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

Astronomy 210, fall semester 2016
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 origin of life, a "Here Is Today" timeline, LEGO® washing tips and the 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.
"How insignificant this day is on the scale of time."

"I found the timeline interesting, because it is crazy to think how much of a little slice of time modern humanity takes up."

"How atoms tend to hook up with one another also known as the Miller experiment."

"Did you seriously just give us a LEGO®-washing lesson, or am I that sleep deprived?"

"That one equation can show if there's life in the universe?!"

"That genetic mutations can kill the organism but at the same time some genetic mutations will be very beneficial if the environment changes in order to help that organism."

"The Drake formula, I can't believe an equation that is 50% 'SWAG' is considered legitimate and that people have the gall to assume humans are the only organisms capable of our kind of 'advancement.'"

"Crop circles, interesting because of the size and planning it would take a human to accomplish this, or perhaps an alien gardener was bored and has a sense of humor."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I found the Drake equation to be a little confusing, just because all the different factors area little confusing."

"The LEGO® thing and how it worked."

"I really didn't understand the Drake equation."

"Chemical evolution is one thing that I don't understand."

"So, it takes a lot to go from non-living to life?"

"How primordial soup composed of liquids being evaporated and energized over and over can create complex life."

"I'm skeptical about how one equation can give an estimation for the number of other life forms in the universe."

"How DNA instruction happen or exist, this is just mind-boggling."

"I am confused as to how the Cambrian explosion occurred? Was it just spontaneous?"

Briefly describe a difference between life and non-living things.
"Living things change with their surroundings."

"Life reacts to its surroundings, while none living things don't."

"Life must be able to eat, build, destroy, and adapt to things whereas non-living things are building blocks or simply molecules."

"Living things are bodies that create, destroy, eat, and/or change within a given period of time. Although the earth changes, it is not alive because it does not create a next generation to carry on information from past experiences."

"Be able to store and transmit data and make decisions for survival."

"All living things contain carbon, but not all things that contain carbon are living."

"I could not find the answer to this question in any of the presentations."

How important is it to you to know whether or not there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth?
Unimportant.  * [1]
Of little importance.  **** [4]
Somewhat important.  ******** [8]
Important.  ******* [7]
Very important.  **** [4]

Briefly explain your answer regarding the importance of knowing whether there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth.
"It is super important to me, because I find it hard to believe that we are the only intelligent life-form on the planet."

"It could change the way we understand life or knowledge."

"I think it's important to know for our own safety and maybe to further our intelligence as a species."

"Knowledge. We can gain so much more information and learn new things about the universe if we could communicate or know that there are other living things in the galaxy."

"It would be a HUGE learning experience if we found life elsewhere! Not to mention it would be really cool to know that we are not alone in this place. Or creepy..."

"This could be important to know because it can lead to chaos or salvation for our humankind. We are destroying ourselves by pollution and waste, but with the knowledge of other intelligent life we may be able to fix our way of life and other issues."

"It would be interesting to know but it is not so important because I'm not sure how this would change anything on Earth. If we consider what hollywood has portrayed I might be worried of an attack. But if there is life out there I feel it would not change things for Earth."

"I am personally curious but I do not think that it is necessarily the most important thing to know."

Which type of star would be least likely to have a planet that could support life?
Massive.  *************** [15]
Medium-mass.  *** [3]
Low-mass (red dwarf).  ****** [6]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (type of star least likely to have a planet that could support life).
"A massive star would be least likely to support life because the lifetime would not be long enough for life to start."

"For massive stars, habitable zones are at huge distances where rocky planets are unlikely to form/ it would be hard for a planet to be that far from a star."

"A low-mass star wouldn't produce enough heat."

"Medium-mass stars give off enough heat and are stable at that heat for long enough time for life to grow. Massive stars change frequently and low-mass stars are...small."

"Stars with higher metallicity have more likely of a chance to have a planet capable of supporting life. Younger stars have more metallicity, therefore it is least likely for a low-mass star."

Describe what the Drake equation is used for.
"The Drake equation begins by having values then it becomes less reliable to estimate the number of technological civilizations in the Milky Way."

"We can use it to estimate the technological number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy."

"It is used for finding out the probability of life on other planets using an equation with a lot of variables that get less answerable as they go on."

"It is used to identify how many possible civilizations there are in the Milky Way and with which we can maybe talk to."

"To find life in our universe."

"I'm not sure."

In your opinion, how plausible is it that the Chilbolton message is a reply from extraterrestrials?
Implausible.  [0]
Not very plausible.  *********** [11]
Somewhat plausible.  ************ [12]
Very plausible.  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  * [1]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I saw Arrival last night, and it was awesome."

"How do you organize a party in space? You planet. #hahahahahahahahahaha" (#smh)

"What is your favorite place you have ever traveled?" (There was this time that Mrs. P-dog and I went backpacking somewhere in Hawaii that looked like Mars.)

What is your opinion on the Chilbolton message? (There should have been souvenir t-shirts sold there, like the Fairfield crop circles in 2003.)

"Which should we be more worried of alien life or A.I.?" (Alien A.I.? #justsaying)

"How would you prepare for the final?" (The study guide for the final is now posted on the course website; so study for it like you did for the midterm.)

"I've literally been trying to bust out a ten-page research paper, on top of another essay and catch up on my math homework which is all due on the same day. I truly dislike finals!!! This class is so easy and I am looking forward to this final out of all my classes, but I am truly looking forward to getting more sleep once this is all over."

1 comment:

Jon Bergmann said...

These are great questions and great responses. I love how your students are really engaging with the flipped assignment. Keep up the great work.