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

Astronomy 210, fall semester 2019
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.
"I found the question on if we are alone as it is something I have always asked myself and something my friends and I always debate."

"The origin of life; how everything started."

"The most interesting thing to me was the Drake equation. To start off because the name I thought it was funny and to because I didn’t know there was an actual equation that could help us estimate the life span of an advanced civilization."

"How long we've really been around on Earth."

"The idea of not being alone."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I am a bit confused on the Cambrian explosion. The book doesn't go into much detail as to how or why the Cambrian explosion happened."

"I found the Drake equation very confusing and can use a lot more clarification and in simpler terms to understand."

"The Drake equation."

Briefly describe a difference between life and non-living things.
"Non-living things do not reproduce, grow, eat, or have any sense that all living organisms can."

"To be classified as living is to be able to manipulate and adapt to your environment."

"Living things around us are human beings, animals, plants and microorganisms. Non-livings things do not exhibit any characteristics of life."

Rank the amounts of time it takes for each of the following to have occurred on Earth.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Time after the formation of Earth for single-cell life to arise: a medium amount of time (about 1 billion years) [30%]
Time for the first types of simple single-cell life to evolve into fishlike creatures: the longest amount of time (about 3 billion years) [70%]
Time for fishlike creatures to evolve into more complex land-based animals today: the shortest amount of time (about 0.5 billion years) [70%]

How important is it to you to know whether or not there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth?
Unimportant.  [0]
Of little importance.  * [1]
Somewhat important.  ******* [7]
Important.  * [1]
Very important.  * [1]

Briefly explain your answer regarding the importance of knowing whether there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth.
"I'm just very curious to know if there is life out of our universe. It can't be that we are alone."

"I find the topic rather interesting, there's so much we don't know about our world that the slightest possibility of life elsewhere wouldn't surprise me."

"The odds of Earth being the only planet of life in an ever expanding universe is tiny. It’s almost selfish to believe life doesn't exist elsewhere."

"Well, if we ever find life outside of Earth is would be amazing to see what their species look like. If they end up being intelligent beings it would be really good for humans to develop and adapt to newer and better things to regarding resources."

"I find it important due to the environmental crisis that we are having on earth because if there is life on another planet we can possible be able to maybe explore and see if it is possible to travel to that other planet or maybe even see what methods they are doing to sustain life on their planet."

"It is important as it would fundamentally change everything that we know about life. If that life is similar to our own it would confirm many speculations about life and open up new ones as well. As this new life could be helpful to us one way or another."

"Even though we haven't found any yet I'm pretty sure it exists so I feel like I already know. I'd just want to learn more about them out of curiosity."

"Nothing more than just wanting to know."

"It is somewhat important because it would be cool to meet other life but then it wouldn't since we would know what it would be capable of."

Which type of star would be least likely to have a planet that could support life?
Massive.  ********* [9]
Medium-mass.  [0]
Low-mass (red dwarf).  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  * [1]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (type of star least likely to have a planet that could support life).
"Life on Earth took approximately 1 billion years to arise which is longer than the life of a massive star."

"Massive star lifetimes are too short for complex forms of life to develop as they would go supernova within a few million years."

"Massive stars form and die faster than life can evolve into complex organisms."

Describe what the Drake equation is used for.
"To try to guesstimate the number of possibilities of other life that could communicate with us."

"It is used to estimate the numbers of an advanced civilization in the Milky Way."

"According to Wikipedia: 'a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.'"

"I didn't really understand this."

In your opinion, how plausible is it that the Chilbolton message is a reply from extraterrestrials?
Implausible.  [0]
Not very plausible.  **** [4]
Somewhat plausible.  ***** [5]
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.
"Will any of this be on the final?" (Yes. But from the Ch. 15 question packet.)

"Why is the Drake equation even a thing if certain variables are impossible to determine and there might be even more unknown variables?" (At least it lets us know what we do know, even if that might not be that much.)

"Do you think there are aliens?" (Eh. I think so. I don't spend too much time thinking about that, though.)

No comments: