
IIILN 29-33, 36-38
Homework # 4, Due 24 February
- 24 Feb: Future events in
the universe. Cosmic
Coincidences, and the Cosmic anthropic
principle. The interstellar
medium, gas and dust,
chemical evolution. Interstellar
molecules. Abundances of
the elements. Composition of
biological compounds, handedness,
blocks of life, monomers, and
LN 39-45, 141-142, 149-158; HBD 4, 10; RE 3; SA 4; LU
Homework # 5, Due 2 March
- 2 Mar:
code, DNA I, II, reproduction,
evolution model of the origin of life.
sources and droplet
World, genetic takeover model of the origin of
LN 46-64; RE 4; HBD 1; SA 5; LU 3, 4
Homework # 6, Due 9 March
- 9 Mar: Thermophilic life I, II and life in
exotic places I, II. Extremophiles
and their uses. Radiochemical
dating of materials, early evidence of life I,II, geologic
chart, and biological
evolution. Major stages in evolution I, II, III.
LN 64-66, 70-75; RE 5, 6; HBD 2, 9; SA 3, 4; LU 3, 4,
Homework # 7, Due 16 March
- 16 Mar: History of
evolution theory, modern
and catastrophism; punctuated equilibrium and meteorite impact
LN 76-80; RE 7-8; HBD 6; LU 5
Homework # 8, Due 23 March Please note that the quiz
based upon this homework will cover the homework questions even though some
aspects were not discussed in class. Information is provided on the
transparencies and/or in the required readings sufficient to answer these
- 23 Mar: Facts concerning the solar system and clues about origin I, II and celestial mechanics
hisory. Comets, asteroids, meteorites, and
comet/asteroid missions. The Moon I, II; Mercury LN 81-102; RE 9, 10; LU 2
Homework # 9, Due 30 March
- 30 Mar: Venus I, II. Mars I, II; Viking
experiments I, II; and
possible life on Mars I, II. LN 102-115; HBD 3; LU 6, 7
# 10, Due 13 April This homework will not be posted until April 3 to 5.
- 13 Apr: Other
possibilities for life: structural
elements, solvents and
aliens look like?
LN 67-69; SA 1, 2, 3; HBD 9
Homework # 11, Due 20 April
- 20 Apr: The giant planets I, II; the
Galilean satellites I, II; and
Titan and other moons I, II. The uniqueness of
search for other planetary systems, discoveries (Table), discoveries (Figure 1), discoveries (Figure 2).
migration. LN 115-140; RE 11; HBD 5; LU 8, 9, 10
Homework # 12, Due 27 April
- 27 Apr: How many civilizations exist? The Drake equation
, Uncertainties in
Drake equation, Development of
civilizations, lifetimes of
civilizations, The Fermi paradox
and Von Neumann machines, Kardashev
civilizations and ultimate lifetime
limits. LN 141-146, HBD 7; LU 10, 13
Homework # 13, Due 4 May
- 4 May: Communication by
radio, interference and
number of channels and eavesdropping, SETI. Possible
forms of messages: Radio, physical.
settlements and constraints on
space colonies. Impact on society of discovery of extraterrestrials,
classification, and UFO evidence.
Plausibility of UFOs. LN 159-170, 175-179; RE 12, HBD 7, 8;
SA 7, 9, 10; LU 11, 14