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Asteroid Impacts: The Debatable K-T Extinction

The purpose of the activity is encourage students to (1) engage in a scientific literature review of an intriguing topic, in this case the mass extinction event that marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods; (2) apply their understanding of that event to a current issue that requires policy action regarding a potentially costly engineering solution; and (3) formulate, present and defend evidence-based arguments in support of, or against, the proposed solution. Students are issued a challenge scenario and deliver their presentations in a debate format.

Scenario: A senate subcommittee is holding a public hearing to decide whether or not to fund a $50 billion planetary defense system. Are humans at risk of becoming extinct due to an asteroid or comet colliding with the Earth? Evidence suggests that such an event may have caused the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period. If so, can we prevent history from repeating itself?