Earth (Day) Questions - first half
In honor of Earth Day later this week, here are several questions about the Earth. What is our place in the solar system; what are our relationships with our sun and our moon, and how do they effect life on Earth; what is the relationship between physical (abiotic, non-living) realities like the tilt of the Earth and our seasons, and how do the seasons, in turn, affect the biota.
These questions are from an “Earth workshop” that Bret (Weinstein) and I wrote for our year-long, upper-division science program, Evolution and Ecology Across Latitudes (2015-2016), which included an eleven-week study abroad trip through Ecuador, spanning several ecosystems and cultures, both ancient and modern.
To answer these questions, we had students begin by working individually, using just their own brains, to figure out how much they already knew, or could deduce from other things that they knew. We asked them to aim to be able to explain as many of the questions as possible at a level that a very smart, scientific sixth grader could understand. Then they joined forces with one another, working in small groups to expand their knowledge, filling in their own gaps, and filling in the gaps of others.
Then we discussed many of the questions as a whole class—50 students, and two professors. And finally, both Bret and I gave lectures—again, highly interactive—on some of the subjects raised with these questions. This was all part of one week early in the Fall quarter of the program. Some of the questions are simple and straight-forward; others, not so much. We did not fully answer all of the questions, nor did we aim to, nor even did we claim to be able to. But we modeled the process—and had the students themselves model the process—by which a person can come to understand things with logic, first principles, observation, and discussion. And over the course of the program, students saw that such an approach tends to result in a deeper and more lasting understanding than if they had simply googled the answers.
Today’s post has somewhat more than half of the questions from that 2015 workshop. Tomorrow, for paying subscribers, I will post the remaining questions. Paying subscribers also have the ability to comment, and this might be a fun post to comment on. I am away from the internet this week, but look forward to engaging with the comments when I return.
What is the Sun? What is the Earth? What is the moon?
What is a day? What is a year?
What is a lunar eclipse? Can a lunar eclipse occur with a crescent moon? What time of day do they happen?
What is a solar eclipse? Can a solar eclipse occur with a crescent moon? What time of day do they happen?
Why does the moon have “phases”?
When the moon is full, at what time of day is it highest in the sky?
When the moon is “new,” where in the sky is it at midnight?
Does the moon have a permanently dark side?
What is a season? What do seasons have to do with the “angle of the sun”?
What and when is the equinox? How frequently do they occur?
What and when is the solstice? How frequently do they occur?
Why are days (the length of the photoperiod) longer in the summer and shorter in the winter? Why is the equator an exception to this rule?
What is a tropic?
What is a polar region?
What is a temperate zone?
Why are temperate zones so hot in the summer and cold in the winter?
What is a volcano? An earthquake?
Why is there liquid rock inside the earth?