This website is a work in progress that just started in June 2015 and is intended to promote global access to user-friendly, organized, thematic digital educational resources and to resources available elsewhere in any form or format. Educational resources include published works, works in progress, collections of physical objects that may be useful in a classroom, books, journals, online links, experimental and observational tools, and experts on campus and off.
educational resources for students, educators, and the public – click to expand or collapse
The mission of the cosmic evolution project is to provide inspiration, educational resources, and training to help current and future teachers, informal science educators, and others explore and explain the composition, structure and evolutionary history of the Earth and the universe from the Big Bang to big brains and AI.
The project provides timelines showing the sequence of key events in the evolutionary history of each of these domains. The story of cosmic evolution is told from astrophysical, biological, and biogeochemical perspectives with emphasis on what nature does, not what scientists do.
plausible natural explanations of natural phenomena – click to expand or collapse
The project supports upper division undergraduate student projects and courses and informal science education. The project focuses on plausible natural explanations of natural phenomena, rather than scientific methodology and evidence. Cosmic evolution asks how stars and galaxies and life itself emerged from nothing. The ultimate question in Earth system history is how did a cold dilute cloud of gas and dust evolve into astronauts in a spacecraft orbiting a planet orbiting a star?
volunteer efforts – click to expand or collapse
The project is being developed through the volunteer efforts of Dr. Bob Field, Cal Poly physicist and research scholar in residence. It is an expansion of his Global Evolution Education Project which focuses on the five billion year natural history of planet Earth which is extensively documented on his faculty website at www.calpoly.edu/~rfield. Many students and a number of faculty have participated in this effort and their activities will be described as this website matures.
Our project explores the following elements:
1 - universe timeline – click to expand or collapse
13.7 billion year logarithmic timeline of the sequence of events associated with the origin and evolution of the universe including the diversity, abundance, and distribution of particles, stars, and galaxies.
2 - solar system timeline – click to expand or collapse
five billion year logarithmic timeline of the sequence of events associated with the origin and evolution of our solar system including the Sun and planets and the diversity, abundance, and distribution of matter and energy in the solar system
3 - planet Earth timeline – click to expand or collapse
five billion year linear timeline of the sequence of events associated with the formation and evolution of planet Earth's interior and its geobiosphere which includes the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere
4 - brains and tools timeline – click to expand or collapse
3.4 billion year reverse order logarithmic timeline of the sequence of events associated with the building blocks of brains and tools include the evolution of brains from neurons and the subsequent capacity to make and use tools to extend the ability of animals to explore and control their environment.
Purpose of a Future Institute for Cosmic Evolution
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The top cosmic evolution endowment priorities are as follows:
- Develop a four unit ASTR 470 advanced topics course in cosmic evolution including a reference book, animations, simulations, and other educational resources for distribution at https://evolution.calpoly.edu
- Develop cosmic evolution workshops and internships for high school teachers and others
- Create and offer free cosmic evolution guest lectures, special events, poster displays, exhibits, and books
- Develop lower division college and high school cosmic evolution course materials
Inspiration: The National Academy of Sciences says that the role of science is to provide plausible natural explanations of natural phenomena. Astrophysicist Eric Chaisson asks how islands of complexity can exist for long periods of time in an otherwise sea of chaos. The short answer is that when energy flows, complexity grows. Cosmic evolution studies the emergence of complex systems from simple building blocks when natural processes dissipate energy and entropy. Cosmic evolution is a scientific narrative told from astrophysical and biogeochemical perspectives with emphasis on what nature does, not what scientists do. Cosmic evolution projects explore how galaxies, stars, planets, life, brains, and artificial intelligence emerged from nothing.
Educational resources: The website at https://evolution.calpoly.edu currently organizes cosmic evolution projects into four domains: universe, solar system, Earth and geobiosphere, and brains and tools. Each domain represents increasing complexity and concentration of energy flow. The content should be thematic rather than encyclopedic. Among other things, the project shall provide timelines showing the sequence of key events in the evolutionary history of each domain. The focus should be on the events and underlying physical processes themselves rather than the scientific methodologies and evidence used to discover nature’s secrets. Projects may explore the origin, evolution, diversity, abundance, and distribution of materials and processes in each cosmic evolution domain. Interdisciplinary studies may involve cosmology, astrophysics, Earth and planetary sciences, geophysics, oceanography, atmospheric physics, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, cell biology, biochemistry, neurobiology, astrobiology, artificial intelligence, and philosophy of mind. The project includes more technical and mathematically rigorous content than most informal science programs for the general public or most Big History studies, but its mission does not include support for peer reviewed primary research.
Training: Students may earn academic credit (ASTR or BIOL 200, 400, 404, 470, etc.) for projects that help advance cosmic evolution project goals. Typical projects will analyze and document the composition, structure, formation, and evolution of the universe from cosmic webs to galaxies, stars, and planets. Students may help create timelines of big historical events from the Big Bang to bigger better brains and artificial intelligence for a reference book. Students may use mathematical and modeling software (like Excel, NetLogo, and Mathcad) for simulation or animation of interactions of energy and matter in complex natural systems. The guiding principle of system analysis is that, as statistician George Box says, “All models are wrong but some are useful.” Students may be offered cosmic evolution research jobs in summer or academic year and they may help develop educational resources in book form and on the website. Educators may teach a ten week course on the composition, structure, origin, and evolution of the universe that explores space, particles, cosmic webs, galaxies, stars, giant planets, planets and moons with solid and liquid surfaces, prebiotic building blocks of life, geobiospheres, microbial ecosystems, complex life, and biological and artificial intelligence.
The cosmic evolution endowment may support:
- assigned time, stipends, and other compensation for faculty and staff as appropriate
- student learning assistants or project assistants
- summer workshops and internships for high school and college teachers and informal science educators
- guest speakers, visiting scholars, and consultants
- other appropriate expenses required to advance the endowment goals
- cosmic evolution related projects at the California Academy of Sciences or other academic institutions
If additional funding, partnerships, or participation becomes available, the cosmic evolution project may be able to provide full time support for a faculty member and/or part-time support for an interdisciplinary team of faculty and scholars. To prepare for this possibility, the first three-year phase of the cosmic evolution project should:
- Demonstrate progress toward the top four priorities listed above
- Evaluate the intellectual merit and popularity of the mission and its projects
- Develop a conceptual plan for a scaled up project and identify possible partnerships and funding sources
Additional discussion of possible uses of funds
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COSAM projects shall emphasize calculus-based and/or science-driven advanced undergraduate courses, special problems, senior projects, quarterly earn-by-doing projects, summer research, workshops, seminars, and/or online learning. COSAM may undertake a variety of projects to enhance scientific literacy in natural science and mathematics. Projects may involve the origin, evolution, diversity, abundance, and distribution of materials and processes in each cosmic evolution domain. Interdisciplinary studies may involve astrophysics, Earth and planetary sciences, geophysics, oceanography, atmospheric physics, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, cell biology, biochemistry, and astrobiology.
Project materials are available at the website currently named https://evolution.calpoly.edu to promote global access to user-friendly, organized, thematic digital educational resources and to resources available elsewhere in any form or format. Educational resources include published works, works in progress, collections of physical objects that may be useful in a classroom, books, journals, online links, experimental and observational tools, and experts on campus and off. Resources help specialists and non-specialists add advanced content and cross-disciplinary content to their educational projects. Systems analysis focuses on the big picture that is often lost in an age of specialization and powerful personal computers have made numerical analysis highly accessible, affordable, and portable. Analysis promotes critical thinking, goes beyond hand waving explanations, and promotes the use of digital technology. It promotes cross-disciplinary studies, mathematics, reading, literature search, and writing skills.
The current effort is based on volunteer efforts. Funds may support faculty release time to create and organize education materials, to do secondary research, and to prepare course and project materials that emphasize the role of physical, chemical, and biological evolution in natural systems. Funds may support scholars and educators on campus and at other institutions including the California Academy of Sciences. Funds may also support other activities necessary to accomplish the project goals. COSAM may even endow a chair if there are sufficient funds. Products may include lectures, animations, readings, course readers, homework, test materials, Excel and Mathcad math models, system analyses, graphs and tables, evolutionary timelines, and other project resources for advanced undergraduate courses including 200 and 400 series special problems, summer research, senior projects, and advanced topics courses. The 2006 Physics 470 Advanced Topics in Solar and Global Evolution course materials and the resources at www.calpoly.edu/~rfield and www.works.bepress.com/rfield may be helpful.
Advanced undergraduate courses and student projects in the natural sciences serve relatively small student populations. Historically, this has led to a scarcity of educational resources, training, and preparation time for teachers. Resource-starved upper division elective courses often cover subjects that change more rapidly than available textbooks. Unlike the digital commons, this project provides frequent updates to a widely accessible, user-friendly website for works in progress. The project also provides opportunities to develop novel educational approaches or apply proven methods to new material. Educational resources may benefit non-calculus courses, middle school and high school teachers and students, and informal science education.
If a partnership is established with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, cosmic evolution projects shall be approved by the Academy’s dean of science. Products may include poster displays, exhibits, digital media, websites, lectures, wikis, and other resources supporting academic and/or informal science education. The Academy shall retain exclusive rights to work that it creates or acquires, but should strive to make its products accessible online and via brief quarterly reports to COSAM. Cal Poly and the Academy are not obliged to work together, but should strive to advance project goals within their resources.
Cosmic Evolution Project introductions from YouTube embed
what is cosmic evolution and who cares – click to expand or collapse
The integrated high school curriculum developed by the SETI Institute and others defines cosmic evolution in six steps, cosmic evolution, planetary evolution, origin of life, evolution of life, hominid evolution, and evolution of technology. Harvard's Eric Chaisson describes eight epochs of cosmic evolution: particulate, galactic, stellar, planetary, chemical, biological, cultural, and future. Our approach condenses these eight epochs into four domains: universe, solar system, Earth and geobiosphere, and brains and tools. This video highlights many of the professional works that have influenced our project. We suggest using full 1080 HD setting and full screen. Below the video is a partial list of reasons to create and maintain a cosmic evolution project website.
Why create and maintain a Cosmic Evolution Project Website?
repository for highly detailed educational material
flexible formats – texts, math models, graphics, animation
continuous development and revision
easy to share with students and peer reviewers
resource for future projects and grant proposals
worldwide audience of students, teachers, science fans
previous cosmic evolution projects at Cal Poly – click to expand or collapse
This video shows a few webpages and lecture flyers associated with previous projects, mostly related to the solar system, the Earth, and the geobiosphere. We suggest using full 1080 HD setting and full screen. Below the video is a partial list of past projects.
here is a partial list of past solar and global evolution projects
natural history lectures – origin and diversity of life, climate change, Father Sun, etc.
state park walks: Exploring Evolution in museums and state parks
CCSP teacher talks plus discovery of Dr. Art’s Guide to Planet Earth book
outreach programs at many local venues
student summer projects energy flow in the Earth, Sun, Jupiter,
LANL solar evolution code and Guzik physics colloquium
PHYS 463 – 464 senior projects
PHYS, ASTR, BIOL 200 / 400 - Earth, Sun, Jupiter, Venus, universe, geobiosphere, etc.
Advanced Topics PHYS 470 - Solar and Global Evolution
Ocean Science Quest tabloid newspaper poster display
Osher lifelong learning course: Ocean Science Quest
Darwin in the Garden poster display and Leaning Pine walking tour
Scholars Talks: Carbon and Climate, Venus: One Helluva Planet, Life on an Evolving Planet, Violent Birth of Mother Earth, Darwin in the Garden
Physics Colloquia: Structure and Evolution of the Sun, Structure and Evolution of the solid Earth, Ocean Science Quest, Darwin Bicentennial: Geologist and Naturalist
rfield faculty webpages includes dozens of pages and downloads
CCC proposal and NSF informal science education proposal NHOPE
and now part of the
Cal Poly COSAM Cosmic Evolution Project website and YouTube channel