You Can Now Take a Free Online Course on Alien Hunting from Harvard University
The discovery of intelligent alien life would arguably be one of the most significant scientific developments of all time, and now Harvard University wants to help you become part of the search. The prestigious university is now offering a free course called Super-Earths and Life, which teaches "about alien life, how we search for it, and what this teaches us about our place in the universe."
Super-Earths and Life takes an interdisciplinary approach to the search for alien life, combining the principles of astronomy and biology in order to determine which planets are likely candidates for life. The class will be taught by Dimitar Sasselov, who leads an interdisciplinary initiative to find extraterrestrial life and is also a co-investigator on NASA's Kepler mission. The course is taught on Harvard's edX is free of charge, although there is an optional donation at the end of the class and it costs $50 to receive a "verified certificate" of completion.
The official course description reads: "In the past decade astronomers have made incredible advances in the discovery of planets outside our solar system. Thirty years ago, we knew only of the planets in our own solar system. Now we know of thousands circling nearby stars. Meanwhile, biologists have gained a strong understanding of how life evolved on our own planet, all the way back to the earliest cells. We can describe how simple molecules can assemble themselves into the building blocks of life, and how those building blocks might have become the cells that make up our bodies today. Super-Earths And Life is all about how these two fields together - astronomy and biology - can answer one of our most powerful and primal questions: are we alone in the universe?"
Super-Earths and Life starts on February 10 and runs for six weeks, requiring a time commitment of approximately five hours a week.