Freshman Seminar: Phys 199, Fall 2007
Search for Life in the Universe
- The University Libraries, and especially the Science Library, has a LOT of information on topics related to your seminar: cosmology and astronomy, origin of life and early evolution, relativity and space-time, and yes, even extraterrestrial life and time travel! Actually there has been quite a bit of scholarly and scientific work published on these topics, not just some of the wacko stuff you may find on the web. I hope this web page will help guide you to some of the "good stuff."
- Your librarian contact for this course:
- Victoria Mitchell
Take your first shot
One way to get started is to do a simple search across several different resources. Thanks to a new library tool we call OneSearch, you can do that. The search box below will search the Library's catalog (which will retrieve mostly books), and 4 databases of periodical (magazine and scientific journal) articles.
"Popular" science books written by respected scientists and science writers are a great way to learn more about science without having to know a lot of technical jargon or understand mathematical equations. Here is a link to a few lists of good, popular science books available in the Science Library on topics relating to your class. If the book you want is checked out, you should be able to obtain a copy through Summit, a combined library catalog of over 30 Pacific Northwest academic libraries. The best way is to search it in the UO Library Catalog first, then if it is not available here, click on the button that says "Repeat in Summit". You also might find other books you like by browsing the shelves around where these books are located.
Click here for a list of Popular Books on...
- Origin of Life, the Early Earth, and Evolution
- Cosmology and Astronomy
- Extraterrestrial Life, Space and Time Travel, and other Useful Stuff
Tips for Finding More Books
Here are some Library Subject Headings that may be helpful:
- Evolution [this will retrieve way too much; see below on tips for limiting]
- Exobiology [this is used instead of astrobiology]
- Extrasolar planets [for planets outside our solar system]
- Interstellar communication [includes SETI project]
- Life on other planets
- Life -- Origin [some books with this heading deal with cosmic origins, extraterrestrial life, etc.; some deal with origins of life on earth, early evolution, etc.]
- Solar system
The above are just a sampling; there is much more. You can also try a keyword search. For example:
mars AND life <-- the "and" is in upper case just to show that it is a "Boolean operator": telling the computer to search for both terms in the same catalog record, but not necessarily as a phrase. All the book records retrieved by this search will have something to do with the planet Mars and life. The Advanced Search page will give you many more tips on keyword searching.
How to Limit
Say you searched the subject heading "evolution", which gives you over 600 books -- that's too much. Click the "Limit/Sort" button at the top of the screen. There are a number of options: You could limit to Location : Science and Year of publication: after 1986, for books published in the last 20 years. That narrows it down to about 50 -- a much more reasonable list to browse through.
If you don't find what you want in the search box above, you want to search in a database that specializes in journal and magazine articles. Most databases do not include the full article in the database, but if you click the "FindText" button for any article, that will link you to the electronic text of the article, if it's available; and also tell you whether we have a paper copy in the library.
All of these databases have slightly different quirks when it comes to searching, although if they are on the same "platform" (e.g. Academic Search Premier and GeoRef, or Web of Science and INSPEC), they will be pretty similar. For help, see the UO Science Library Database Searcher's Cheatsheet. Here is a good one to start with:
Academic Search Premier
- This is interdisciplinary, and covers both scholarly/scientific journals and popular/news magazines. A lot of articles are available in their full text on the database, as well as through clicking "FindText".
A more advanced one is:
Web of Science
- This is interdisciplinary, in the sciences, but generally only covers the peer-reviewed, research level literature.
(these mostly will have very specialized, sometimes very technical, articles -- but hey, you're smart and adventurous, or you wouldn't be in this seminar, right?):
GeoRef (Geology, which includes paleontology--early evolution, etc.; planetary evolution and environments)
INSPEC (Physics and Astronomy)
Here are some Library web guides to research by subject, that could be helpful:
Physics (includes astronomy and astrophysics)
Science (general and interdisciplinary)
The library also has a guide to searching the web with lots of information on web search engines and how to use them, including searching for multimedia, the "deep web", and more.
Also very valuable is this guide to Critical Evaluation of Information Sources. It shows you how to determine whether the information you find is credible, whether on the web or in print.
Some recommended sites on Cosmology and Astrobiology:
Astrobiology Magazine -- no shortage of interesting news, hot topics, etc., here.
Cambridge Cosmology -- a public page on cosmology from Cambridge University; excellent.
Cambridge Relativity -- get yer black holes here.
Glossary of Astrobiology Terms-- just what it says. Rather handy; from the Anglo-Australian Observatory.
John Gribbin's Home Page -- includes an Introduction to Cosmology; Quantum Mysteries, Time Travel, and other interesting stuff, all in Gribbin's entertaining style.
Marsbugs -- a portal to all kinds of good information, maintained at Lyon College.
Mars Dead or Alive & Welcome to Mars -- additional content based on two Nova episodes.
NASA Astrobiology Institute -- a goldmine of information.
NASA's Astrobiology Roadmap -- this outlines NASA's astrobiology research directions, and in so doing serves also as a bit of primer on astrobiology. Also available as a pdf.
Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial -- Ned Wright is a prof at UCLA. If you scroll down the page (before entering the tutorial), you'll find the slides of his very accessible presentation "Are We Likely to Be Alone" from a 2003 Symposium.
The SETI Institute -- this is The Place, whose mission is "to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe."