Refresh this page periodically, as the details may shift as the class progresses. There are 15 weeks x 3 days/wk = 45 possible lectures. But, with Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and four tests, there are actually only 39 possible lecture days. Units I-III have 7 days each; Unit IV has 8 and Unit V has 4. We'll spend 4 days watching and commenting on two movies leaving (39 - 7 - 7 - 7 - 8 - 4 - 4 = 2) two days at the end of the semester for working on and starting to present your projects. More on that in class.

Lecture Topic
Selected Fiction
M: movies; S: shorts; N: novels; P: podcast; E: e-Book
Text Reading
Due Date

Unit I. How High Can You Jump? (gravity, density, destiny?)

1-7M Aug 31 - W Sep 16* Welcome! Syllabus; mutual expectations; math expectations; the nature of Science Fiction; a short tour of the Solar System's planets; the gravity of the situation; density; units; scientific notation; general math expectations; escape velocity; how to assemble a stellar system with raw ingredients; heat sources; gravitational tidal effect; constructing things in orbit, on the Moon, etc.; radiogenic does not mean your voice is nice on the radio; fixing the problem of heavy g: spin! Kepler's laws (especially #3!); coriolis force; gravitational construction of a solar system with raw materials; M: John Carter (of Mars), Star Wars V, ESB (asteroid scene), Total Recall (1990 version, Mars again), Outland (Io)
N: A Princess of Mars E. Burroughs, The Moon is Harsh Mistress R. Heinlein, Dragon's Egg R. Forward, Mission of Gravity H. Clement
S: Nightfall on the Peak of Eternal Light, Lovett & Gleason
Ch 1, Ch 2.3-2.5, Ch 7.1-7.2
Participation #1 due M Sep 14
HW #1 due M Sep 21
Test 1 on M Sep 28

Unit II. Turning Up the Heat (flux, inverse square law, greenhouse effect)

8-14F Sep 18 - M Oct 5 Color, temperature; blackbody radiation, flux, effective temperature, albedo, Stefan-Boltzman law; inverse-r2 law, greenhouse effect and how to calculate (estimate) it; Archaic Earth, Future Earth, oxygen is a poison! ICEBALL Earth? Weather! Hadley cells (more coriolis!), hurricanes; pressure/temperature diagrams; water-covered planets? M: Star Wars (any: Tatooine, Hoth, Dagobah, Kamino), Sunshine (2007) d: Danny Boyle, Waterworld
S,P: Nightfall Isaac Asimov
N: Dune F. Herbert(Dune), Solaris Stanislaw Lem
S: Weep For Day by I. Das, Becalmed in Hell L. Niven
Ch 8.1-8.2.6; 8.2.9; 5.1,5.4-5.6; also read this link!
HW #2 due F Oct 9
Test 2 on F Oct 16

Unit III. Playing With Chemicals (atmospheres, gas giants, liquids)

15-21W Oct 7 - F Oct 23 Elemental inventory; holding on to an atmosphere; atmospheric layers; stratosphere and ozone; origin of Earth's atmosphere; column mass, oxidation vs. reduction; spectra (transparency and quantum mechanics, gas giant chemistry; floating cities? N: Gulliver's Travels (Laputa)
S: Buckminster Fuller's Cloud Nine concept; Hugo Gernsback's floating city
M: Star Wars V, ESB (Cloud City), Avatar (Pandora) (2009 d: J. Cameron), (and N):War of the Worlds H.G. Wells
N,E: Deathworld H. Harrison
Ch 5.1-2, 6.1-6.3;
Ch 5 is a good starting point, but for more detail, check out this very readable link; be sure to click around the site in detail. Ch. 6 in our textbook is a little weak; read through this link on gas giant chemistry which may help a bit more.
HW #3 due W Oct 28
Test 3 on W Nov 4

Unit IV. Bring Me To Life!

22-29M Oct 26 - Nov 13** We will cover what is expected for your group's final project; also, begin life unit! Life may start "quickly" on the Earth, but it takes a while (one data point!) to get interesting...also, mid-semester course evaluations (your opinions matter!); the long trek from single celled life to multicellular life; the nature of natural selection; Cambrian radiation (with Ediacaran premonition?); the "explosion" of fossils just because of mineralization; the usefulness of orogeny (shallow sea enrichment from erosion!); conquering the continents (plants, then arthropods, then amphibians...); extinction lurks at random junctures! (How will extinction affect your stellar system?) Brobdingnagians and Liliputians (or why are fleas so strong?); the square/cube law; what is intelligence? Why and how does it arise? Drake Equation and Fermi's Paradox; communication and language; SETI N: Ender's Game (also now a movie) Orson Scott Card; any of the Humanx Commonwelath and "Pip and Flinx" novels by Alan Dean Foster
M: The Thing (1982) d: John Carpenter, and synonymous prequel: (2011) d: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., Alien (1979) d: Ridley Scott, Evolution (2001) d: Ivan Reitman, Contact (1997) d: R. Zemeckis; K-PAX (2001) d: I. Softley; The Day of the Dolphin (1973) d: M. Nichols
S: Call Me Joe, Poul Anderson, (collection): The 400-Million Year Itch by Steven Utley
Alas, I should make you buy a 2nd textbook ($$$$$); instead here are a few enlightening links and you are encouraged to seek out other sources for more depth
  • Nice blog about somewhat controversial 3.4 Ga-old fossils [good blog in general - poke around]
  • Ediacaran biota (Britannica)
  • Ediacaran biota (Wikipedia)
  • Ediacaran fauna (nice introduction)
  • Cambrian Period U. of Calif. Museum of Paleontology
  • Cambrian Explosion (PBS)
  • Cambrian Period Wikipedia article
  • and the related Cambrian Explosion entry
  • Drake Equation (Wikipedia)
  • Drake Equation (SETI)
  • HW #4 due W Nov 18
    Test 4 on W Nov 25

    Putting It Together

    30-33M Nov 16 - M Nov 23 Clips from:
    • Avatar (Pandora) (2009 d: J. Cameron)
    • Alien (1979 d: R. Scott)
    and discussion. Bring your analysis game. There's a lot these movies get right, but not everything! If you're squeamish about what amounts to a horror movie, let me know in an email ASAP!

    Unit V. Terraforming (or Planetary Engineering)

    34-38M Nov 30 - W Dec 9 What are the conditions we need for an "Earth" analog? What Solar System objects might be easiest to terraform? Last day is for advice on your project; free group time to polish your work! N: Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars (trilogy) K. Robinson, Last and First Men O. Stapledon, Farmer in the Sky R. Heinlein, The Snows of Ganymede P. Anderson, Greening of Mars J. Lovelock, M. Allaby
    M: The Martian 2015 d. R. Scott
    Ch. 2; (and Red Mars, too!)
    HW #5 due W Dec 9
    no Test! Work on projects due Th Dec 10 (presentation) and F Dec 11 (paper)
    --Th Dec 17 PRESENTATIONS part II Eleven Groups Final Exam date and time confirmed, alas: Thursday, Dec 17th 8-10am in PHYS 1410

    *Monday September 14th is the last day for painless schedule adjustments (add/drop). back

    **Monday November 9th is the last day to drop with a "W" (not to scare you). back

    A "slippage day" (or "wrap-up" lecture) allows for any falling behind on my part. If we catch up sometime before this day is over, open time is allotted for questions on any of the material so far. back

    Last Modified: Nov 2015 subject to change
    © 2015 Alan Peel ALL RIGHTS RESERVED