Teacher's Guide for ODYSSEYTM Fate of the Universe
Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
Article / Page
"When the Lights Go Out: The Death of the Galaxies," pg. 6
"So Long, Sol!", " pg. 13
- Follow the time line of the cosmos and look ahead toward the universe's googol-th birthday, when even the black holes evaporate. Sidebars explore the secrets of dark matter and prepare us for the "collision" of the Milky Way with the Andromeda galaxy - 6 billion years from now!
- Cause / Effect, Prediction
"Life As We (Will Never) Know It," pg. 16
- What will happen to earth and our solar system as the sun grows old? Because stars die predictable deaths, scientists know what to expect in the next 5 billion years. The question is, What can intelligent beings do about it?
- Cause / Effect, Problem-Solving
"Xenod Number Bush" (Brain Strain), pg. 19
- A scientist speculates about life in a universe populated only by black holes. Creatures larger than our galaxy might think thoughts requiring millions of years to complete.
- Inductive Reasoning, Extrapolation
"What 'Shape' Is the Universe?", pg. 20
- Solve this mathematical puzzle to save the earth from annihilation.
- Following Directions, Mathematical Reasoning
"Desperately Seeking . . . Another Universe!", pg. 24
- Is the universe flat, spherical, or saddle-shaped? This activity demonstrates how simple measurements can answer that question. A sidebar on Einstein's cosmological constant defines unknown forces.
- Inductive Reasoning, Following Directions
"Faster and Faster . . . Forever?", pg. 26
- Some astronomers speculate that our universe might give birth to other ones. Faced with the extinction of one universe, might an advanced civilization escape through a wormhole into another?
- Extrapolation, Deductive Reasoning
"Cosmic Fortuneteller: An Interview with Astronomer Greg Laughlin," pg. 32
- Saul Perlmutter and his team refined a technique for finding Type Ia supernovae. The method led to some startling discoveries and even more startling conclusions. Sidebars explain the spectral fingerprints of stars and how redshifts measure cosmic expansion.
- Inductive Reasoning, Hypothesis-Testing
"Where Is the Center of the Universe?" (Activity), pg. 34
- Laughlin answers questions about the evolution and expansion of the universe.
- Extrapolation, Inductive Reasoning
"What's Up? (Planet Watch and Backyard Observations)," pg. 38
- Using transparencies, observe what an earthbound astronomer might see when looking toward other galaxies.
- Modeling, Drawing Conclusions
- Planets, meteor showers, constellations, galactic clusters - they're all visible in April's night sky.
- Observation, Cultural Connections
Classroom "Syzygy": Talk, Connect, Assess
- Make lists to answer the following questions: "What do we know about the cosmos?" "What do we think we know about the cosmos?" "What would we like to know about the cosmos?" Revise your lists as you read the issue. Unanswered questions might prove appropriate topics for further research.
- Do studies of the universe have any practical application, or are they important only to astronomers, hobbyists, and science fiction fans? Talk about how the birth and death of stars, the movements of galaxies, and the fate of the universe might relate to how we live, work, and think.
Pg. 6 - "When the Lights Go Out: The Death of the Galaxies"
Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine
pg. 26 - "Faster and Faster . . . Forever?"
- Talk It Over:
- List objects, events, and processes defined in the article. Discuss black holes, pulsars, neutrinos, and more. Identify questions for further research.
- Was this a depressing article? Why or why not? Is it uncomfortable to think about the cosmos ending? What are the alternatives to the expanding (and dying) theory presented here?
- Mathematics: Look again at the time line that begins on page 7. The use of cosmological decades simplifies ever-increasing numbers. Ask students to think of other situations where numbers grow at an ever-increasing rate. (Population growth and the acceleration of a car might provide helpful examples to begin the discussion.) Make a poster of "Special Number Cases."
- Language Arts: Pretend you can travel through time. Visit one of the eras described in the article. Since you will remember nothing when you return, record in your journal everything you see and do. Add illustrations to your descriptions.
- Art: Select a moment of cosmic drama - a supernova, the birth of a black hole, a collision of galaxies, or some other - and draw what you think it might look like. Try to capture the scale and energy of the event in your artwork.
- Student Assessment:
- In a multiparagraph essay, explain how "cosmic decades" measure time. Name and describe five eras and tell what happens in each.
- You are about to appear before the Interplanetary Board of Exploration. Your goal is to request unlimited funding to find a way to survive the Degenerate Era. Persuade the board that your mission is worth all the resources they control.
- Talk It Over:
- What is a "standard candle?" By comparison, what clues help earthbound observers estimate the distance to the horizon or the height of a faraway mountain?
- What hypotheses might explain the accelerating expansion of the universe? What data are needed to test those hypotheses?
- Art: Infrared telescopes allow astronomers to "see" heat. What if a telescope could reveal "dark energy"? Draw what space might look like through such a device.
- Creative Writing: What if every moving object accelerated as it traveled? (See the picture of the baseball player on pg. 30.) How would ball games be played? How would automobiles be constructed differently? Pick a situation and write a guidebook of rules or an owner's manual on operation.
- History: Our knowledge of the universe has changed dramatically in the last century. Make a list of what we thought about the universe in the year 1900. Then construct a time line, adding new discoveries through 2000.
- Student Assessment:
- Explain how spectra and redshift identify stars and measure their movements.
- Pretend you are the cosmologist. You have just disproved the accelerating expansion of the universe theory. Present a speech to other scientists explaining your work.
"If it's true the entire universe . . . "
Class Project: Find the longest straight hallway in school and obtain permission to use it as a Cosmic Time Line. Measure the length of the hallway. Stretch a length of freezer paper along it at eye level. Establish one end as the moment of the Big Bang. Decide whether you want your time line to end in the present or a later era. Develop a scale to locate points along the time line for the formation of the first atoms, the first stars, the first galaxies, and more. Mark these points on the paper. Write a pamphlet guests and visitors can use to take a self-guided tour of your time line.
"Is expanding every day,"
Large-Group Collaboration: Write and publish a newspaper dated 5 billion years in the future. The front-page headline reads, "Sun Dying, Scientists Ponder Human Future." Break the class into teams. Assign each group a section of the newspaper (news, people, sports, entertainment, and so forth). Arrange the articles in a multiple-column format and design other headlines. Copy the paper for the class, other students and teachers, and the school library.
"That might explain why summer vacation . . . "
Small-Group Collaboration: Publish a booklet titled Universal Stars. On each page, feature a biography of a notable astronomer or cosmologist - contemporary or historical. Include pictures if possible. Individual students can work on their own pages, or students can work in teams.
"Seems so far away."
Community Connection: Schedule an evening Star Party. (Pick a Friday with a Saturday as a backup in case the weather doesn't cooperate.) Invite parents and members of local amateur astronomy groups. Use the "What's Up?" guide to begin your observations. Ask partygoers to select a pattern of stars and draw it carefully. Give each star group an appropriate constellation name and write a myth to explain its origins. Post the drawings as party decorations and tell the myths around a campfire.