This final project is a chance for you to bring something of yourself to my class. While I hope you will take some things away from Astronomy 101, I also want you to take the things youre learning in my class and mix them with the rest of your intellectual life. Or, to put it another way while you may be learning a new way to look at the world in my course, I want you also to look at astronomy using the skills and methods that you have acquired from your other pursuits.

You need not choose a project related to your major; however, I encourage you to choose a project that connects this course to other skills or knowledge that you have. These projects are sorted by discipline, allowing students with particular interests to find suggested projects in their own fields.
You also do not need to choose a project from this list. These are some ideas that I have; you likely have other ideas. Your ideas are likely just as good as mine. If you want to do something else, please read many of these suggestions to get an idea of the directions you may take. If in doubt, come see me during help session and discuss your project ideas with me.
Regardless of what you choose for your project, it should be executed with intellectual skill. While I encourage you to be creative, your project should involve some skill in whatever discipline it has its roots in. Whatever you choose to do, do it well.
Your projects will be graded on the basis of:
creativity and (if appropriate) artistic quality
insight into both astronomical material and any other disciplines involved
depth of thought
rhetorical clarity (but no points will be deducted for purely grammar mistakes)
intellectual effort
The projects will be due on the day of our final exam, December 14.
Essays should be at least three pages (1 inch margins/12 point font/space-and-a-half). However, if you have strong ideas, Im far more interested in the expression of your ideas than in how many pages you use to describe them.
As with any academic paper, please cite your sources if you do research (which you may need to for many topics). Any citation format that allows me to identify the original source is acceptable.
A few project ideas
Literature and the like / text studies
Read Rocket Boys aka October Sky, or watch the movie. Then watch Apollo 13. Both of these texts are quite true to history. What traits do you notice among the scientists and engineers depicted here? How do they solve problems? How do they balance idealism with the detail-oriented technical work that they do?
Watch the docudrama Chernobyl, and if possible listen to the Craig Mazin podcast about it (particularly the last episode). Discuss either or both:
Chernobyl aims both to entertain its audience and to inform them about a historical event. However, in order to understand the story, the audience needs to know some nuclear physics: how a nuclear reactor works, how radioactivity works, and so on. The last episode, in particular, does a fantastic job of educating the audience while still telling a gripping story. Comment on this aspect of Chernobyl: how it weaves scientific/technical ideas into a compelling story and how it approaches the task of science communication.
Some people have criticized Chernobyl as being unfairly anti-nuclear. Is it a story about the dangers of nuclear power, or is it a more general story about the dangers of technology that is mismanaged? Comment on what you think the moral of Chernobyl is, if there is one. Research the health, environmental, and economic effects of both nuclear power and coal power, its main competitor for most of its history, and comment on the prudence of generating electricity using fission reactors. We are living tens of miles from the oldest operating power reactor in America; what do you think about this?
Watch at least the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica. Comment on the physics of spaceflight depicted, as well as whether you believe this is a possible future for a technically-advanced civilization.
Read The Three-Body Problem () by the Chinese author Liu Cixin in either the original Chinese or in English. The novel describes an encounter between Earth and extraterrestrials from another world with three stars which move chaotically. Comment on the connection between the plot of this book and the actual astromechanical three-body problem; if you choose to do this, Ill send you code for a three-body simulator that you can play with. What is the actual three-body problem, and what does it say about the limitations of pen-and-paper mathematics and the power of computers to solve physics problems?
Read the Heir to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn, three Star Wars novels set a few years after the Battle of Endor. Zahn was a physicist by training, and his writing mixes some pretty clever uses of real-world physics that advance his plot in clever ways with some science-fiction elements. Comment on how his use of real-world physics (the nature of the spying device in Coruscant; the siege of cloaked asteroids) contributes to his storytelling. Alternatively, if you know any other science fiction that has this trait, you may write about it.

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