This course develops a planetary perspective on the evolutionary processes that shaped Earth throughout history. We will examine why Earth is habitable, that is, why any kind of life can live on it, we will discuss the unique influences that biological processes and atmosphere/ocean systems have on each other, and we will review current notions of climate change, including evidence for the influence of human activities on it. This interdisciplinary treatment of Earth and its sister planets will encourage students to think about how science and engineering must be applied to today's challenges if humankind is to have a promising future on (and off) this planet. PTYS 170A1 is a Tier I Natural Science course in the University's general education curriculum. This course is co-convened (cross-listed) with ASTR 170A1.
Fall 2019 Undergraduate Courses
The Universe and Humanity: Origin and Destiny (3)
The Universe And Humanity: Origin And Destiny places Earth and humanity in a broad cosmic context. Topics range from the Big Bang cosmology to human consciousness with emphasis on the events and evolutionary processes that define the physical universe and our place in it. PTYS 170B2 is a Tier I Natural Science course in the University's general education curriculum. This course is co-convened (cross-listed) with ASTR 170B2.
Our Golden Age of Planetary Exploration (3)
PTYS 206 emphasizes the part of the universe that is within reach of direct human experience and exploration. We will review current understanding of the contents of our Solar System and emphasize the processes that unite all of the planets and smaller bodies, such as tectonics, weathering, cratering, differentiation, and the evolution of oceans and atmospheres. The course will build on this knowledge to understand humankind's motivation to explore beyond our Solar System, especially to search for planets around distant stars and to look or listen for evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe. PTYS 206 is a Tier II Natural Science course in the University's general education curriculum. PTYS 206 is cross-listed with ASTR 206. Course requisites: Two courses from Tier One, Natural Sciences.
Astrobiology: A Planetary Perspective (3)
We will explore questions about the origin, evolution, and future of life on Earth and the possibility of life arising independently elsewhere in the Universe. We will examine what it means for a planet to be habitable, both in terms of basic necessities for living organisms to function and environmental limits to their ability to survive. Finally, we will review different approaches for searching for life within the Solar System and beyond using direct and remote sensing techniques. PTYS 214 is a Tier II Natural Science course in the University general education curriculum. PTYS 214 is cross-listed with ASTR 214 and GEOS 214. Course is equivalent to ASTR 202 (students may not receive credit for both courses).
Chemistry of the Solar System (3)
Abundance, origin, distribution, and chemical behavior of the chemical elements in the Solar System. Emphasis on applications of chemical equilibrium, photochemistry, and mineral phase equilibrium theory. Prerequisites: CHEM 152, MATH 129, and PHYS 132 or their equivalents. PTYS 407 is required for the PTYS Minor. PTYS 407 is equivalent to CHEM 407 (not cross-listed).
Asteroids, Comets and Kuiper Belt Objects (3)
This is an introduction to the "minor planets," the asteroids, comets and Kuiper Belt objects. The focus will be on origin and evolution (including current evolution), as well as techniques of study. It will include an evening at the telescope of an asteroid search program. Graduate-level requirement includes some original work or calculations in the paper/project submitted and to research one of the primary topics and lead the class discussion of it. PTYS 416 may be co-convened with PTYS 516.
Origin of the Solar System and Other Planetary Systems (3)
This course will review the physical processes related to the formation and evolution of the protosolar nebula and of protoplanetary disks. In doing that, we will discuss the main stages of planet formation and how different disk conditions impact planetary architectures and planet properties. We will confront the theories of disk evolution and planet formation with observations of circumstellar disks, exoplanets, and the planets and minor bodies in our Solar System. This course may be co-convened with PTYS/ASTR 550.