Online reading assignment: Milky Way history, big bang clues (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2014
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 history of the Milky Way and big bang clues, a comic strip adaptation of of Neil deGrasse Tyson's "The Most Astounding Fact" 2008 interview for TIME magazine, and Minute Physics' video explanation of Olbers' paradox.

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.
"I though it was interesting that space is just getting dirtier and dirtier over time. I never thought that space was 'dirty.'"

"I think its interesting that we are an expanding universe because if we weren't then it might be possible for there to be an edge, and that freaks me out."

"What I found interesting is that the telescopes that us humans have made can actually see so far into space."

"I think it's incredible that people essentially really are made up of stardust and other things that have to do with the universe. Crazy thinking because everything is energy and energy is recycled."

"The way that we can use telescopes as time machines is very interesting to me. It's interesting that each distance can be seeing a different point in time."

"How every atom in my body was made at the beginning of the universe. Maybe I'm reading into it too much, but that really strikes a chord in me, I am very much a part of this universe and I belong here. And I can't let people trick me into believing otherwise anymore."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I thought it was confusing that younger stars have more metals than older stars."

"Something confusing is just trying to translate while comprehending 'looking in the past' at the stars."

"What is the difference between metal poor and metal rich. I am not too sure.what I found confusing is that what produced what elements that we have now in our bodies."

"I definitely want to do more research on the big bang theory. I don't really understand why we don't know if it happened when we have evidence/examples."

"The way that the universe is expanding but appearing to run away from us is a little bit confusing. Just hard to visualize."

"To look back in time we can see a time before galaxies even existed - we can see the edge of time. This just boggles my mind, wow!

Indicate how the amount of these elements in the universe have changed over time.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Hydrogen: decreased [29%]
Metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium): increased [82%]

The outermost layers of __________ are more abundant in metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium).
extremely old stars that formed a long time ago.  *** [3]
young stars that formed very recently.  ************* [13]
(There is a tie.)  [0]
(Neither, as stars cannot have metals.)  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  * [1]

Indicate what produced these elements.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Helium in the sun's core: the sun [71%]
Carbon in your body: another star, in the past [35%]
Calcium in your bones: another star, in the past [24%]
Iron in your blood: another star, in the past [41%]
Gold and silver from mines: another star, in the past [18%]

People breaking up a relationship are most likely to update their Facebook status to "single":
on Valentine's Day.  **** [4]
during spring break.  ******** [8]
just after Thanksgiving.  *** [3]
on Christmas Day.  * [1]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  * [1]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"The edge of the universe is what I found to be particularly confusing, in the presentation you explained how whenever we look out to the 'edge' of the universe we are not running out of space, but out of time. So does that mean that we are looking so far back that nothing has been created yet?" (Yes.)

"There is a K-pop [Korean popular music] band called 'BIGBANG' from South Korea. LOL."

"Can you explain why you believe the universe is expanding?" (I don't think I can explain why I believe that is happening, but I'll try to help you understand the facts that support that interpretation.) "

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