Astronomy final exam question: Drake equation as "sound science?"

Astronomy 210 Final Exam, Spring Semester 2011
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

[20 points.] An astronomy question on an online discussion board (http://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070908222025AA6phgU) was asked and answered:
H*bent...: Do you think that the Drake [e]quation is just a bunch of wishful thinking?
Keith P: No, the equation is sound science...
Discuss whether or not if this answer is correct, and how you know this. Explain using the properties of the Drake equation, and the factors used in the Drake equation.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p = 20/20:
    Correct. Understands what the Drake equation calculates, and the general trend of known, general quantities to less known, specific quantities that are plugged into it. Then makes an argument as to whether this is scientific (e.g., as a methodical process, even though it is incomplete) or non-scientific (e.g., based on speculation of untestable, nonfalsifiable concepts).
  • r = 16/20:
    Nearly correct (explanation weak, unclear or only nearly complete); includes extraneous/tangential information; or has minor errors.
  • t = 12/20:
    Contains right ideas, but discussion is unclear/incomplete or contains major errors. As (p), but does not discuss criteria for deciding solid science versus wishful thinking, or does not adequately discuss the Drake equation.
  • v = 8/20:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner.
  • x = 4/20:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit.
  • y = 2/20:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z = 0/20:
Grading distribution:
Section 30674
Exam code: finaln4St
p: 17 students
r: 0 students
t: 15 students
v: 4 students
x: 0 students
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

Section 30676
Exam code: finalS45s
p: 18 students
r: 0 students
t: 8 students
v: 11 students
x: 4 students
y: 2 students
z: 0 students

A sample "p" response (from student 0920):

Another sample "p" response (from student 9001):

A sample "v" response (from student 5259):

A sample "x" response (from student 2221), who at least recalls that the Drake equation has "SWAG" (scientific wild-a$$ guesses) in its component factors:

A sample "y" response (from student 1992):

1 comment:

Skywatcher said...

Hats off to all who have passed and who are going to pass, To think of such a study which is as vast a sky.