There are a ton of exceedingly odd collegiate classes floating around out there. I, for one, taught a class about the wonders of Harry Potter at my school before I even got my BA. Long story. Now Edinburgh University is joining the fine tradition of off-beat classes, and they’re doing it online and for free.
Well, fine, this one’s a little less off-beat than courses on, say, alien sex. This course, called “Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life,” will last five weeks, and is part of the university’s set of free online courses. It’s pretty cool, considering how prestigious the school itself is.
Among other things, the course will explore how to go about finding life on other Earth-like planets, as well of the implications of these possible discoveries and what the implications of contact may mean if (or when) it happens.
Professor Charles Cockell, director of the UK Centre for Astrobiology, describes the course as a good introduction to the field of astrobiology, saying that it “It explores the origin and evolution of life on the Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere. Astrobiology addresses compelling questions of wide interest, such as: How did life originate on Earth? Is this an inevitable process and is life common across the universe?”
According to the Huffington Post, this course is a first:
Edinburgh is the first university in the U.K. to join the Coursera consortium, founded by Stanford University computer scientists, that offers free online undergraduate courses to students and adult learners around the world.
If you’re interested in taking part, don’t worry; the class doesn’t start until the fall. Here’s a short outline of what will be covered:
Week 1: The definitions of life and how it originated on Earth.Week 2: Early Earth environments when life first emerged and the various evolutionary transitions of life on Earth.
Week 3: The prospects for life elsewhere in our solar system and the required conditions for a planet to be habitable.
Week 4: How to search for Earth-like planets orbiting distant suns and how to detect possible life there.
Week 5: How earthlings would be impacted by the discovery of an extraterrestrial intelligence.
(via Huffington Post)