HNRS 360-003 Spring 2020 [with updates for COVID-19 response]
Last Updated: 9 May 2020

Format for Remainder of Semester in a Nutshell:

Technology in the Contemporary World
Life in the Universe
with Professor Dr. Harold Geller
Subject to change and revisions throughout semester without prior notice

Twitter @AstroBioProf :: Observatory Observing Sessions and Talks :: Planetary Habitability Laboratory
History of the Universe :: The Astrobiology Web :: Astrobiology Magazine :: Ad Astra Astrobio Special Issue
Astronomy Picture of the Day :: Earth Picture of the Day :: Space Calendar :: NASA Image Sites
Space related news (at NASA and others): NASA Watch :: SPACEREF :: :: Universe Today
NASA Astrobiology :: Astrobiology Institute :: Center for Computational Astrobiology :: UW Astrobiology
Mars/life/meteors :: Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers :: Bad Astronomy
Help the Analemma Society establish an observatory in Fairfax County :: Learn about The Barns at Franklin Park in Loudoun County


In this course we will critically analyze emergent technologies and their impact on contemporary culture as our species seeks to understand its place in the universe. The core concepts surrounding the technologies and their legal, social, and ethical issues will be considered. Students will develop a significant research project related to the search for life in the universe which, communicated through written, oral and digital means, demonstrates a critical understanding of the technologies and their impact via multiple disciplinary perspectives. Students will communicate their findings, both verbally and non-verbally, through ethically and culturally aware critical thinking and scientific reasoning.
Major Topics to be Included:
* The physical and chemical basis of the universe and its origins.
* The birth, life and death of galaxies and their stars.
* The geology of solid celestial objects.
* The biochemistry of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere.
* The diversity and similarity of life on Earth and implications for the universe.
* The search for planets outside our own solar system.
* The exploration and colonization of space and its extraterrestrial planets.


Regarding Final Examination

Regarding Term Paper:
* Turned in via e-mail attachment (save trees and cost) as a DOC file to
* Structured (6000 words minimum) with numbered sections
* Abstract (1-page summary; not numbered section)
* Introduction (first numbered section)
* Body (numbered sections with in-text references in APA)
* Conclusion and Suggested Future Research (numbered section)
* References (final numbered section using APA format)
** N.B.- References from peer-reviewed journal articles

Other SPRING 2020 Semester Information - These dates NO LONGER VALID
Classes begin							21 January 2020
Last day to add classes						28 January 2020
Last day to drop						22 February 2020
Spring Break						9 March to 15 March 2020
Last day of classes						4 May 2020
FINAL EXAMINATION for HNRS 353					7 May 2020

Instructor: Grading Policy
			Homework assignments					20 %
			Comprehensive Final					15 %
			Term Papers						30 %
			Class Participation					20 %
			Mid-Term Examination					15 %
Honor Code Adherence
Students are expected to follow the George Mason University rules of student honor. As noted in the catalog:

"George Mason University shares in the tradition of an honor system that has existed in Virginia since 1842. The Honor Code is an integral part of university life. On the application for admission, students sign a statement agreeing to conform to and uphold the Honor Code. Therefore, students are responsible for understanding the provisions of the code. In the spirit of the code, a student's word is a declaration of good faith acceptable as truth in all academic matters. Therefore, cheating and attempted cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing of academic work and related materials constitute Honor Code violations. To maintain an academic community according to these standards, students and faculty must report all alleged violations of the Honor Code to the Honor Committee. Any student who has knowledge of, but does not report, an Honor Code violation may be accused of lying under the Honor Code."

[Source: ]

Course Format - Socratic Discussion
Discussions will consist of various forms of presentation material including videos, computer displays, demonstrations and transparencies. Questions are acceptable at any time during the lecture. Students should be alert during the lecture and prepared to answer queries posed as they arise.

Entry level Competencies
The course is a conceptual-based course using a minimal amount of algebra and geometry. Students should have English composition skills.

Course Objectives
  1. Describe the origins of life in the universe and on Earth.
  2. Explain the scientific method and the philosophy of science, as related to the study of astrobiology.
  3. Describe the physical laws that govern the interaction of matter, energy, time, and space in the cosmos.
  4. State how astrobiologists utilize electromagnetic radiation to gain the knowledge of the mechanics of the birth, life, and death of stars from the distant past.
  5. Appreciate the magnitude of the scientific problem of the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe.
  6. Exploration of biochemical properties of living systems that are essential to all life.
  7. The physical, chemical and biological constraints underlying the exploration of the universe and the habitation of other planets.
Major Topics to be Included
  1. The origins of the universe.
  2. The origins of solar and planetary systems.
  3. The physics of light, gravity, matter, energy, magnetism, radioactivity, nuclear energy, and relativity.
  4. The geology of volcanism, plate tectonics, and erosion as applied to all planets.
  5. The birth and death of stars and galaxies.
  6. The H-R diagram for stars including the location of the main sequence, red giants and white dwarfs.
  7. The "Big Bang" theory of universal creation, pulsars, neutron stars, and black holes.
  8. Stellar and galactic evolution.
  9. Cosmology and life in the universe.
  10. The biochemical principles of all living systems.
  11. The evolution of life on Earth and its biochemical principles.
  12. The physical, chemical and biological aspects of space exploration and the habitation of extraterrestrial planets.
  13. Laboratory work dealing with measuring instruments of the astrobiologist, and drawing conclusions from astrobiological data.

Additional Topics Regarding Classwork
As deemed appropriate, the course may be supplemented with homework, guest speakers and discussions of new discoveries.