DRAFT 28 January 2012

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DRAFT


28

January 2012


1

Building and Maintaining

a Habitable Planet

Proposed
Geological Sciences
Course

(01:460:203
)
,
Fall
2013



Professor Robert Kopp

Robert.Kopp@rutgers.edu

Office: 225 Wright Lab, Busch Campus

Phone: 732
-
200
-
2705

(but email is best)

Office hours

TBD


Catalog Description:

Understanding

human
-
caused

environmental changes in in the context of
Earth
’s
4.6 billion year history
. Geological and human timescales; planetary habitability;

planetary
,

biological
,
and
civilizational

flows of energy and entropy; feedbacks between life, the carbon cycle, and climate; the
evolution of complex life;
human alterations of the Earth system; intelligent life in the Universe.


Course Description


Humanity has become a geological

force, res
haping Earth’s land, atmosphere,
oceans
and climate
through
our activities.
Some geologists have proposed that this era of human influence be recognized as a new
geological epoch, the Anthropocene. “We are as gods and we HAVE to get good at it,”

the writer Stewart
Brand says, yet “
civilization’s shortening attention span is mismatched with the pace of environmental
problems
.” How do we reconcile the time scale of news cycles, quarterly reports, and elections with the
timescale of our impacts, whi
ch will last for tens of thousands if not millions of years?


This course will
prepare you to be an informed citizen of our empowered global civilization, able to step
outside the realm of short
-
termism and
interpret the environmental changes humanity is
effecting today in
in the cont
ext of
our planet’s

4.6 billion year
history.
We will address
questions

such as:
Why is the Earth
so habitable, while
Mars is at best marginally so and Venus totally
uninhabitable
?

How did life

evolve to

regulate the planet’s
chemical and
energy

flows before we arrived on
the scene
? How does
human
civilization

fit into
this long

history
, and what are the implications of the planetary and human experience
for the frequency of intelligent life in the
U
niverse
?




Indicative Cours
e Schedule (Subject to Revision)


Part I: Setting the Stage


1.

The Earth as a system

2.

The nature of time

3.

Measuring time


Part II: Habitability through Earth history


Part II
a
: Energy and entropy


4.

The concepts of energy and entropy

5.

Planetary energy and entropy

1: Climate in the planetary habitable zone

6.

Planetary energy and entropy 2: The diverging climate histories of Venus, Earth and Mars

7.

Biological energy

and entropy

1: P
hotosynthesis, respiration, and other metabolisms

8.

Biological energy and entropy 2:
The
power of oxygen


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January 2012


2

Part IIb
: Feedbacks between life, the carbon cycle, and climate


9.

Feedbacks in t
he global carbon cycle

10.

Snowball Earth: the world’s first biologically
-
caused climate catastrophe

11.

Forests and feedbacks: t
he climatic impact of land plan
ts


Part

IIc
: The rise and fall of species


12.

Cooperation, competition, and the evolution of complex life

13.

The life and death of species

14.

Past global catastrophes

15.

Group presentations
: Climatic and evolutionary events

16.

Mid
-
term exam


Part III
: The rise (and fall?) of
humanity


17.

The climate that g
a
ve rise to humanity

18.

Cooperation, competition and the development of human civilization

19.

Energy and entropy in
human history

20.

The life and death of species in the Anthropocene

21.

Energy and entropy in modern human civilization

22.

The
climate and the carbon cycle in the Anthropocene

23.

Planetary boundaries

24.

Toward a sustainable future?

25.

Global catastrophic risks

26.

Implications for the frequency of intelligent life in the Universe

27.

Group presentations
:
The future
s

of civilization


28.

Group
presentations (continued)

29.

Final exam



Texts

(Subject to Revision)


Charles
Langmuir &
Wally
Broecker,
How to build a habitable plane
t

Oliver Morton
,
Eating the Sun


Additional articles will be
posted on Sakai and
assigned during the course of the term.


Assignments (Subject to Revision)


“Minute” Papers

will be occasionally assigned either pre
-
class or in the last few minutes of class. These
are graded on completeness, and will generally involve writing a 1
-
paragraph reflection upon or question
about mate
rial covered in class or in the readings, or responding to a short prompt. These will count
toward the class participation portion of your grade.


In
-
class exercises

will sometimes be collected and will count toward your course participation grade.


Problem sets

are designed to help you get comfortable with the mechanics of the
Earth

system.



Collaboration and citations:

You are welcome

to collaborate on the
problem sets
. You can also
use any resources available to you. Scientists collaborate with e
ach other all the time; they just cite each
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January 2012


3

other to avoid “stealing” ideas. Therefore, I ask that you
explicitly cite

any ideas or hints you get from
other people, books, the Internet, or other resources, in your homework.




Guidelines:

Please make sure
submitted homework assignments adhere to the following


guidelines to avoid plagiarism or losing credit unnecessarily:



Cite any work you get from outside sources, and any classmates or others with whom you
work. (If you do a problem completely in your own

head, state so explicitly.)



Show your work and explain your thinking (so that someone who didn’t know how to
solve the problem could follow your work). If you are doing a problem set in Excel,
please make sure any parameters are explicit in their own cell
s, not hidden in formulas;
and annotate your spreadsheet with textual statements of the relevant equations or
algorithms.



Box, circle, or highlight your final answer(s). Make your conclusions clear.


Group Presentations

provide the opportunity to share, d
evelop and implement ideas collaboratively.
They will each culminate in in
-
class oral presentation and a 1
-
page abstract.



Grading:

Grades will be

based on
both
your presentation and abstract. At the time you turn these
into Sakai, you should also give me

a paragraph statement, reflecting the consensus of your group, on the
contribution of each group member to the activity. These contributions will be taken into account in
assigning your grade. The abstract, final slide deck, and contribution statement are

due midnight two days
after the presentations are given in class. For every 24 hours past the deadline an assignment is turned in,
half a letter grade will be deducted.



Citations:

Any figures on your slides that you did not generate yourself must be cit
ed in (Author,
Year) format in the corner of a slide. You should have a “References” slide at the end of your slide deck,
which need not be presented but should provide full citations for all of these.



Guidelines:

Use PowerPoint, Keynote, or comparable s
oftware to prepare your presentation. In
general, effective PowerPoint presentations use the slides to highlight key figures; if your slides are more
than 25% text on average, they are probably not designed as well as they could be. Please do not spend
yo
ur presentation reading text off your slides.


Abstracts should be double
-
spaced, 1” margin, 12 pt Times New Roman font, and no more than 1
page. The bibliography does not count toward the page limit.


Presentations, in PPT or PDF format, should be uploade
d to Sakai after your presentation and will
be made available to the entire class. Your abstract, in DOC, RTF or PDF format, should also be
uploaded to Sakai and will likewise be shared. Please include the name of all group members on both the
title page o
f the slide deck and on the abstract.


Exams
:

Exams will be done individually and in class. You may prepare a single sheet of paper to use as a
reference during the exam.


Extra credit:

You can get extra credit by participating in discussion on the class Sakai site of (1)
geological and environmental
talks happening on campus and (2) related news articles that I post on the
Sakai site. I will try to keep you informed of opportunities as
I become aware of them, and please let me
know of any interesting seminars or news articles you find. For news articles, good places to look include
realclimate.org,
eenews.net (I encourage you to sign up for their daily newsletters),
green.blogs.nytimes.c
om and climateprogress.org.



Grading (Subject to Revision)


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January 2012


4

The grading metric will be subject to revision, but will be roughly:


10
%: Attendance and course participation

20%: Problem sets

20%: Group presentations

50
%: Mid
-
term and final exams


Attendance


The class
es

exist
to help

you achieve the goals of the course, and it will be much harder for you to do so
without them.
I

therefore

expect you to attend and participate in class; this will constitute
part

of your
grade. If you have a legitimate reason for not attending (e.g., illness, family emergency, etc.), please
use
the University absence reporting website https://sims.rutgers.edu/ssra to indicate the date and reason for
your absence. An email
will be
sent to automatically
.

Absent extreme extenuating circumstances, please
send a notification at least twenty
-
four hours in advance.


Likewise,
both so that you get the fully learning experience and out of respect for your fellow students,
I
expect you to sh
ow up to class on time. Failure to arrive in a timely fashion on a regular basis will lower
your course participation grade.


No unexcused make
-
up exams

and recitations

will be given. Those with valid excuses will be allowed to
take exams and make
-
up
recit
ations

in a method
that I will determine
.

To be valid, an excuse
must

be
obtained from
me

prior to the lab/exam being missed. It is
your

responsibility of the student to
communicate with
me

and to keep a proof of such communication. Rare cases of extreme e
mergency
preventing timely communication
must

be discussed with the
Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences’
Undergraduate Director and/or Department Chair.



Electronic Devices (Phones, Computers, Tablets)


Humans are poor but self
-
deluding multitaskers.

We can cycle attention between different tasks, but have
great difficulty actually focusing on multiple activities at the same time. For example, it is extremely
unlikely that you can give full attention to the class if you are on your phone or checking o
ut Facebook at
the same time.


Please be respectful of me and your fellow students


please do not use your phone in class. If phone use
in class is a recurring problem, I will talk to you about it; and if it persists, I will regard a day in which
you
check your phone in class as an unexcused absence, and it will affect your class participation grade
accordingly.


Likewise, laptop or tablet use in class is allowable only in support of class activities. Appropriate uses
include making presentations, read
ing papers, taking notes, or looking up something class
-
related on the
Internet in response to specific instructions from me. Examples of inappropriate uses include checking
email, Facebook, Twitter, or GChat. Inappropriate laptop or tablet use will be tre
ated the same way as
phone use.


Academic Integrity


All students are responsible for upholding the highest standards of student behavior, as specified under
the University Code of Student Conduct, including but not limited to strict adherence to the term
s of the
University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

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January 2012


5


Please make yourself familiar with the terms of the University Code of Student Conduct
(http://studentconduct.rutgers.edu/), including the University’s Academic Integrity Policy
(http://academicintegrity.ru
tgers.edu/).