Students will develop background knowledge about planet and the solar system so that they will be able to comprehend basics of the space program as future voters and decision makers including a concept of diameter, space relations, composition, exploration and magnitude.
Recognize and analyze explanations and models.
The sun, the earth, and the rest of the solar system formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas 4.6 billion years ago. The early earth was very different from the planet we live on today.
The origin of the universe remains one of the greatest questions in science. The "big bang" theory places the origin between 10 and 20 billion years ago, when the universe began in a hot dense state; according to this theory, the universe has been expanding ever since.
Early in the history of the universe, matter, primarily the light atoms hydrogen and helium, clumped together by gravitational attraction to form countless trillions of stars. Billions of galaxies, each of which is a gravitationally bound cluster of billions of stars, now form most of the visible mass in the universe.
Stars produce energy from nuclear reactions, primarily the fusion of hydrogen to form helium. These and other processes in stars have led to the formation of all the other elements.
Students must have a working knowledge of the planets in our solar system and understand the composition of the sun. They must also understand the vast distances in space. Students should understand alternative energy souces and the need for continued attempts to find solutions.
The teacher will present students with the most bizarre suggestion they have ever heard; this should be done as though the teacher is completely serious - no smiles. A model of the sun and the Earth aides in problem recognition. A hose, like the air hose from an aquarium, will aide the visualization.
In Alaska, a pipeline was constructed so that fossil fuels could be transported over long distances. Many individuals believed that such a feat could never be accomplished - but it was. I propose constructing a pipeline from the Earth to the sun so that we can bring hydrogen to Earth to fuel fussion reactions so that inexpensive electricity can be provided to Earth's inhabitants with little pollution.
As soon as the solution is proposed, students will begin to critisize the suggestion and the instructor should be prepared with responses that counter, no matter how much of a stretch since the point is to determine knowledge, understanding and to make students think logically and critically.
Misconceptions to watch for:
Students often hear the sun described as a 'big ball of fire.' This analogy leads students to believe that the sun is a fire like a campfire is a fire. If this persists, students have difficulty comprehending the cause of seasons since if one moves closer to a fire they become warmer. The sun is really a big ball of energy and the hydrogen provides the fuel for the fussion reactions. If students have ever used a magnifying glass to burn an ant on the sidewalk (not a recommended activity because it is very cruel), then they know that concentrated energy produces more heat. Unless the energy is concentrated in a small area (as when the sun is overhead in the summer) more heat is felt. When the sun in lower on the horizon in the winter months, the energy is more diffuse and there is not as much heat.
The 'big ball of fire' analogy also can cause students to believe that there is oxygen around the sun; since even very young students know that oxygen is necessary for combustion. Space is space because it is mostly empty.
Students know that the Earth rotates, but they often think the sun is just a stationary blob. The sun rotates and so does everything else. After the big bang, everything was in motion and according to Newton's Laws, there is no reason for it to stop. Additionally, the red shift in light is one of the evidences that indicates that everything is moving away.
Student comments and suggested instructor responses:
"The sun is too hot and would melt the pipeline." (Yes, but polymers are very big in science and surely technology can create a polymer that can withstand high temperatures. Students should be able to state how hot the sun is. However, tiles on the space shuttle don't melt and they get hot; a blow torch won't even melt them.)
"The Earth rotates and so the pipeline would wrap around the Earth." (O.K., so we can build huge storage tanks on Earth and pump the hydrogen down. Once a year, we attach the pipeline and fill the tanks and then detach it and let the Earth rotate.)
"Isn't the sun really far away?" (Well, yes, but that just means we need a really long pipeline. We can attach it to one of those things like you put a garden hose on and real it out.) Imagine a human being cranking that thing! If students point this out then it may be necessary to use some of the electricity generated to operate the crank.
"How are we going to get it there?" (A satalite can be shot right into the sun carrying the hose. It has been suggested that human garbage and radio active material be shot into the sun that way. What's the problem with that idea?)
Mars is relatively close to Earth (at least compared to the sun) and it is predicted that it will take humans months to get to Mars so how long would it take to get to the sun?
During the discourse, the instructor can ask the students questions to test their understanding and dispell misconceptions.
Based on student responses to the proposed idea of building a pipeline from the Earth to the sun, the teacher can assess informally whether further instruction is required.
Students will engage in discourse with the instructor to find reasons why the pipeline idea is not a workable plan. Students who are not participating should be asked individual questions.