College Of Arts And Sciences | Finding Places to Live
E105 | 0195 | Durisen, R.


Whether life exists elsewhere in the Universe is a complex,
multifaceted question of contemporary interest which has no generally
accepted answer and is often charged with strong, individual beliefs.
Science tends to deal with big question like this by breaking them
down into much smaller, answerable questions. This course would guide
students through a rational dissection of the question. A particular
emphasis will be on the subquestion: How common are worlds that might
be hospitable to life? Through exercises and projects, students would
hopefully learn how to “think like an astronomer” in addressing this
particular question. Content would include theories and observations
about star and planet formation, recent discoveries of extrasolar
planets, plans for future planet searches, and current strategies
used to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Hopefully, by the
end, students will feel that their opinions about life in the
Universe are more informed, that they can share the intellectual
excitement surrounding the question of life in the Universe, and that
they have a better appreciation for the likelihood of more definitive
answers in their lifetimes.