ASTR 4800 -- SPRING 2005


TITLE: CRITICAL THINKING: Space Science: Practice & Policy

TIME AND PLACE: Duane E-126 (Smart Classroom), MWF (10:00-10:50 am)

PROFESSOR: Michael Shull

OFFICE, PHONE, E-MAIL: Duane C-328A, (303) 492-7827,

PREREQUISITES: Junior-Senior status (typically ASTR or PHYS or Aerospace, but also open to students in other departments). Course prerequisites: ASTR 1010/1020 (or 1110/1120 or 1030/1040 or PHYS 1110/1120 or PHYS 2010/2020).

COURSE CONTENT: ASTR 4800 was developed as a Critical Thinking course for the Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum. Students from all majors are welcome, but they should have taken at least one Core Science sequence in ASTR or PHYS. Students will be introduced to current controversies in science that illustrate the scientific method and the interplay of observation, theory, and science policy. Students will research and debate both sides of key issues, including strategies and spinoffs of space exploration, funding of science, ``big science vs. small science'', scientific heresy and fraud. This term, discussion topics will include NASA's policy for Space Exploration, the future of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA Strategic Planning, and a range of science questions taken from astrophysics and planetary sciences (for example: origin of the universe, galaxy formation, black holes, extra-solar planets, water/life on Mars, etc.)

GRADING : I will base 60% of the course grade on assigned writing (weekly position papers), in-class presentations, and debates. The final exam will count for 25%, and the quality of your in-class participation is worth 15%. Classes run from Jan 10 through April 29, with the final exam on Tuesday May 3, 2005 (1:30 - 4:00 pm).

COURSE GOALS: To train upper-level undergraduate students in the critical reading of articles on science news or science policy. Students will be encouraged to develop independent ideas on US space policy, to write short position papers, and to make effective oral presentations in debate-format.

Chandra X-ray image of NGC 4631 XMM image: Central Region of M31

COURSE DESCRIPTION: After preliminary lectures and readings, members of the class will read and discuss papers involving recent science news and national space-science policy. The seminar-like discussions will deal with current and future NASA space missions and the science that can be done with them.

This seminar will meet for 15 weeks during the term each MWF (10:00 pm), starting Monday Jan. 10 and concluding Friday April 29. The format will begin with introductory lectures by Shull and other APS faculty members, followed by student-led discussions and presentations. For some classes, I will assign teams of students to lead a debate-format discussion of the ``topic of the week''. Prior to these discussions, all students will submit short written position papers on the debate topic. Each student will review several papers throughout the semester. However, all students are responsible for reading the weekly paper. Please treat this reading seriously and come prepared to describe and discuss the major results. The seminar discussions will be much less effective if some members of the audience remain silent on the topic. The class will be limited in size (25 students maximum) to facilitate active and vigorous discussion.


    Jan. 10 - Background Lecture 1 - Space Science Overview (Mike Shull)

    Jan. 12 - Background Lecture 2 - X-ray Astronomy (Mitch Begelman)

    Jan. 14 - Background Lecture 3 - Hubble Space Telescope (Mike Shull)

    Jan. 17 - Holiday (Dr. Martin Luther King) - no class

    Jan. 19 - The NASA "Space Exploration Vision" (Moon, Mars and Beyond)

    Jan. 21 - Debate #1 (Hubble Servicing: Humans or Robots?)

    Jan. 24 - NASA Funding; Future of Space Exploration (Dick McCray)

    Jan. 26 - The Modern Universe Space Telescope (10m UV-O Vision Mission - James Green)

    Jan. 28 - Debate #2 (Moon-Mars-Beyond motivation-- Science or Industry?)

    Jan. 31 - Discussion (NASA strategic planning)

    Feb. 2 - Discussion (NASA strategic planning and new missions)

    Feb. 4 - Debate #3 (Origins, Evolution, and Fate themes)

    Feb. 7 - Discussion (Constellation-X, LISA, TPF Missions)

    Feb. 9 - Discussion (JWST, TPF Missions)

    Feb. 11 - Debate #4 (Space Shuttle/ISS vs. New Missions)

    Feb. 14 - Discussion (Planetary Roadmap)

    Feb. 16 - Discussion (Mars Roadmap)

    Feb. 18 - Guest Lecture (Fran Bagenal) - Exploration of Outer Planets

    Feb. 21 - Guest Lecture (Brian Hynek) - Results from Mars Rover

    Feb. 23 - Guest Lecture (Bob Pappalardo) - Plans for Europa

    Feb. 25 - Guest Lecture (Larry Esposito) - Cassini Results at Saturn

    Feb. 28 - NASA's space astrophysics program

    Mar. 2 - NASA's space astrophysics program

    Mar. 4 - Debate #5 (Which NASA Programs to Save?)

    Mar. 7 - Dark Matter and Dark Energy (NASA, NSF missions)

    Mar. 9 - Dark Matter and Dark Energy (NASA, NSF missions)

    Mar. 11 - Debate #6 (JDEM, Dark Energy Mission -- for or against?)

    Mar. 13 - NAS decade study (large ground-based telescopes)

    Mar. 15 - NAS decade study (large ground-based telescopes)

    Mar. 17 - NAS decade study (large ground-based telescopes)

    Apr. 4 - Debate #7 (Which Ground Based Telescope? GSMT or LSST)

    Apr 6 - Sun and Solar System (SOHO, TRACE, Voyager, etc)

    Apr 8 - Near-Earth Objects (asteroids, comets) and Impacts

    Apr 11 - Near-Earth Objects (asteroids, comets) and Impacts

    Apr. 13 - Guest Lecture (Dan Baker) - NASA Sun-Earth Missions)

    Apr. 15 - Guest Lecture (Bob Ergun) - NASA Space Physics Missions)

    Apr. 18 - Debate #8 (How to Save Sun-Earth Missions?)

    Apr 20 - Lecture (TBD)

    Apr. 22 - Guest Lecture (TBD)

    Apr. 25 - Debate #9 (Near-Earth Asteroids -- detection?)

    Apr. 27 - Debate #10 (Near-Earth Asteroids -- public policy?)

    Apr. 29 - Last Class (wrap-up of term's themes)

    May 3 (Tuesday, 1:30-4:00 pm) - Final Exam

    Last modified Feb. 15, 2005 by JMS