Worth the Cost


Pick one of the following topics to turn in by the due date listed in the parentheses following the topic. Each topic must be answered with a minimum of 1000 words and be submitted via SafeAssign in Blackboard where it will be checked for plagiarism and collusion. The paper must also have a minimum of three references with at least one reference coming from a physical book other than your textbook. Also, for this assignment Wikipedia may NOT be used as a reference; however, you may use any other credible website. Be careful of junk science, if in doubt about the credibility of a source talk to the instructor. Grading of the essay will follow the rubric given in the syllabus.

Worth the Cost? (Exam II)

People are fascinated with ideas of space travel as well as new discoveries about the universe and how it formed. Information from unmanned space probes, new kinds of instruments, and new kinds of telescopes have resulted in new information. We are learning about what is happening in outer space away from Earth, as well as the existence of other planets.

Few would deny that the space program has provided valuable information. Some people wonder; however, if it is worth the cost. They point to many problems here on Earth; such as, growing energy and water needs, pollution problems, and ongoing health problems. They say that the money spent on exploring space could be better used for helping resolve problems on Earth.

In addition to new information and understanding, supporters of the space program point to new technology that helps people living on Earth. Satellites now provide valuable information for agriculture, including land use and weather monitoring. Untold numbers of lives have been saved thanks to storm warning s provided by weather satellites. There are many other spin-offs from the space program, including improvements in communications systems.

1. Discuss an additional technological advance from the space program that was not mentioned above.

2. Have the gain of knowledge and the spin-offs from the space program merited its expense?

3. Alternatively, would the funds be better spent on solving other world problems?

Astrology (Exam II)

Astrology is a group of systems, traditions, and beliefs which hold that the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details can provide information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters. Astrologers believe that the movements and positions of celestial bodies either directly influence life on Earth or correspond to events experienced on a human scale. Modern astrologers define astrology as a symbolic language, an art form, or a form of divination. Despite differences in definitions, a common assumption of astrologers is that celestial placements can aid in the interpretation of past and present events, and in the prediction of the future. Scientists consider astrology a pseudoscience or superstition.

Numerous traditions and applications employing astrological concepts have arisen since its earliest recorded beginnings in the 3rd millennium BC. Astrology has played an important role in the shaping of culture, early astronomy, and various disciplines throughout history. In fact, astrology and astronomy were often indistinguishable before the modern era, with the desire for predictive and divinatory knowledge one of the motivating factors for astronomical observation. Astronomy began to diverge from astrology after a period of gradual separation from the Renaissance up until the 18th century. Eventually, astronomy distinguished itself as the empirical study of astronomical objects and phenomena, without regard to the terrestrial implications of astrology.

Compare and contrast the fields of astronomy and astrology and how it relates to the scientific method. In your discussion, talk about the history of each and how each field evolved into the “science” it is today.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (Exam II)

Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, nebula, star clusters and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere. It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Astronomers of early civilizations performed methodical observations of the night sky, and astronomical artifacts have been found from much earlier periods. However, the invention of the telescope was required before astronomy was able to develop into a modern science. Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, the making of calendars, and even astrology, but professional astronomy is nowadays often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.

Since the 20th century, the field of professional astronomy split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring and analyzing data, mainly using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented towards the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain the observational results, and observations being used to confirm theoretical results.

Select a picture from NASA's “Astronomy Picture of the Day” website and make the famous quote “A picture is worth a thousand words” come true.

Basic and Applied Research (Exam I)

Science is the process of understanding your environment. It begins with making observations, creating explanations, and conducting research experiments. New information and conclusions are based on the results of the research.

There are two types of scientific research: basic and applied. Basic research is driven by a search for understanding and may or may not have practical applications. Examples of basic research include seeking an understanding about how the solar system was created, finding new information about matter by creating a new element in a research lab, or mapping temperature variations on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Such basic research expands our knowledge but may not lead to practical results.

Applied research has a goal of solving some practical problem rather than just looking for answers. Examples of applied research include the creation and testing of a new highly efficient fuel cell to run cars on hydrogen fuel, improving the energy efficiency of the refrigerator, or creating a faster computer chip from new materials.

Whether research is basic or applied depends somewhat on the time frame. If a practical use cannot be envisioned in the future, then it is definitely basic research. If a practical use is immediate, then the work is definitely applied research. If a practical use is developed some time in the future, then the research is partly basic and partly practical. For example, when the laser was invented, there was no practical use for it. It was called “an answer waiting for a question.” Today, the laser has many, many practical applications.

Knowledge gained by basic research has sometimes resulted in the development of technological breakthroughs. Conversely, other basic research - such as learning how the solar system formed - has no practical value other than satisfying our curiosity.

1. Should funding priorities go to basic research, applied research, or both?

2. Should universities concentrate on basic research and industries concentrate on applied research, or should both do both types of research?

3. Should research funding organizations specify which types of research should be funded?

Building Rocks (Exam IV)

In geology, rock is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids. In general rocks are of three types, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Rocks are classified by mineral and chemical composition, by the texture of the constituent particles and by the processes that formed them. These indicators separate rocks into igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. They are further classified according to particle size. The transformation of one rock type to another is described by the geological model called the rock cycle.

Rocks have had a huge impact on the cultural and technological advancement of the human race. Rocks have been used by humans for more than 2million years. The mining of rocks for their metal ore content has been one of the most important factors of human advancement, which has progressed at different rates in different places in part because of the kind of metals available from the rocks of a region.

The prehistory and history of civilization is classified into the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Although the stone age has ended virtually everywhere, rocks continue to be used to construct buildings and infrastructure. When so used, rocks are called dimension stone.

Dimension stone is natural stone or rock that has been selected and fabricated (i.e., trimmed, cut, drilled, ground, or other) to specific sizes or shapes. Color, texture and pattern, and surface finish of the stone are also normal requirements. Another important selection criterion is durability, the time measure of the ability of dimension stone to endure and to maintain its essential and distinctive characteristics of strength, resistance to decay, and appearance.

Survey the use of rocks used in building construction in this area or in your hometown. Compare the type of rocks that are used for building interiors and those that are used for building exteriors. Where were the rocks quarried? Are any trends apparent for buildings constructed in the past and those build more recently? If so, are there reasons (cost, shipping, other limitations) underlying a trend, or is it simply a matter of style?

Ice (Exam IV)

Everywhere around us there are minerals. Some have high monetary values, whereas others are worthless. For example, precious stones, such as diamonds, emeralds, and rubies, are valuable minerals. Also, a nation's mineral wealth is defined by its natural raw materials, such as ores containing iron, gold, silver, and copper. However, the minerals of common rocks, such as sandstone, have little value.

The term mineral also has taken on popular meanings. For example, foods are said to contain vitamins and “minerals.” In this case, mineral refers to compounds in food that contain elements required in small quantities by the human body, such as iron, iodine, and potassium. The names of minerals, like those of chemical elements, have historical connotations and many reflect the names of localities where they are formed.

1. What is the relationship between rocks and minerals?

2. How is the monetary value for a mineral determined? Why are precious stones worth more than sandstone?

3. Is ice a mineral? Describe reasons to agree that ice is a mineral. Describe reasons to argue that ice is not a mineral.

4. If ice is a mineral, is a glacier a rock? Describe reasons to support or argue against calling a glacier a rock according to the definition of a rock.

5. Compare and contrast the monetary value of ice with other minerals.

Pseudoscience (Exam I)

Psuedoscience (pseudo - means false) is a deceptive practice that uses the appearance or language of science to convince, confuse, or mislead people into thinking that something has scientific validity when it does not. When pseudoscientific claims are closely examined, they are not found to be supported by unbiased tests. Absurd claims that are clearly pseudoscience sometimes appear to gain public acceptance because of promotion in the media. Thus, some people continue to believe stories that psychics can really help solve puzzling crimes, that perpetual energy machines exist, or that sources of water can be found by a person with a forked stick. Such claims could be subjected to scientific testing and disposed of if they fail the test, but this process is generally ignored. In addition to experimentally testing such a claim that appears to be pseudoscience, here are some questions that you should consider when you suspect something is pseudoscience:

1. What is the background and scientific experience of the person promoting the claim?

2. How many articles have been published by the person in peer-reviewed scientific journals?

3. Has the person given invited scientific talks at universities and national professional organization meetings?

4. Has the claim been researched and published by the person in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and have other scientists independently validated the claim?

5. Does the person have something to gain by making the claim?

Select a statement or claim that you feel might represent pseudoscience. See what you can find out about your claim that might not stand up to direct scientific testing. Look into the scientific testing - or lack of testing - behind your claim. Write an essay supporting and refuting your selection, noting facts that support one position or the other. In addition to the topics stated above, other topics you may consider are supplemental vitamins, organic foods, cold fusion, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, or something else that you might find interesting to explore.

Saving Time? (Exam I)

The purpose of daylight saving time is to make better use of daylight during the summer by moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. In the United States, daylight saving time is observed from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. Clocks are changed on the Sundays according to the saying “spring ahead, fall back.” Arizona and Hawaii choose not to participate and stay on standard time all year.

Americans who say they like daylight saving time say they like it is because it gives them more light in the evenings, and it saves energy. Some people do not like daylight saving time because it requires them to reset all their clocks and adjust their sleep schedule twice a year. They also complain that the act of changing the clock is not saving daylight at all, but it is sending them to bed an hour earlier. Farmers also complain that plants and animals are regulated by the Sun, not the clock, so they have to plan all their nonfarm interactions on a different schedule.

Along with the history of daylight saving time, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of moving the clock ahead and/or back an hour.

Urban Heat Islands (Exam III)

Urban areas are often 2 to 10 degrees warmer at night than the surrounding rural areas. Climatologists call this difference the “urban heat island effect.” This effect is created by all the bricks, concrete, and asphalt of buildings, parking lots, and streets. These structures are warmed by sunlight during the day, then reradiate stored heat at night. Buildign surfaces also disrupt the normal cooling by infrared radiation. Surrounding rural areas are cooler because less heat is absorbed during the day, and more is released by radiation at night.

It is possible to reduce the heat island effect by using alternatives to conventional asphalt and concrete. Resins and rubberized asphalt, for example, do not absorb as much heat during the day. Landscaping to create islands of “urban forests” also helps.

1. How does the “urban heat island effect” influence local weather patterns? Is this good or bad? Explain.

2. Developers are slow to consider taking steps to diminish heat island effects. Should governments provide a tax break to encourage developers to diminish the heat island effect? Why or why not?

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of required urban planning, including the creation of forest islands in urban areas?

4. What solutions can you think of to diminish the urban heat island effect?

Using Mineral Resources (Exam IV)

Most people understand that our mineral resources are limited and that when we use them, they are gone. Of course, some mineral resources can be recycled, reducing the need to mine more minerals. For example, aluminum can be recycled and used over and over again. Glass, copper, iron, and other metals can similarly be recycled repeatedly. Other critical resources, however, cannot be recycled and cannot be replaced. Crude oil, for example, is a dwindling resource that will eventually become depleted. Oil is not recyclable once it is burned, and no new supplies are being created, at least not at a rate that would make them available in the immediate future. Even if Earth were a hollow vessel completely filled with oil, it would eventually become depleted, perhaps sooner than you might think.

There is also another of our mineral resources that is critically needed for our survival but will eventually be depleted. That resource is phosphorus derived from phosphate rock. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient required for plant growth, and if its concentration in soils is too low, plants grow poorly, if at all. Most agricultural soils are artificially fertilized with phosphate minerals. Without this amendment, plant productivity would decline and, in some cases, cease altogether.

Phosphate occurs naturally as the mineral apatite. Deposits of apatite were formed where ocean currents carried water rich in dissolved phosphate ions to the continental shelf. Here, phosphate ions replaced the carbonate ions in limestone, forming the mineral apatite. Apatite also occurs as a minor accessory mineral in most igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Some igneous rocks serve as a source of phosphate fertilizer, but most phosphate is mined from formerly submerged coastal areas of limestone, such as those found in Florida.

Trends in phosphate production and use suggest that the world reserves of phosphate rock will no longer be available for use as a fertilizer. When this happens, the food supply will have to be grown on lands that already have adequate phosphate minerals. Estimates are that the worldwide existing land area with adequate phosphate minerals will supply food for only 2 billion people on the entire Earth. Phosphate is an essential element for all life on Earth, and no other element can function in its place.

1. Should the mining industry be permitted to exhaust an important mineral resource? Provide reasons with your answer.

2. What are the advantage and disadvantages of a controlled mining industry?

3. If phosphate minerals supplies become exhausted, who should be responsible for developing new supplies or substitutes, the mining industry or governments?

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