Mars Seminar
Mount Holyoke College, Fall 2011
Web site for this class:
Site will be frequently updated: please check it regularly!
M. Darby Dyar
217 Kendade Hall, Mount Holyoke College
538-3073 or 538-3220 or

Modifications to the course schedule will be made on the web site; be sure to check it frequently for changes. Class meets 1:15-2:30, Monday and Wednesday afternoons, 225 Clapp Hall.

What I expect of you in this class:
Be professional and participate actively in the course.
Do the reading.
Keep up with the work.
Do the reading.
Know the syllabus and be aware of important dates.
Do the reading.
Get help promptly if you need it.
Do the reading.
Seek me out if we can help you with problems of any kind, or if you just want to talk!
Do the reading.

You do not want to miss this class! If you have to be absent, please contact Darby via e-mail or telephone before the class to let her know where you are. Your assessment in this class will be based largely on your participation in class on exercises and discussions, so it's absolutely necessary for you to attend every class.

Weekly Assignments:
Weekly readings will be posted below as we progress through the year.
This link has a set of nice papers describing tips on how to read scientific writing.

Assessments in this course will be based on the following:
50% on participation and weekly write-ups as part of in-class discussions and exercises
50% on in-class presentations and discussions that you will lead, and writing
Assessments for this class are highlighted in red font below.

Final Project:
Each student will spend the final four weeks of class writing a 5-10 page paper on a topic of her choosing, as well as preparing a 10-15 presentation on that topic. Here are some examples of work from past students so you can see what I am looking for:
Caitlin Hughes '15
Maria Dieter '14
Maggie Stevens '14

Here's a useful tutorial about proper use of sources and citations
Here's our list of what makes a good and bad presentation.

Ever-Changing Tentative Schedule:
Sept. 7. Introduction

Sept. 12, 14, and 19: Practice with Presentations
Each of you should prepare a 5 minute presentation that introduces yourself and talk about how you came to be at Mount Holyoke!  Please use Powerpoint.

Sept. 21 and Oct. 3: History of Mars Exploration
READING: The Planet Mars, by William Sheehan
Everyone should read the entire book so she can participate fully in all discussions!
Each group will prepare a 10-minute presentation that includes some discussion questions.
Chapters 1-3: Erin, Jessica, Ryka
Chapters 4-6: Joi, Ashira, Caitlin
Chapters 7-9: Maneh, Sarah, Madinah
Chapters 10-12: Waad, Ann, Hallie, Emily
Chapters 13-15: Sarah, Stephanie, Lila
Oct. 3: hand in critique of other students' presentations

Sept. 26 (Darby away) no class
Sept. 28: Guest lecture from Christine Overstreet on giving effective oral presentations. We will get some good tips on ways to improve our oral presentations.
Oct. 5: Introduction to Mars

Oct. 12 and 17: Missions to Mars (prepare a 5-minute presentation and a 2-page, single-spaced paper descrbing your mission, due Oct. 17)
Korabl 4, 5, 11, 13: Sarah H.
Mars 1-7: Stephanie
Mars 1969A/B: Caitlin
Mariner 3,4, 6-9: Ann
Viking 1 and 2: Lila
Mars Observer: Hallie
Mars Global Surveyor: Sarah W.
Mars Pathfinder:  Ryka
Mars Climate Orbiter: Katie
Polar Lander: Joi
Mars Odyssey: Maneh
Mars Express: Madinah
MER: Erin
Nozomi: Jessica
Phoenix: Emily
Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter: Ashira
At the end of class on Oct 17, hand in your written critique of the other students' presentations.

October 19: (Darby away) no class
October 24. Water on Mars
Read Ch. 7 from Barlow (2008) and write a 1-2 page summary of the chapter, ready to hand in and discuss in class. Your summary can be a detailed outline or a written essay. To access this reading assignment, you'll need a pw and un: both are "barlow".

Oct. 26. Sending people to Mars
Read: Safe on Mars and Can People Go to Mars?
Read and be prepared to discuss BOTH documents
HAND-OUT on Paper-writing tips

Oct. 31: no class due to snow storm

Nov. 2: Mars Underground (we'll watch a video and then discuss it)

Nov. 7. Research Papers
guest lecture by Sarah Oekler, MHC Science Librarian

We will meet in the library (Room Library 619) and Sarah will give you a library tour and answer questions to help you figure out how to find primary sources of information for your final project.

Nov. 9 and 14
The Case for Mars Exploration by Humans, and Terraforming...

READING: "The Case for Mars", Zubrin and Wagner (Free Press)
Prepare a 5-minute (5 powerpoint slides) presentation on the chapter you're assigned below.
Ch. 1: Emily/Joi; Ch. 2: Erin/Ryka; Ch. 3: Maneh/Hallie; Ch. 4: Katie/Lila; Ch. 5: Sarah W./Stephanie; Ch. 6: Lila; Ch. 7: Caitlin; Ch. 8: Sarah H.; Ch. 9: Ashira; Ch. 10: Jessica; Epilogue: Madinah
Hand in at start of class on Oct. 31: a 2- page write-up of something you find interesting in Zubrin's book.
Assignment: write a one-page, single-spaced summary on the topic of your final project. Include a list of at least six citations from the primary literature that you have found with help from Sarah Oelker (you don't have to have read them by now, just have the citations). This one-page summary will be due on the 14th.

Nov. 21: no class

Nov. 28 and 30th; Dec. 7:
Student Presentations: aim for a 10 minute presentation on whatever your final paper is about.
I'll be away on Dec. 5th. Final papers are due on Dec. 2nd by noon. I don't want you worrying about them in the last week of classes.
Nov. 28: Caitlin, Katie
Nov. 30: Ryka, , Maneh, Sarah H., Stephanie, Hallie
Dec. 7th: Ann, Madinah, Joi, Jessica, Ashira,
Dec. 12: Emily, Lila, Erin

Requisites of a Good Discussion

The single most important fact to remember is that the class discussion is a cooperative effort--a collective good. Good discussions are not at the expense of someone else, and are susceptible to the problems of free riders. It is important to treat all comments with respect. If there is a point of disagreement, you have an obligation to raise it--but its purpose should be to assist the discussion, not to score points. This is an extraordinarily important point. Any other attitude will lead to the disintegration of the class. A few other points:

First, to have a good discussion, the participants must listen carefully to each other. Your colleagues have much to say, they generally are insightful, and their point of view deserves careful attention. You should respond directly to their comments.

Second, be precise in what you say. If there is ambiguity in the discussion, ask that it stop in order to clarify a muddled point. Definitions are important, and you should expect to be able to give them when necessary.

Third, be concise in your statements. This does not mean that you should necessarily limit your comments to one or two sentences. It does, however, mean that you should not ramble or develop peripheral points at great length. There is one outstanding characteristic of oral discussion: people begin to think about what you have said in your first or second sentences, which means that they are listening less attentively to any subsequent sentences. If you do not make your point early, it will not have the force or impact that you desire. You should therefore always try to have your conclusion up front--working inductively to a conclusion very rarely works.

Fourth, do not be intimidated by the prospect of having to speak in a class of twenty people. There is plenty of time for everyone to say what she thinks. Moreover, your evaluations will be based on what you say, not on how much you say. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that to do well in the course you need to hold the floor for a very long period of time.

Fifth, and this is most important, you should be prepared to make an argument and not just drop comments where they seem appropriate. Essentially reactive statements serve a useful clarifying purpose, but they do not constitute an argument. The best way to build an oral argument is to have one prepared before class that can be presented very quickly, and then to use the discussion as a foil for amplifying your basic argument. Do not think that you can "build" an argument while the class is running. The conversation is too fast, too complex, and too unorganized for you to figure out what you want to say while you are saying it. The class is extremely demanding in this respect, but its difficulty is matched by its rewards: having made a solid argument in a group discussion, with helpful and constructive criticisms from others is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in a classroom.

Finally, do not attempt to intimidate or dominate. This is not an exercise in debate or public speaking. Extended monologues, orations, and harangues are to be avoided, and will be negatively evaluated. Remember, however, that the primary responsibility for preventing such misfortunes remains in your hands--either to not do them yourself, or to gently remind others to avoid them.