Syllabus for Life In the Universe class

Intelligent Life in the Universe

Dr. James R. Webb

Course Number: AST-2037

This is a new course which is designed for the interested student to scientifically expolre the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. Speculation about alien life has occupied people's mind since the times of the ancient Greeks, but only recently are we in a position to actually explore this interesting subject in a meaningful way. This is a Science course, all idle speculation, religious beliefs, and fanciful ideas will be checked at the door! The scientific method will be our guide through the many aspects of this issue, and we will analyze carefully what our conception of life here on the Earth is, before we can even start educated speculation about life elsewhere. The first 1/3 of this course will consist of astronomical background we will need. If you have taken introductory astronomy, either AST- 2100 or AST 2201 you will be ahead of the game, if you have not the relevant material will be presented quickly and it might take some additional work to keep up. The next third of the course will be a glimpse of the biological processes responsible for life as we know it here on Earth. Special attention will be given to the conditions on the Planet Earth that seems to be necessary for the survival of life. The last 1/3 of the class will concentrate on the search for life elsewhere. We will briefly address the UFO and "ancient astronaunt" questions, putting arguments into a scientific context. Since there is absolutely NO scientific evidence for these claims, they will be quickly dismissed! Most of the time will be spent on studying possible ways to communicate over the vast distances of interstellar space and the possibility that we could recognize a signal from a distant technical society.

The class will be graded as follows: