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A Googol of Atoms?
What is a googol?  Invented by Edward Kasner, an American mathematician who popularized the number in his 1940 book, Mathematics and the Imagination, it is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros. This directed case in estimation and very large n...

A Rose By Any Other Name
This dilemma case, developed for a general astronomy course, provides an introduction to our solar system by highlighting the peculiarities of Pluto. The main character, Dr. Maria Ocasio, is the chair of the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the ...

Farming in Space
If you were limited to choosing only three crops to sustainably farm in an arid, inhospitable environment, what would they be and how would you decide? This interrupted case study places students in the role of a proposed self-sufficient Martian colony...

Is a Mars Sample Return Mission Too Risky?
Following a public hearing format, this case study allows students to explore the scientific and public policy issues surrounding the advisability of a return mission to Mars for further sampling and, more generally, the question of whether or not ther...

Mask of the Black God
One Navajo legend attributes the creation of the primary stars and constellations to "Black God." Today, a famous star cluster, the Pleiades, often appears on the traditional mask worn by chanters impersonating Black God during special ceremonies. In t...

The Spark of Life
In biology classes, students are typically taught that spontaneous generation does not take place. And yet, at the origin of life, life had to arise without parents from abiotic processes. What were those processes that gave rise to the first life?&nbs...

The Zarkah Stone
On the night of March 26, 2003, a brilliant fireball exploded and fragmented over south suburban Chicago, hammering houses and sidewalks with meteorites. Many people witnessed the event and collected the precious stones. This is the story about the met...

Vikings on Mars
Three experiments carried out by the Mars Viking landers in 1976 remain, to this day, our only attempt to detect life on another planet. All other efforts have looked for the presence of elements or conditions thought to be necessary for life rather th...