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FYS: The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe

FYS 1000 - Are we alone in the Universe? This course will explore ongoing efforts to answer this question. We will study the accepted scientific views of Origins, how the Universe, including life itself, came to be. We will take a journey through the various factors that will determine the likelihood of finding another planet with intelligent life in our galaxy by exploring the factors in the famous Drake Equation. Along the way, we will look at current missions that are helping us answer some of our questions, like the Mars rovers studying the Martian terrain, the Kepler Mission looking for Earth-like planets around other stars, and the SETI Institute which is listening for alien communication as part of its mission to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the Universe. Finally, we will investigate claims that Earth has been visited by alien life already.

Office Hours - T 3:00-5:00pm, TH 9:00-10:00am, F 2:00-4:00pm (363 Congdon Hall)

Course Schedule & Assignments

DAY DATE CHAPTER / ASSIGNMENTS / ASSESSMENTS / LABS
111 Jan Topic: Introduction, Checkerboard Universe
Homework: none
218 Jan Topic: Introduction to the Drake Equation
Homework: none
323 Jan Topic: The Cosmic Calendar
Homework: finish cosmic calendar sheet
Lecture: PDF
425 Jan Topic: Scaled Model of Solar System
Homework: finish scaled model of solar system sheet
530 Jan Topic: Oral Presentations
61 Feb Topic: Oral Presentations Continued...
76 Feb Topic: Light, Spectroscopy, Kirchoff's Laws
Drake Equation Term: R*
Homework: none
Lecture: PDF
88 Feb Topic: Spectroscopy (continued), the Doppler Effect, and the star formation rate
Drake Equation Term: R*
Homework: Take-home quiz
Lecture: PDF
913 Feb Topic: Exoplanet Detection Methods
Drake Equation Term: f_p
Homework: none
Lecture: PDF
1015 Feb Topic: Habitable Zones
Drake Equation Term: n_e
Homework: Habitable Zone worksheet
Lecture: PDF

Course Documents

  • Syllabus - information about the course

Resources