The mission of the cosmic evolution project is to provide inspiration, training, and educational resources 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 artificial intelligence.
Many of the videos embedded in this website are on the Cal Poly Cosmic Evolution YouTube channel which is at https://tinyurl.com/cosmicevolutionyoutube. You may have to click on the uploads button to see thumbnails of all of the videos.
What good are viruses?
Hint: They are essential to the origin, evolution, and well being of life on Earth. This is a new topic for us and the page is under construction at https://evolution.calpoly.edu/virus
Right now the page has two brief videos embeds by the Amoeba sisters.
Global Catastrophes and Mass Extinctions
Because of the pandemic, this event, scheduled for April 15 2020, has been postponed until 2021 and will be embedded on the website and possibly live streamed.
recent events - https://evolution.calpoly.edu/stardust
November 2 talk was repeated for the Central Coast Astronomical Society on March 26 in a special live-stream event watched by 200 people. The recording has been embedded on the stardust webpage.
We thank everyone who made Raja's Spanos talk so successful - 416 attendees !!
upcoming cosmic evolution events through 2020
The cosmic evolution project plans to produce one event per year in early October in a venue like Spanos Theatre featuring a consulting guest speaker discussing the composition, structure, formation, and/or evolution of emergent systems like cosmic webs, galaxies, black holes, stars, planets, life, brains, and/or artificial intelligence. The project plans to produce three quarterly faculty-student special events per year to help students and others explore the evolutionary history of the universe, the web of life, and the Earth’s geobiosphere and repeat them with student help on Saturdays for high school students and others. Preparation should start at least one quarter before the quarter in which the event or activity occurs. Other events and activities may also be organized.
Here are the major cosmic evolution events for 2020:
- On Darwin's birthday, February 12, 2020 we will sponsor a special event featuring a series of short faculty talks on evolution. Additional faculty student events could include the evolution of marine mammals like the elephant seal or even “The Coevolution of Plants and Animals”, highlighting the evolutionary history of life. Topics may include the origin and evolution of molecular and metabolic building blocks of life, energy and entropy, photosynthesis and respiration, and/or relationships among organisms including endosymbiosis, cooperation, and competition.
- The April 2020 Earth Days faculty-student special event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day was canceled. The lecture entitled “Global Catastrophes and Mass Extinctions” will be posted at https://evolution.calpoly.edu/catastrophes. It highlights the role of plants and other photosynthesizers on the composition and temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans and the global catastrophes that have upset the balance and led to mass extinction events, often caused by climate changes from many sources.
- Spanos talk by Cal Berkeley astrophysics professor Alex Filippenko on Monday, October 5, 2020 if possible.
On Wednesday October 9, 2019, UC Santa Cruz astrophysics department chair Raja Guha Thakurta gave a talk in Spanos Theatre entitled "The Universe of Galaxies: Dark Matter, Cannibalism, Black Holes, Gravity Waves, and the Periodic Table of Elements".
On November 2, 2019, our fall faculty-student special event in Baker room 180-101 entitled "We are stardust" explored and explained the cosmic origins of the Periodic Table elements from the Big Bang to exploding stars. We discussed stellar and nuclear astrophysical processes.
About 70 attendees celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon missions at our free public lecture “Apollo 10: Fly me to the Moon” on Wednesday May 22 in Baker room 180-101. Highlights included videos and posters of the Apollo 10 and 11 missions, the origin and co-evolution of the Moon and Earth, and the influence of the Moon on life on Earth. Apollo 10 was the dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. On this date 50 years ago, two astronauts entered the lunar module and descended to within 8.4 miles of the surface of the moon.The flyer and additional information is at https://evolution.calpoly.edu/moon.
We celebrated Darwin's 210th birthday with short talks by biology faculty on February 7 and "Darwin in the Garden: A walk through time" on February 8 in the Leaning Pine arboretum. Visit DarwinDays for more information and to see the flyer. We produced a walk brochure which we will post. The original Darwin in the Garden posters from the 2009 bicentennial are at DarwinGarden
What is the Cosmic Evolution Project? – click to expand or collapse
The project is a work in progress by Dr. Bob Field, Cal Poly physicist and research scholar in residence. As such, it has not been professionally reviewed by specialists in each and every field that is within its scope and in fact a major goal of going live online is to make the content and format accessible to potential reviewers around the world. So that is the caveat in using this material for research or advanced studies along with the obvious point that references and footnotes have been kept to a minimum to maintain the flow of big ideas.
The new project is an expansion of the Global Evolution Education Project which focuses on the five billion year natural history of planet Earth. This project and other natural history and natural science projects were extensively documented on his outdated 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.
The cosmic evolution project provides educational resources to help students, educators, and the general public investigate the composition, structure, formation, and evolution of the universe in four overlapping domains: universe, solar system, Earth and geobiosphere, and brains and tools. The project provides timelines showing the sequence of key events in the evolutionary history of each of these domains.
The project supports upper division undergraduate student projects and courses and informal science education. The story of cosmic evolution involves astrophysical and biogeochemical materials and processes and emphasizes what nature does, not what scientists do. The National Academy of Science says that it is the role of science to provide plausible natural explanations of natural phenomena. That is to say that invoking unknown unobservable supernatural agents and processes is out of scope for a scientific endeavor until all other explanations have been definitively eliminated. And even then, a supernatural explanation would have to meet a set of plausibility criteria above and beyond mere supposition.
Unlike the wonderful Cosmos series on TV, this project focuses on the sequence of natural events themselves, rather than the role of science and scientists in discovering nature’s secrets. 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?
Universe – click to expand or collapse
The universe already has a 13.7 billion year evolutionary history from the Big Bang and the release of particles of energy and matter to the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies and the mysterious nature of dark energy and dark matter. Its history determines its ultimate fate in the distant future. A logarithmic timeline of the universe will be necessary to show the details of the early expansion while encompassing the vast time scale to the present and the ultimate future.
Solar System – click to expand or collapse
The five billion year history of the solar system involves the formation and evolution of the Sun, planets, moons, planetesimals, asteroids, comets, interplanetary gas, and dust. Transformations of energy and matter in the interior of the Sun and planets involve gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces. Heat transport may involve thermal conduction, convection, and radiation. A logarithmic timeline best depicts this domain.
Earth and geobiosphere – click to expand or collapse
The five billion year history of the Earth and geobiosphere is best depicted by a linear timeline in equal 100 million year intervals depicting Earth's physical, chemical, and biological history including changes at major nodes in Blair Hedges molecular timescales. The timeline highlights the rarely discussed extraordinary events in the Proterozoic era and features plausible natural explanations of the underlying astrophysical, geophysical, biogeochemical, and ecological causes and/or consequences of molecular and metabolic evolution.
The emphasis is on the thermal structure and distribution and flows of energy and matter within the Earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, as well as the influence of the Sun, the Earth’s deep interior, other planets, and inflows of particles and objects. This domain encompasses the water cycle, carbon and other element cycles, biogeochemical processes, and the origin and evolution of the molecular, metabolic, and structural building blocks of life. Interactions of energy and matter drive microbial ecology, the evolution of complex cells and multicellular organisms, and the origin of kingdoms and phyla.
Brains and Tools – click to expand or collapse
Brains and tools involve the composition, structure, and evolution of neurons and biological and artificial neural networks from the simplest animals to the human brain, their ability to process sensory input and to control motor functions, and the development of tools to analyze, observe, and control the environment and transform the Earth and its lifeforms. A reverse order logarithmic timeline covers the evolutionary history of brains and tools from 3.4 billion year old bacterial membrane proteins that controlled the flow of ions to two billion year old eukaryote cells that generated electrical signals to 600 million year neural networks to complex animal brains to modern machines with exceptional computational powers.