Life in the Universe

Curriculum Focus

This unit addresses the major questions around the possibilities of life existing in the Universe. Through a detailed investigation of the Drake Equation and its terms, students will learn about the theoretical structures of the Universe and their implications for its future evolution, Black holes and Stellar Evolution. Students will grapple with the nature of time, space and energy as they work towards determining the possibilities of encountering alien life in our Galaxy and beyond.

At the same time, students will be exposed to up-to-date research into the Solar System and Extrasolar planets. They will learn about the fundamental requirements for life and identify characteristics that define intelligence.

Students will explore the driving factors that lead to the evolution of a planetary civilisation and then explore possible future civilisation types and their energy requirements. The course will delve into the realms of science fiction as topics such as interstellar travel, communication with alien civilisations, the colonisation of other worlds and time travel are all explored in depth.

By studying this subject, students will gain a better appreciation for the mystery and beauty of our existence in the Universe.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this unit students will have an appreciation of the major themes in the areas of astrophysics and cosmology. This will include:

The Big Bang and possible fates of the Universe;

Stellar evolution and black holes;

The Solar System and extrasolar planets;

The Drake Equation;

Factors that lead to and are necessary for the development of life;

Civilisation types;

Space travel;

Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and time travel;

The possibility and nature of Artificial Intelligence.

Assessment

Individual and group project tasks

Semester exam