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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Designing Science Fiction Planets
Science fiction writers craft entire worlds and physical laws with their minds. While planetary formation in the real world is a little different, we can use fantastical places and environments from film, television, and literature as conversation starters to discuss real discoveries that have been made about how planets form and evolve over time. The class will focus on the following overarching questions:
What conditions are required for habitable planets to form?
What types of planets may actually exist, including desert worlds, lava planets, ice planets, and ocean worlds?
What kinds of life could inhabit such diverse worlds?
What types of catastrophic events such as supernovas, asteroid impacts, and climate changes can nurture or destroy planetary habitability?
Weekly meetings will be split between learning the fundamentals of planetary science and astrobiology and discussing planets from fictional works. Students will conduct a final project and presentation where, based on what was learned in class, they will design their own Science Fiction World (and accompanying outline for a book or movie) that includes details about how their planet formed and changed over time, as well as whether it could realistically be capable of sustaining life.