Mini-Manuscripts: Instructions for Authors

Following the requirements specified below, each student is to prepare two “mini-manuscripts, each addressing one of the topics listed below. For the first manuscript, in doc, docx, or pdf format, to be sent to Schopf and all members of the class and presented as a 10-minute PowerPoint lecture on Nov 03, select topic #1A or #1B (listed below).

For the second manuscript (to be presented as a 10-minute PowerPoint lecture on Nov 17) address topic #2 (listed below). Each manuscript must conform to the strict requirements specified below.

• Each manuscript, in doc, docx or pdf format, is to be sent (preferably in advance) to Schopf and all members of the class.

• Each student will present a 10 minute ppt. lecture summarizing the mini-manuscript prepared, followed by questions from the class and a discussion of the presentation.

• Each student will then review/evaluate a manuscript prepared by another class-member (with copies of your review, in doc, docx or pdf format, sent to Schopf and the manuscript’s author.)

Strict Mini-manuscript requirements:

(1) Total length no more than 3 pages, double-spaced at 12 font, including an introductory (abstract-like) paragraph (in bold type) and any references and figures.

(2) Follow the format specified for a “Letter” to Nature. See Instructions for Authors: [for help, see the following page of this Syllabus]

(3) Do not include a “Methods Summary” and do not include the end-items required by Nature (Acknowledgements, etc.)

(4) Do, however, follow the Nature format for manuscript title, author’s name and affiliation, text references, figure legends, and reference citations.


What could aliens deduce from a “Noah’s Arc” of Earth-life? From analyses of their systematic biotic census of Earth-life and studies at their home planet of the menagerie collected, what could they infer about the planetary properties and astronomical setting of the Earth, the nature of Earth’s present surface environment, and the history of Earth-life and of its environment?

THE SITUATION: Intelligent aliens arrive in orbit around the Earth. During their trip, their spacecraft was impacted by an asteroid and their science instruments are all but inoperable. Virtually everything has been destroyed – totally inoperable, including all instruments designed to measure the physical properties of the Earth and its place in the Solar System (e.g., its mineralogy, topography, surface environment, relation to Sun and Moon, and everything else) as well as all instruments designed to investigate in situ the attributes of Earth-life (e.g., its biochemistry, metabolism, morphology, phylogeny, and everything else). The only research equipment remaining is that designed to collect, at systematically recorded locations, living specimens that comprise a total biotic sample of life on Earth — a “Noah’s Arc” that represents all Earth-life –and to keep these organism alive and return them to the aliens’ home planet for future study.

#1B Interrelated biotic-environmental evolution over geological time

Based only on living organisms (no fossils), what could these aliens deduce about the history of Earth’s biota and the environment? Changes over geological time of day-length? Of Earth-Moon relations? Of atmospheric composition (e.g., O2, CO2, CH4)? Of biologically useable nitrogen (viz., NH3, NO3, and N2)? Of ambient UV-flux? Of ambient temperature? Of the presence of liquid water? Of Darwinian Evolution? What else might they learn?

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