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2000 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  JUL 1999 – JUN 2000

"Alien Hunting" on What's in the News

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

What’s In The News, a children’s current events program produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting, has met and surpassed its goals this year. The centerpiece of the multi-media production was a 15-minute video on the emerging field of Astrobiology. The program was carried via satellite to PBS and cable stations in 30 states serving 5.7 million students in grades 4-7. The initial satellite feed was on March 3, with a second feed on March 6, 2000.

The program invited students to call a toll-free number to request an “Alien Hunting Kit.” The kit contained a simple experiment on testing for life where none is immediately apparent; a mathematical exercise to predict the number of habitable planets, and two creative drawing activities. About 275 teachers (each representing approximately 20 students) requested the kits. Others downloaded the materials from the web page that was developed to supplement the program. For the creative drawing activities, five students were selected to receive copies of Is Anybody Out There? By Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest. The publisher, DK Publishing, Inc., in New York, donated the copies of this beautifully illustrated book on Astrobiology.

The web page that accompanied the program included an outline for teachers, suggested discussion questions and vocabulary, and a variety of additional activities, resources, and information.

The regular What’s In The News newspaper column which accompanies each weekly program featured PSARC’s Hiroshi Ohmoto. The column is distributed to about 25 newspapers.

On May 6, 2000, Penn State Public Broadcasting held an open house for children which featured the Astrobiology program and the Alien Hunting activities.

Due to the tremendous success of this project and the enthusiastic feedback from teachers, the entire production will be revised, updated, and repeated during the 2000-01 season of What’s In The News.

    Kathleen O Toole
    Project Investigator

    S. Blair Hedges

    James Kasting

    Hiroshi Ohmoto

    Objective 1.0
    Determine whether the atmosphere of the early Earth, hydrothermal systems or exogenous matter were significant sources of organic matter.

    Objective 4.0
    Expand and interpret the genomic database of a select group of key microorganisms in order to reveal the history and dynamics of evolution.

    Objective 5.0
    Describe the sequences of causes and effects associated with the development of Earth's early biosphere and the global environment.

    Objective 7.0
    Identify the environmental limits for life by examining biological adaptations to extremes in environmental conditions.

    Objective 8.0
    Search for evidence of ancient climates, extinct life and potential habitats for extant life on Mars.

    Objective 12.0
    Define climatological and geological effects upon the limits of habitable zones around the Sun and other stars to help define the frequency of habitable planets in the universe.