Write a short paper on one of the following topics:
• Is climate change happening? What is the evidence? What are the likely consequences—both present and future?
• Is climate change human-caused? What is the evidence? If so, what can/should we do about it?
• Regardless whether it is responsible for climate change, is excess carbon in the biosphere a matter of concern?
• What is the significance of the Large Hadron Collider now operating in Europe? What physics questions is it designed to address? Which questions are most likely to be answered/addressed?
• What is Dark Matter? What evidence do we have for it? What are some possible explanations?
• What is Dark Energy? What evidence do we have for it? What are some possible explanations?
• You can also find another topic of interest—just check with me about it first (and it must be a paper where you both gather facts and then express a scientific opinion based on those facts).
In your paper, you must express your own opinion about the question/topic—and support your position with information from at least five established and widely read sources of scientific inquiry. And you must specify those sources at the end of your paper. Also, you must use all proper grammar, spelling, etc.
The paper should be typed in 10- or 12-pt. Times font, 1.5-spaced and 3 pages in length (not including the sources list). Please print it out (do not e-mail it), and turn it in to me anytime before 5:00 p.m. on June 5 (that’s the last day of the term before finals week). And here’s how I will score the paper (for a maximum of 10 points):
Basic facts (4 points):
This is how fully you have researched and how well you have presented the basic scientific facts (observations/events). Plan to do some serious reading and take some time with this paper. Don’t simply write down what you read without taking the time to understand it. If you find sources you don’t understand, find others or seek help getting it all clear. Then write in your own words—not quotes from some article. See also my comments below about sources.
Your thesis statement/opinion—and use of facts to support it (2 points):
If you’ve done the above well—gather and present the facts (even those, by the way, that don’t support your opinion)— then it will be a very straightforward matter to express your opinion and support it—i.e. explain which facts you find most compelling and supportive of your conclusion. Be sure to acknowledge the facts that might suggest differently and note why you don’t find those lines of reasoning as convincing (not that they’re not valid observations but that the conclusion they suggest is less likely). Above all, note: It is not sufficient to quote someone else’s opinion/conclusion. Use primary facts/data/events.
Your sources (2 points):
You must have at least five sources (1 point); and they must be from widely read and reputable sources (1 point). This means scientific journals (peer-reviewed articles or data) or scientific journalism. Examples: NASA, NOAA, USGS, Science News, Scientific American, National Geographic, PBS series publications, Brian Greene, CERN,
Stephen Hawking, etc. (Note: Wikipedia itself is not acceptable. If you start by looking there, fine, but those articles are not peer-reviewed. They usually contain other references—go to those references.)
Mechanics (2 points):
Spelling, punctuation and grammar! It’s not enough to use the automated features of a word-processing program. A spell-check program won’t detect homonyms and apostrophe errors. A grammar program won’t necessarily detect run- on sentences or sentence fragments or double negatives, verb tenses, plurals, wrong quotes, lack of question marks, or a host of other errors. For this class, as in any other class—and your future career: Read and re-read your writing—and then ask others to proofread it, too! Any misspelled word (even a homonym) automatically earns 0/2 for this category. An occasional grammar error only may merit 1/2. A score of 2/2 is reserved for a mechanically error-free paper.