Questions about whether there's life beyond our own universe has filled millions of pages of speculative fiction, taken up years of time on movie and TV screens, and consumed billions of hours of kids' and astrophysicists' daydreams. Now, a new free online course offered by Harvard can arm you with facts you need to learn more about "alien life, how we search for it, and what this teaches us about our place in the universe."
It will be taught by Dimitar Sasselov, a professor of astronomy at Harvard. "He is the director of the Origins of Life Initiative, a new interdisciplinary institute that joins biologists, chemists, planetary scientists and astronomers in searching for the starting points of life on Earth (and possibly elsewhere)," says his bio on the course sign-up page. "He is also a co-investigator on NASA's Kepler mission, searching for exoplanets the size of Earth."
The course will combine the latest findings in evolutionary biology with with advances that have helped us discover more and more planets outside our own solar system. It starts on February 10, lasts for six weeks and requires a commitment of about five hours per week.
Although the course is completely free, you have the option to donate to keep edX going (as little as $5 is acceptable) and you can choose to receive a "verified certificate" for your completed coursework for a minimum of $50, something that might help if you are planning to use the class in your career as. Also, according to the research statement attached to the course, Harvard will use student participation to help improve its educational offerings. In addition to this course, edX offers over 250 other classes in everything from ethics to medicine -- all free.
So what do you think? Are you going to sign up? Watch this video about the course, then let me know in the comments.