Course outline:

 

TEXTBOOK REQUIRED:

Life in the Universe, Second Edition 2007, by Jeffrey Bennett & Seth Shostak

 

Link to Campus Bookstore

Link to Queen's Library (3 hour loan)

Additional reading resources

 

 

I. INTRODUCING LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

 

1. A Universe of life

 

The possibility of life beyond Earth

The scientific context of the search

Places to search

The new science of astrobiology

 

 

2. The science of life in the Universe

 

The ancient debate about life beyond Earth

The Copernican revolution

The nature of modern science

The process of science in action Š understanding gravity

 

 

3. The universal context of life

 

The Universe and life

The structure, scale, and history of the Universe

The nature of worlds

A universe of matter and energy

Formation of the Solar System

 

 

II. LIFE ON EARTH

 

4. The habitability of Earth

 

Geology and life

Reconstructing the history of Earth and life

The Hadean Earth and the dawn of life

Geology and habitability

Climate regulation and change

Formation of the Moon

 

 

5. The nature of life on Earth

 

Defining life

Cells: the basic units of life

Metabolism: the chemistry of life

DNA and heredity

Life at the extreme

Evolution

 

 

6. Life at the extremes - extremophiles (special chapter not found in the textbook)

High temperatures: thermophiles

Low temperatures: psychrophiles

High salinity: halophiles

High Acidity (pH): acidophile

Alkaline pH: alkaliphile

High radiation: radiotolerant

Subsurface rocks environments: endoliths

High pressure: barophiles

Low carbon: oligotrophs

Low water activity: xerophiles

 

 

7. The origin and evolution of life on Earth

 

Searching for lifeÕs origin

The origin of life

The evolution of life

Impacts and extinctions

Human evolution

Artificial life

 

 

 

III. LIFE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM

 

7. Searching for life in our solar system

 

Environmental requirements for life

A biological tour of the Solar System

Spacecraft exploration of the Solar System

 

 

8. Mars

 

Fantasies of Mars civilizations

A modern portrait of Mars

The climate history of Mars

Searching for life on Mars

Martian meteorites

 

 

9. Life on Jovian moons

 

The moons of the outer Solar System

Life on JupiterÕs Galilean moons

Life around Saturn and beyond

Chemical energy for life

 

 

10. The nature and evolution of habitability

 

The concept of a habitable zone

Venus: an example of potential habitability

Surface habitability factors and the habitable zone

The future of Life on Earth

Global warming

 

 

IV. LIFE AMONG THE STARS

 

11. Habitability outside the Solar System

 

Distant Suns

Extrasolar planets: discoveries and implications

The possibility that Earth is rare

Classifying stars

 

 

12. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence

 

The Drake equation

The question of intelligence

Searching for intelligence

 

 

13. Interstellar travel and the Fermi paradox

 

The challenge of interstellar travel

Designing spacecraft for interstellar travel

The Fermi paradox

EinsteinÕs special theory of relativity