AAS 197, January 2001
Session 98. Innovations in Teaching Astronomy II
Joint Oral, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 1:30-3:00pm, Royal Palm 3/4

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[98.03] Fictional Telescopes: Astronomy Through A Science Fiction Lens

D. R. DeGraff (Alfred University)

Astronomy can be a difficult subject for non-science students to grasp because the things astronomers talk about, stellar evolution, distances measured in light-years, the beginning of time, are all things that are not part of the everyday experience of most people. There are two groups of people for whom these abstractions are more concrete: Astronomers, and science fiction writers. Science fiction can be a lens for students to see astronomical concepts in more concrete terms than is presented in traditional textbooks.

Concepts that are usually presented as abstractions make a concrete difference in the charactersí lives in these stories. The concept of lookback time, for example, is made vividly real in Robert Reedís story "The Shape of Everything." Supernovae become more than exploding stars that get really bright in Robert R. Chaseís "Transit of Betelgeuse." Authors use data from the latest planetary probes to make the worlds more believable, actual places where people may someday travel and possibly live, as in Paul J. McAuley's "Sea Change, with Monsters." Textbooks rarely talk about what a planet would smell like, science fiction writers show the planets through all their charactersí senses. Who better than professional writers to really enhance the sense of wonder for the universe that astronomy can bring?

I will present a few examples of science fiction short stories, and how they can be used in the classroom as a source of concept tests, tests of critical thinking, and small group discussion questions.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://merlin.alfred.edu/sf.astro. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: degraff@alfred.edu

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