This course treats our current understanding of the role that the laws of physics play in the development, existence, persistence, and prevalence of life in the universe. Starting with the big bang theory, we will explore how the laws of physics guided the evolution of the universe through the processes most likely to have produced life on earth as it exists today. We will then consider what the laws of physics have to say about life elsewhere in the universe, including an analysis of the prospects for life on other bodies in the solar system, especially Mars, and the physics behind the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the feasibility of human interstellar and intergalactic spaceflight. Through discussion- and group-based learning as well as laboratory exercises, we will study fundamental interactions and the early universe; nuclear, atomic, and molecular structure; Newton's laws and the formation of stars, galaxies, and planetary systems; thermonuclear fusion in stars; the physical origin of the chemical elements; the laws of electricity and magnetism and electromagnetic radiation; the laws of thermodynamics, atmospheric physics, and physical processes on primordial earth; optics and electromagnetic communication; rocket propulsion and advanced propulsion systems; and the theories of special and general relativity, quantum physics, complexity, and emergence.
High School Students
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri