Syllabus HNRS499, Spring 2006
The "Face" on Mars
WELCOME to ASTROBIOLOGY, the search for understanding extra-terrestrial life. This Honors Seminar is basically a multi-disciplinary science course that blends information from astrophysics, biochemistry and molecular biology. These are pretty high powered disciplines. And many of the students in this class, if not all, are not even science majors. We do not apologize for this but instead it means that your instructors will have to work that much harder to make the material accessible to you. We do know, however, that you are all capable students and it is our expectation that together we can explore this topic, learn a lot of science, and understand the nature of extra-terrestrial life somewhat better than we do right now.
Your Tutor for this semester is Alexandra Dadovich-Story. She is the college's Claire Booth Luce Scholar. She is very capable at doing Physics and will be able to help you. She will be available in MN205 at the following times:
Monday: 6 - 8 PM
Tuesday: 6 - 8 PM
Thursday: 3 - 5 PM
The following schedule is at best tentative. With a small group we certainly can be flexible and change things the way we want to. This schedule does allow us to complete the tasks at hand:
Textbook:ASTROBIOLOGY - A Multidisciplinary Approach by Jonathon I. Lunine. It is available in the College Bookstore and through a number of vendors on-line.
Lesson 1: Tuesday, January 31st
- What Is Astrobiology?
Reading: Introduction - What is Astrobiology?, Pgs 1 - 8 Questions: 1 and 2, Discuss in Class
Objectives: Intro.1 You will understand common theories re: how life arose on Earth (or did it come from somewhere else?)
You should gain a reasonable understanding of how matter became organized into living systems.
You should understand the principles of evolution as applied to substances at the molecular, organism, and ecosystems level.
You ought to understand the scientific principles of evolution in terms of how Earth's biosphere co-evolved with the physical segments of our own Earth.
Intro.5 You should become familiar with the limits of life on earth which in turn may be applicable to conditions that may exist on other worlds.
Intro.6 You will have knowledge of what conditions must be present elsewhere (the rest of our solar system and beyond) so that life may arise and evolve to more sophisticated and more intelligent forms..
You should develop a grasp of what to look for with respect to signs of life on other heavenly bodies in our solar system.
Giant tube worms, some four feet tall. The tail ends of the worms were firmly planted on the ocean floor, while red plumes on the other ends swayed like a field of poppies. Alvin had brought researchers to the same spot less than two years earlier, when they had seen none of these strange creatures. Measurements at the site have since shown that individual tube worms can increase in length at a rate of more than 33 inches per year, making them the fastest-growing marine invertebrates. That means tube worms can colonize a vent more rapidly than scientists once thought.
Photo © Al Giddings/Images Unlimited, Inc.
You need to grasp what is important in identifying signs of life on bodies outside our solar system.
You should understand how ecosystems on Earth changed along an evolutionary pathway and are still changing today.
You should understand the mechanics of how one heavenly body does or may affect evolutionary paths of other heavenly bodies; i.e., is this symbiotic?
Lesson 2: Thursday, February 2nd
- The Historical Background to Astrobiology
Reading: Chapter 1, Pgs 9 - 30 Questions: 1, 2, 3, 4
Objectives: 1.1 You will be able to discuss the Copernican principle, that the Earth is a typical planet
1.2 You will be able to compare cosmologies of various cultures, showing they may be similar and different.
1.3 You will be able to describe the classical Greek thought on the Structure of the Cosmos.
1.4 You will be able to describe how classical thought changed from Ptolemy to Copernicus.
a. Retrograde motion
b. Elliptical orbits
You should be able to trace the chemical revolution describing ancient alchemy through today's understanding of how organic compounds can be synthesized.
You ought to be able to intelligently consider how primordial life arose. Life comes from life or can it spontaneously develop?
Friday, February 3rd: Last day to drop a class without a "W" on the transcript. Last day to add a class without instructor's signature.
Lesson 3: Tuesday, Feb 7th
- Basic PHYSICS of Forces and Particles
Reading: 2, Pages 33 - 64 Questions: Chapter 2, Questions 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9
You will be able to describe the four basic forces known to humanity and their properties.
Forces and Pseudoforces - Know the difference between them. centripetal Force is the one that, in circular motion, causes a body to be pulled inward. The Centrifugal Force is really a pseudoforce in that it is more an example of Newton's Laws of Motion than a force; i.e., "an object in motion will continue in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force." Hence, a marble on a turntable will tend to "fly" off the turntable. This has been sometimes inappropriately called a force (centrifugal force.)
Properties of the Fundamental Forces:
The strong interaction is very strong, but very short-ranged. It acts only over ranges of order 10-13 centimeters and is responsible for holding the nuclei of atoms together. It is basically attractive, but can be effectively repulsive in some circumstances.
The electromagnetic force causes electric and magnetic effects such as the repulsion between like electrical charges or the interaction of bar magnets. It is long-ranged, but much weaker than the strong force. It can be attractive or repulsive, and acts only between pieces of matter carrying electrical charge.
The weak force is responsible for radioactive decay and neutrino interactions. It has a very short range and, as its name indicates, it is very weak.
The Gravitational Force is weak, but very long ranged. Furthermore, it is always attractive, and acts between any two pieces of matter in the Universe since mass is its source.
2.2 You will describe what Quantum Mechanics is and how it relates to the dual nature of light and particlesthe dual nature of light and particles..
You should be able to list some conservation laws in nature:
Conservation of Energy
Conservation of Momentum
Conservation of Charge
2.4 You will be able to describe the nature of elementary particles including, electrons, protons and neutrons as well as other subatomic particles.
2.5 You should be able to explain what is Quantum Mechanics 2.6
You ought to be able to list the basic quantum numbers in simple atoms and relate them to physical quantities
- n Principle Quantum Number - related to allowable energies
- l, Orbital Angular Momentum Quantum Number defines the shapes of accomodating orbitals
l = 0, +1, -1 gives p sub levels
- s, Spin Quantum Number - spin "up" or spin "down"
- ml, Orbital Magnetic Quantum Number - determines the energy shift of an atomic orbital (atomic orbital: an atomic orbital is the description of the behavior of an electron in an atom due to an external magnetic field, hence the name magnetic quantum number.The Zeeman Effect is the splitting of a spectral line into several components in the presence of a magnetic field.
Lesson 4: Thursday, Feb 9th
- The PHYSICS of CHEMISTRY
Reading: Chapter 3, Pages 66 - 102 Questions: Chapter 3, Questions
Activity: Lab 1:Falling Bodies - A Look at Procedure
You should be able to express the Conservation of Energy Principle for an electron in an atom:
p2/2m + V = E
You should be able to identify quantities in the Schrodinger Wave Equation:
You will be able to state the Pauli Exclusion Principle - Because of this idea:
Electrons tend to fill innermost shells first
Unpaired electrons generally fill subshells first.
A pair of electrons with identical spins has slightly more energy than a pair of electrons with opposite spins. Since two electrons in the same orbital must have opposite spins, this causes electrons to prefer to occupy different orbitals. This preference manifests itself if a subshell with l > 0 (one that contains more than one orbital) is less than full. For instance, if a p subshell contains four electrons, two electrons will be forced to occupy one orbital, but the other two electrons will occupy both of the other orbitals, and their spins will be equal. This phenomenon is called Hund's rule
3.4 You should be able to Visualize Electron Orbitals 3.5
You should be able to relate the filling of electron shells to the Periodic Table.
3.6 You should be able to describe Covalent Bonding 3.7 You should be able to list particular properties of the Carbon Bond 3.8 You should be able to describe Black Body Radiationand the electromagnetic spectrum.
You should be able to describe the difference between:
You should be able to describe the exponential decay of atomic nuclei including:
After failing three Chemistry tests Brad finds that his parents wallpapered his room with the Periodic Table
Lesson 5: Tuesday, February 14th
- Necessary Concepts - The Chemistry of Life
Reading: Chapter 4, Pages 103 - 138 Questions: Chapter 4, Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Objectives: 4.1 You ought to be able to define Polymers and Biopolymers. The word comes from the greek polumeres, which means `having many parts'. Polymers are large molecules consisting of repeated chemical units (`mers') joined together, usually in a line, like beads on a string. Each `mer' is typically made up of more than 5 and less than 500 atoms; the word `polymer' is applied when you have more than about 50 `mers' stuck together. Most of the plastics that make up the pieces of junk that fill our lives are made of polymers.
4.2 Structure of Proteins
4.3 Formation and Structure of Nucleic Acids
4.5 Prokaryotic Cells
4.6 Eukaryotic Cells
Lesson 6: Thursday, February 16th
Lab # 2: Spectrometer
- Monday, February 20th, is President's Day
Lesson 7: Tuesday, February 21st
- Opportunity to Excel #1 !!!
- Chapters 1 - 4, Individual Effort
We don't have any idea yet what this will look like but we'll know (together) what we want to do.
Session 8: Thursday, February 23rd
- PHI Beta Kappa Lecture
BERNARD MCGINN, University of Chicago
Phi Beta Kappa stands for "philosophia biou kubernetes" — "love of wisdom, the guide of life."
Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus at Chicago's Divinity School, where he taught from 1969 to 2003. Trained in theology and in medieval history, he was a member of both the theology and history of Christianity areas in the Divinity School, and served as adjunct professor in the department of history. He is a fellow of the Medieval Academy, as well as of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as president of the American Society of Church History and of the American Catholic Historical Association.
Among his books are works related to the history of Western apocalypticism, such as Visions of the End and Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil, as well as numerous works on Christian spirituality and mysticism. His major project is an ongoing history of Western Christian mysticism. Three volumes have already been published; the fourth volume, entitled The Harvest of Mysticism in Late Medieval Germany 1300-1500, is scheduled to appear in 2005.
Public Lecture at 7:00 PM, Mendel Hall, Room 106
Lab # 3: Lunar Samples
Session 9: Tuesday, February 28th
- Today we discuss some diverse kinds of life that we know exists today. These include, among those mentined in the text, Eukaria and Prokariotic systems.
Wednesday, March 1st- Ash Wednesday!
Session 10: Thursday, March 2nd and Tuesday, March 7th
- The COSMIC Foundations of the Origin of Life
Reading: Chapter 5, Pages 141 - 138 Questions:
Chapter 5, Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 10
Objectives: 5.1 You ought to be able to explain Olber's Paradox and the finiteness of the Cosmos.
You should be able to explain the idea of an Expanding Universe based on the Redshift vs. Distance relationship
Edwin Hubble, 1922
5.3 You should be able to identify key events in the Expansion of the Universe.
You should be able to identify the Big Bang as the origin of Hydrogen and Helium in their cosmic abundances.
5.5 You should be able to explain briefly the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements, where they came from and how they got here aor anywhere they might be.
You should be able to list the processes in the P-P and other cycles.
You should be able to explain the characteristics of the Universe that make it "tuned" to allow life"tuned" to allow life to thrive..
5.8 You should understand the difference in the r-process and s-process in the capture of neutrons in the nucleo-synthesis of heavy elements
Lab # 4:
- Session 11: Thursday, March 9th
- Planetological Foundations for the Origin of Life
- Celebration of Women's History Month
Reading: Chapter 6, Pages 174 - 205 Questions: Chapter 6, Questions 1, 2, 4, 6, 10
You should be able to explain how
Lab: Half-Life of Radio Active Materials
Session 12: Tuesday, March 13th
The Thermodynamic Foundations of Life
Reading: Chapter 7, Pages 211 - 240 Questions: Chapter 7, Questions 1, 2, 4, 9
Objectives: 7.1 The student should be able to explain
Session 13: Thursday, March 16th
Exam # 2 - Short Paper due
Dr. Flower will be in Washington, D.C.meeting with congressional delegation regarding NASA. One day until Spring Break.
Session 14: Thursday, March 16th
- Opportunity to Excel # 2
Friday March 17 Everybody's Irish for a day!
Physics Holiday! No Class! (Hah! Actually, It's SPRING BREAK) Are we having fun yet !!!
iological Foundations for the Origin of Life
Reading: Chapter 8, Pages 243 - 269 Questions: Chapter 8, Questions 1, 2, 4, 6, 7
Objectives: You should be able to explain by .........................
From the Origin to the Diversification of Life
Reading: Chapter 9, Pages 274 - 301 Questions: Chapter 9, Questions 4, 5, 8, 10
Objectives: You should be able to explain by .........................
Lab - Sorting out Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells
Saturday: Don't Forget Today, April 1st is April Fools Day
Sunday, April 2nd is also when we move our clocks ahead to Daylight Savings Time
Session 17: Tuesday, April 4th
From the Origin to the Diversification of Life
Reading: Chapter 10, Pages 305 - 326 Questions: Chapter 10, Questions 1, 2, 4, 9
Objectives: You should be able to explain by .........................
Spring is here!! (Well, almost)
Lab #8, Photometry
Session 19: Tuesday, April 11th
Visiting with Senator John Glenn
Planetary Evolution I : Earth's Evolution as a Habitable Planet
Reading: Chapter 11, Pages 329 - 361 Questions: Chapter 11, Questions 1, 5, 6
Objectives: You should be able to .........................
The four most likely places to harbor life in our solar system include the Earth, Mars, Jupiter's Moon Europa, and Saturn's Moon Titan
The three basic types of rocks found on the Earth and across the solar system.
Describe how Zircons are formed, indicating the presence of liquid water. Australian Zircons have been carbon dated to 3.9 and 4.3 billion years old. These suggest a cool early Earth where oceans condensed rather than a steamy atmosphere.
Basically Earth's rocks are NOT as old as those on the surface of the Moon.
The lighter O16 isotopes evaporate with sea water and are incorporated into continental ice sheets causing the oceans to become enriched in the O18 isotope
Describe the Spectrum of the Earth's Atmosphere with various absorption bands
The atmospheric composition of a given planet reflects not only the material make-up of the planet; it can also be strongly modified by the presence of lifeforms. Take the case of the Earth; terrestrial life has left an indelible fingerprint on the atmosphere, by altering the concentrations of various elements and compounds. These include:
- Free Oxygen, which does not arise from non-biological processes, but is produced during oxygenic photosynthesis.
- Carbon Dioxide, which is usually abundant, but can be removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis (either oxygenic or anoxygenic).
- Pollutants, which are difficult to produce via natural means, but can arise as a by-product of the industrial activity of a technologically-advanced civilization (Mankind, in the case of the Earth).
- Cloud Cover, which can be controlled by living organisms, if one believes the Gaia Hypothesis initially proposed by James Lovelock. This hypothesis suggests that the physical environment of Earth is directly controlled by organisms, for their own benefit.
Be able to describe relative abundances of optical and infrared photons in Atmospheric Radiation and the Greenhouse Effect
Describe the Hydrosphere
Gases in the atmosphere (like CO2) generally dissolve in ocean water through a process known as gas exchange. CO2 is fairly soluble in water and thus the oceans contain a huge mass of CO2 (much more than the atmosphere).
CO2 + H2O <--> H2CO3 (carbonic acid)
H2CO3<--> H+ + HCO3 (bicarbonate)
HCO3 <--> H+ + CO3
Solubility of CO2 in H2O varies with temperature. It is significantly less soluble at higher temp. We can roughly estimate
atmosphere = 720 x 1015 tons (1015 tons = 1 gigaton)
oceans = 38,000 x 1015 tons
Thus, the ocean sets the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere on time scales of thousands of years!
Be able to describe what is meant by the Biosphere
CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere and "locked" in biosphere by photosynthesis
CO2 + H2O --> CH2O + O2
Plants 560 x 1015g
Humus 60 x 1015g
Litter 1500 x 1015g
Peat 165 x 1015g
Total 2285 x 1015g
Describe the Geosphere
Precipitation of CaCO3 by organisms to form limestone:
Ca2+ + 2(CO3)2 = 2 CaCO3
Estimate: 500,000 to 10,000,000 x 1015g
Average: 5,250,000 x 1015g
Fossil fuel (coal, oil, and gas)
Estimate: 10,000 x 1015g
Example of carbon flowchart.
Chemical Weathering of exposed rocks consumes CO2
CO2 dissolves in rainwater (avg. pH rain is 5.6 because of CO2
CO2 + H2O = H2CO3 (carbonic acid)
(avg. pH rain is 5.6 because of H2CO3)
CO2 is also derived by degradation of soil carbon as water passes through soil profile.
CH2O + O2 -->> CO2 + H2O
CO2 + H2O = H2CO3 (carbonic acid)
CaCO3 + H2CO3 = Ca2+ + 2HCO3
CaSiO3 + 2H2CO3 = Ca2+ + 2HCO3 + SiO2 + H2O
Soluble ions produced by chemical weathering are carried by rivers and groundwater to the oceans:
Why is the sea salty?
Session 20: Thursday, April 13th
Video: COMETS: PROPHETS OF DOOM
Discover if and how the earth can be protected from a truly cosmic collision.
Examine the scientific and social history of these celestial travelers.
See what NASA's recent missions revealed.
They are celestial travelers which have forever filled us with fear and wonder. Lurking in the furthest reaches of our solar system, comets sometimes brush the Earth as they orbit our Sun. But could something so potentially destructive hold the key to life? Are the building blocks of carbon-based life forms frozen inside? Might they contain information about the creation of our solar system?
At the conclusion of two spectacular NASA missions, COMETS: PROPHETS OF DOOM examines the scientific and historical record of comets, including man's reaction to them. Did a comet lead the Wise Men to Bethlehem? Did they foretell the death of kings, the destruction
of civilizations? How did Halley's Comet provide Isaac Newton with the clues for his theories of gravity?
Finally, what are these cosmic snowballs made of, and can we protect ourselves if one takes a collision course toward the earth?
Fri, Apr 14th is Good Friday
Sun, Sun Apr 16th is Easter Sunday
Since the date of Easter (East comes from the Greek anatole' meaning "the place of the risings") is defined astronomically, you should be able to explain how the date of Easter is determined.
- Planetary Evolution II : The History of Mars
Reading: Chapter 12, Sections 12.1 - 12.8 Questions: 1, 2, 5, 8, 9 Problems: Mars (Greek: Ares) is the god of War. The planet probably got this name due to its red color; Mars is sometimes referred to as the Red Planet. (An interesting side note: the Roman god Mars was a god of agriculture before becoming associated with the Greek Ares; those in favor of colonizing and terraforming Mars may prefer this symbolism.) The name of the month March derives from Mars.
You should be able to:
12.1: Describe the basic known parameters of Mars.
12.2: Describe the Orbit of Mars
12.3: Describe the Surface Appearance of Mars including notable featuresOlympus Mons and other volcanoes
Valles Marineris the Grand Canyon of Mars
12.4: Explain the networks of what appear to be river channels
12.5: List evidence for Past Epochs of Surface Liquid Water
12.6: Describe the scientific evidence found by Spirit and Opportunity over the past two years.
12.7: List the evidence found at Meridiani:
- Sulfur content of rocks suggests 40% is made of salts and jarosite suggests past presence of water.
- Relative abundances of Bromine and Cholrine suggests an evaporative sequence
- Rich abundance of hematite consistent with liquid water environment.
- Gypsum on Earth is usually formed in water rich environment
- Layers of rocks are usually sedimentary (water environment) rather than volcanic.
12.8: Describe how the existence of stable liquid water requires the early climate of Mars to be warm.
12.9: List Major Events in the Martian Geological History Pages 388 and 389 of the textbook ar helpful in describing this.
12.10: Explain the Origin of Martian Water
12.11: Contrast the value of robotic and human exploration missions to Mars.
Planetary Evolution III : The Significance of Europa and Titan
Reading: Chapter 13, Section 13.1 - 13.4 Questions: Problems: Computer: Activity: Objectives: You should be able to:
13.1 Indicate that the large Moons Europa of Jupiter and Titan of Saturn are prime candidates for the existence of some form of life.
13.2 Describe the characteristics of the Outer Solar System in regards to the formation of the outer planets and the stability line of water ice.
13.3 Describe the limits of solar energy incident upon outer planets because of the inverse square law.
13.4 List the other heat sources besides the sun that affect the conditions of the outer planets.
- Accretion heating
- Radioactive Isotopes
- Tidal heating
13.5 Describe Europa
- Voyager 1 and 2 and the Galilean Moons
- Galileo MissionGalileo-Europa Mission
- Ridges, including fracturing with overlays but no active resurfacing
Circular features may be due to Jupiter's tidal forces
13.6 Describe the Interior of Europa with its Metallic Core, Rocky Interior and H20 surface
13.7 Describe Saturn's Moon Titan
13.9 Explain why Titan is a possible place to host Life.
Today's Lab: Viking Lander Experiment
Lesson 23, Tuesday, April 25th
Opportunity to Excel
This exam will most likely be hosted On-Line as in the past
Lesson 24, Thursday, April 27th
Lab Activity: Life on Other Worlds
Lesson 25, Tuesday, May 2nd
Life Elsewhere I:
Lesson 26, Thursday, May 4th
Life Elsewhere II : Extrasolar Planets
Reading: Chapter 15, Sections 15.1 - 15.7 Questions: Problems: 1, 5, 9 Computer: Activity: Objectives: You should be able to:
15.1Explain the Arithmetic of Doubling
15.2 Discuss the statement: "If they're out there, where are they?"
15.3 Describe extrasolar planets and limitations to identifying them and their characteristics..
- The size of the orbit (radius) is inversely proportional to the Mass
- Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion
15.4 Describe Doppler Spectrscopy and its limitations
15.5 Describe Astrometry as another indirect detection technique.
15.6 Describe Direct Detection and its limitations
15.7 Describing Microlensing of distant stars by the star-planet system
15.8 Explain the limits of resolution due to Earth's Atmosphere.
Friday, May 5th
Today is Cinco de Mayo!
Lesson 27, Tuesday, May 9th
Lesson 28, Thursday, May 11th
Last Day of Class!!!
Thursday, May 18th
- Final Exam, 1030 - 1230
Sunday, May 21st