This is an exciting course in which we learn about the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth and in the Universe. The material covers aspects of planetary and Earth science, paleontology and biology, astronomy, chemistry, and physics.

In the process we learn about the scientific method and develop critical thinking skills, guided by in-class demonstrations and discussion sections. We focus on conceptual understanding and do not rely on advanced mathematics.

Lectures (three hours/week) are supplemented with active learning exercises, in-class demonstrations, and weekly discussion sections (one hour/week).

The grading format in Fall 2013 will be as follows: Homework and discussion sections will count for 40% of the final grade. Two in-class exams and one final exams will count for 30% each. The lowest of your two mid-term exam scores, relative to your peers, will be dropped in order to maximize your overall grade. There will be an extra credit activity worth up to 10% of the final grade.

Here is the moodle site for this course.

The textbook is Bennett & Shostak "Life in the Universe", third edition (Pearson Education/Addison Wesley).
It is available in multiple formats:
You can buy rights to an on-line version of the textbook (CourseSmart eTextbook Digital Rental:180 days, $56.99).
You can buy a hardcopy (ISBN-10: 0321687671, ISBN-13: 9780321687678), e.g. from
The second edition of the textbook is also acceptable. You can find used copies, e.g. from
You may be able to find used copies on campus.