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Astronomy 5: Homework Assignment #4

Due in class on Tuesday, April 28

1.  Why is global warming occurring, in spite of the fact that the total solar irradiance of the
Earth (read: amount of solar energy hitting the Earth) is roughly constant? What atmospheric
gases are implicated, and what role do they play?
2. The Earth’s atmosphere after the creation of the Moon was originally dominated by carbon
dioxide, CO2. What happened to almost all of the CO2?
3. What is natural selection? Summarize the logic by which Darwin came to the “inescapable
conclusion” that evolution occurs by natural selection. Describe two examples of the
scientific evidence supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution.
4. Give an example of both a positive and a negative feedback effect in the determination of
global climate. (There are many more examples than were discussed in the lectures.)
5. How and why did the Earth recover from its “Snowball Earth” episodes? That is, what led
to its eventual thaw?
6. Think about the following organisms, and identify whether they are (1) photoautotrophs,
(2) chemoautotrophs, (3) photoheterotrophs, or (4) chemoheterotrophs:
A. a bird
B. a pine tree
C. a human
D. an e coli bacterium
E. blue-green algae
F. a Venus Flytrap plant
G. a worm
H. nitrogen-fixing bacteria
7. Identify an example of evolution in action on a relatively short time scale. Describe what
the evolutionary pressure is that has led to the evolutionary change, and what the change has
been. Following are some web sites that may give you some ideas. There are many others
that one can easily find as well. Avoid the examples given in the lecture or the text.