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SETI: TEACHING SCIENCE WITH A SINGLE EQUATION.

SETI: TEACHING SCIENCE WITH A SINGLE EQUATION. Dail W. Mullins Jr., Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction and University Honors Program, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294.

During two recent non-consecutive summer terms I developed and taught a one-semester, three credit-hour undergraduate Honors seminar on the subject of "SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." The course was cross-listed as an elective seminar both in the University Honors Program and in secondary science education. As a general focus for the course content I used the variables in the now famous Drake Equation (N = R x [f.sub.p] x [n.sub.e] x [f.sub.l] x [f.sub.i] x [f.sub.e] x L), prefaced with an historical introduction to the topic of SETI and closing with an open class discussion of the provocative ideas advanced in Carl Sagan's novel Contact and the complementary notions of Timothy Ferris in his book, The Mind's Sky. Mainly because of the Drake Equation, I have found the topic of SETI to be an extraordinarily useful pedagogical vehicle for introducing students--primarily non-science majors, but also undergraduate secondary science education majors--to a wide variety of science topics and con cepts, all within the framework of a theme which most find irresistibly fascinating: the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. My experience has been that most students are more or less "attuned" to the topic, perhaps because of the popularity among many young people of the literary and cinematic genres of fantasy and science fiction.
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Publication:Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:251
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