The Scientific American Frontiers Teaching Guide has lots of great
activities and experiements relating to space travel, astronomy, and life
on other planets. You don't have to be a teacher to use these activities.
Many of them can be done at home. They also make great science fair
How Did the Universe Begin?
Astronomers have attempted to answer this question by studying ancient
galaxies through the lenses of the world's most powerful telescopes. You'll
get your opportunity by trying out the three activities found on this page
-- "Modeling Red Shift, " "Modeling an Expanded
Universe," and "Find Your Place in the Galaxy."
Where Did Life Come From?
Just as space scientists search for life on other planets, biologists
search for clues to when and where life first began on Earth in the
volcanic hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Most concur that it
began as minute bacteria afloat in a primordial ocean. Just "How Tough
Are Bacteria? " Find out in this experiment. In "Volcanic
Calderas, " you'll build a caldera and see what happens when a volcano
blows its top!
How Did Earth Get Animals?
If bacterial life once existed on Mars, why didn't it develop into larger lifeforms, as it did on Earth? Rocks found in a Chinese quarry provide the
evidence to explain the explosion of life that occurred about 570 million
years ago on Earth. Try your hand at "Get a Half-Life" -- an
activity related to this phenomenon.
Are We Alone?
No matter what scientists think, most people have an opinion one way or the other on the existence of aliens. If you're one of the many who believe
we're not alone in the universe, here's your chance to make contact with
alien beings! "Send a Message Into Space" ... and please notify the
rest of us if you get a response!
Will Robots Take Over?
Sojourner, the robot that explored Mars last year as part of the Pathfinder
mission, is just one example of how advanced robots have become. But will
they take over for humans, as has been suggested in so many popular works
of science fiction? Ponder that question as you "Build a Robotic
Explorer" and "Design a Soft Lander."
In this activity, you'll find out just how important the environment is to preserving life. Scientists learned that lesson quickly when carbon dioxide
rose to dangerous levels during the Biosphere 2 experiment, which took
place several years ago in Arizona. Scientists researching a possible
manned mission to Mars face some of the same obstacles.
Build a Biosphere
If lifeforms do exist elsewhere in the universe, what colors, sizes, or
shapes might they be? Based on studies of creatures found in the depths of
Earth's oceans, it's clear that life can take on millions of different
forms, depending on how each species adapts to its environment. Here you'll
get the chance to design and build your own mini-ecosystem and see what
Aliens Have Landed
Did aliens crash in the desert outside the town of Roswell, New Mexico, in
1947? What really happened? Before you make up your mind, try the
experiments on this page -- "The Value of Experts, " "The
Drake Equation: Is Anybody Out There? " and "The Value of
Eyewitnesses. " They might make you think twice!