Life as a Planetary Phenomenon (Gen Ed 1070)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Is there alien life beyond Earth?

 

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Dimitar Sasselov

What is it about Earth that enables life to thrive? This question was reinvigorated with the 2016 ground-breaking discovery of a habitable planet around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. A decade of exploration confirmed that such planets are common in our galaxy, and the commonality of habitable planets has raised anew some age-old questions: Where do we come from? What is it to be human? Where are we going? Are we alone in the universe? And last, but not least, what are the dangers of becoming a multi-planet species? Life and planets are intricately linked through geological processes, chemistry, and ultimately, biology, all of which you will explore in this course as we endeavor to answer questions about our place on this planet and beyond. You will gain knowledge of some natural sciences fundamentals while exploring current issues in biotechnology and space exploration technology. This course aims to equip you with both a conceptual understanding of Earth and its place in the universe as well as the quantitative reasoning to think critically about it. Hands-on experiences are central to accomplishing these objectives. 

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