Online reading assignment: origin of life(?), are we alone? (SLO campus)

Astronomy 210, fall semester 2012
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on the evidence for the origin of life on Earth, and extraterrestrial hypothesis.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"The Julia Child video--comical yet informational. Anything that can make a student laugh automatically captures attention and makes the topic much more interesting."

"All life on Earth is made possible by carbon atoms. Just crazy it can be pinpointed to a single element."

"How long it took to evolve from simple compounds into complex organisms we have today. In my anthropology class we thoroughly discuss how humans have evolved from primates, but it took billions of years just to get to that point!"

"How DNA correlates to heredity and genetics. We all have genes from our mother and father and it's amazing if there are more than one offspring that each one can pick up different genes. For example a family of four the daughter could look just like the father's side of the family and the son can look like the mother's side. At the same time they both still look related."

"The crop circle 'response' to the Arecibo radio broadcast, because I want to know if there are other life forms out there!"

"Everything. Because astronomy is mind-blowing."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The Drake equation, because it doesn't seem very exact. It all depends on if you think optimistically or pessimistically."

"How the Arecibo radio broadcast was coded to provide so much information about life on Earth."

"The whole 'are we alone' thing. I think it's selfish to think we are, yet why haven't 'they' tried to find us?"
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Doesn't it frustrate you that we will never know everything about our universe?" (That aspect of astronomy means that there will always be new and exciting things to be discovered.)

"Do you round up if our points are close to a grade cut-off?" (You do that. You round your own points up by doing the extra-credit assignments. Otherwise, if you haven't done any of them, then that won't happen.)

"Did you enjoy this semester P-dog?" (Yes. But I say that every semester.)

"Do you believe in life on other planets?" (Yes, I do. I would be willing to bet a dollar that there is (or was) life on other planets.)

"My co-worker told me that NASA found out that on December 21, 2012 the world will go dark for three days. Is that true?" (Tell your co-worker: yes. Totally going to happen. NASA would never lie. Your astronomy teacher would never lie. More seriously, check out how the Mayan calendar will roll over from the 12th to the 13th 'long-count' on December 21, 2012.)

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