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Big Ideas Of Science


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This simulation is motivated by the Hugo Award-winning science fiction novel Spin written by Robert Charles Wilson. It is designed to provide feedback on a ClassAction Discussion Question also motivated by the book. ClassAction is a database of peer instruction questions, discussion questions, and feedback resources appropriate for teaching introductory astronomy classes. This question is most appropriate as a capstone to a peer instruction sequence on light-travel time and look-back time used early in the course. The question is certainly "more imaginative" than typical astronomy classroom material. Very early in Spin the three protagonists are viewing the night sky when (in the pivotal "event" that motivates the rest of the book) all of the stars suddenly disappear. The three of them attempt to brainstorm explanations that could explain this incredible occurrence. One of them suggests that "the stars must have all just went out." This simulation is provided as a tool to demonstrate the inadequacies of that explanation based on look-back time and what could possibly explain it. Remember it is a science-fiction book ;-). A large number of teaching materials are publicly available on the Astronomy Education at the University of Nebraska web site.

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