Intro to Astronomy – Thinking Scientifically Assignment #2

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In this assignment you will pick and evaluate an astronomy-related claim or “fact” that you think may qualify as pseudoscience.As before, the purpose of the assignment is to give you more practice evaluating whether a claim qualifies as good science or pseudoscience.Remember that there is really a continuum between these two opposites, so that any given topic may have some good points and some bad points.

There are many astronomy-related claims or supposed “facts” that are fishy, questionable, pseudoscientific or just flat out wrong.You should be able to find some by searching the web.You MAY NOT use something that I went over in class already!Let me know if you have trouble finding a topic.

So, here’s your assignment:Submit a report detailing your responses to the items below.This report should be between 3 and 4 pages long (double spaced, no larger than 12 point font), not including references.You must include a “works cited” list including ALL sources you use.You must cite within the text of your report any information that you use.

A score will be given out of 100 points.I will be grading on how well your report is written, including grammar and spelling, as well as on content.If you need help with grammar, spelling or other general writing issues, please go to the Writing Center at Mabee Library.You may ask me for help on content.

I expect that the best way to research this topic will be on the web.However, if you find other resources (books, magazines, etc.) that are helpful, feel free to use them.Be sure to cite every source you use.I don’t care what citation style you use (APA, MLA, Turabian, etc.) but be sure to give sufficient information so that I can look up the source myself.

Please address the following items in your report.Your report should be in the form of an essay, but please follow this order.Be concise, but complete, and don’t BS.

  • (10 pts) Describe the claim that you have chosen to evaluate.You can discuss the history of this claim, if relevant, and explain where and how you found it.You might also say something about why it interests you.
  • (20 pts) Find out what evidence supposedly supports the claim.Describe that evidence accurately, giving references if any are provided.If reference is made to a published study/article, follow this up; find the article or abstract and include it in your analysis below. Thinking Scientifically Assignment #2 Page 1 of 2
  • Now, evaluate that evidence.

    (10 pts) What does seem reasonable?Some aspects may be totally fine, see if you can find at least one reasonable thing and explain. o (40 pts) Critically analyze the evidence/claims/arguments.What problems do you see?Identify some “red flags” and describe them.You may use problems that others have identified, but be sure you understand the arguments, be specific, and explain fully.

  • Wrap up with some discussion and conclusions. Tell me what YOU think, not what you think I want to hear. Your grade will depend on the quality of your work, not on your opinions.That said, I do expect you to think critically and carefully, and to back up any statements you make with solid reasoning and evidence.Address these points specifically:

    (15 pts) What do you think about this claim now?Is it indeed fishy? You may decide that it’s OK, despite having seemed fishy to start.Explain. o (5 pts) What potential consequences do you foresee if someone were to buy into this?What’s the harm, if any? (You may want to visit http://whatstheharm.net/ for some suggestions on this part.) Your report is due at the beginning of class on the due date. You must bring your report to class with you.Also, we will spend some time in class discussing the topic, so please be prepared to share at least some of what you’ve written.Late reports will be accepted with a compelling reason, but will be subject to a late penalty of 10 points per day.If you do not bring your paper to class but email it to me on the day it is due I will accept it with a 5 point penalty.You are welcome to turn in your report before the due date.


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