This course will evaluate the entire history of life on Earth within the context of our cutting-edge understanding of the Tree of Life. This includes the pioneering work of Professor Carl Woese on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus which revolutionized our understanding with a new "Tree of Life." Other themes include:
This synthesis emphasizes the universality of the emergence of life as a prelude for the search for extraterrestrial life.
This course will be broken up into 8 weekly modules covering the following topics:
Week 1: Course Welcome, Geological Time, and the Nature of Science
Week 2: The Tree of Life and Early Earth Environments
Week 3: Fossilization and Precambrian Life-Earth Interaction
Week 4: Paleozoic Life After the Advent of Skeletons
Week 5: Paleozoic Plants, Reptiles, and the Transition to Land
Week 6: Mesozoic Reign of Dinosaurs and the Development of Flight
Week 7: Cenozoic Mammals and Global Environmental Change
Week 8: Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Cosmos
No specific background is required. You do need an open mind and an eagerness to apply critical free thought and approaches of scientific inquiry. This will enable you to explore how life on Earth came to be in its current form and whether there is life elsewhere in the cosmos.
No textbooks are required. A few articles will be recommended to read, but not required.
In addition to watching the 8–12 video lectures per week, you can pass the course by participating in any of the following weekly activities:
What resources will I need for this class?
For this course, all you need is an Internet connection.
"The course has broadened my comprehension of life, evolution and our relation with the environment. . . . Everything made more sense to me. Thanks for this beautiful experience!" -B
"If the role of education is to cultivate dialogue, reflection, curiosity and wonder I feel that this course has MORE than accomplished this for me." -T.R.
"The credit goes to both of you for making this course on such an esoteric subject so lucid, clear and even humorous that I simply had to fall in love with it." -B.B.
Image sources: The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois and NASA