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TITLE A Short History of the Universe: The Big Bang to the Dinosaurs

LEVEL I - Introductory Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION In the last few decades there has been much attention in the natural history of the Universe. This has focused particularly on how the Earth came into being and how just the right environment was produced for humans to evolve. This Unit will explore these issues starting from the beginning of the Universe up to the age of the dinosaurs.

Initially the Unit will introduce the main stages of development of the Universe as it expanded and eventually cooled to its current state, including a detailed description of how this happened. A layman picture of Einstein’s theory of gravity will also be introduced. Through this picture the evolution of the Universe will be explained and also backed up with supporting observational evidence. This part of the Unit will end with a detailed discussion on the probability of Earth-like planets forming such that they have the right conditions for life.

The second part of this Unit will center around the development of the Earth focusing on the diversification of life up to the age of the dinosaurs. A description of the paleogeography, paleoclimate and diversification of life will be given, as well as the detailed evolution of the planet Earth. This will start from the beginning of life (Paleozoic) and continue on to the age of the Dinosaurs (Mesozoic). The Unit will end with a brief description of life after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Understand clearly the underlying physical model of General Relativity;
- List the main stages of the evolution of the Universe;
- Understand how planets are formed and what it takes to produce the conditions for an Earth-like planet;
- Understand how the Earth developed in the past 4.5 billion years;
- Understand where life began and the diversity of animals before and during the age of the dinosaurs;
- Understand the concept of mass extinction as a result of natural causes including climate change;
- Appreciate why finding exoplanets is important and to what extent they are distributed over the Galaxy;
- Appreciate the vulnerability and perseverance of life on Earth as well as the importance of environmental awareness in modern times.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Interpret solutions to General Relativity in a physical manner;
- Explain how the Universe evolved;
- Describe the evolution of the Earth based on the geological timescale;
- Explain the diversification of life before the beginning of humanity.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Weinberg, S., The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe, Basic Books, 1993.
- Hawking, S., A Brief History of Time, Bantam Dell Publishing Group, 1988.
- Rafferty, J. P., The Paleozoic Era: Diversification of Plant and Animal Life, Brittanica Educational Publishing, 2011.
- Rafferty, J. P., The Mesozoic Era: Age of Dinosaurs, Brittanica Educational Publishing, 2011.


STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Fieldwork

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%

LECTURER/S James Ciarlo
Sandro Lanfranco
Jackson Said (Co-ord.)

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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