For this assignment, I asked you to take a randomly assigned solar system and set life in motion. In past classes, I have given each student his or her own planet, but that has proven to be too time-consuming, both for you and for me.
Instead, this year, I had all of you work in groups to implement a set of laws of physics, create the planet, and then build up the ecosystem. You were given a total of 7 billion solar cycles to work within, which necessitated certain rules for the life you were to engineer.
In addition, I introduced certain challenges throughout the course of the project that you would have to work together to overcome.
Group 1: Creation
Your task was to supervise the implementation of the fundamental laws of physics to set the formation of the planet into motion.
You had a good balance of gravity to allow the cosmic dust to coalesce into a planet. You get bonus points for the molten iron core that resulted in a protective magnetic barrier around the planet, and for using nuclear decay to maintain the liquid form of the core. The interaction between gravity and time was a big miss, however. You’ll want to keep those separate in the future.
Someone totally botched the basics of complex molecules, which resulted in a solid form of dihydrogen monoxide that was less dense than the liquid form. This had a net positive outcome, so I’m not deducting any points, but pay attention next time.
Group 2: Planetary Structure
You had a lot of accidental help from Group 1. The formation of floating frozen water around the poles caused a good amount of solar radiation to be reflected back into space, allowing the planet to achieve a fairly constant temperature.
The tectonic plates proved to be entirely too unstable. The violent seismic activity, not to mention the formation of catastrophic volcanoes, could have been avoided. The constant shifting of the continents would cause big problems for the other groups, too.
The first challenge of the project was the collision of a Class C asteroid with one of the continents. Once again, the gravity setup from Group 1 helped prevent a global catastrophe. The material ejected from the impact ended up forming a smaller body in perfect orbit around the planet.
Group 3: Early Biology
One of the rules I put forth when you started the project was that the life forms you created would be short-lived, rarely living more than a few dozen solar cycles (for the larger creatures). Because of this, spontaneous and deliberate mutation was against the rules. Instead, you were to devise a method for your life forms to spread favorable traits.
Your solution among the higher life forms, sexual reproduction, was quite frankly a poor attempt. Some behavioral traits that emerged, such as predatory tendencies and brutal violence, proved to be difficult to eliminate since the more passive life forms found themselves the victims of the others. Also, the act of coupling to mix genetic material is revolting.
The end result, an extremely slow process of evolution, created a lot of dead-ends and prevented any one plant or creature from improving itself after birth.
I introduced a second large asteroid impact after a few billion solar cycles to put a stop to the “dinosaur” situation, which I can only assume was someone’s attempt at a joke. Luckily I was paying close attention to your progress, so I was able to intervene before the planet’s evolutionary track was permanently derailed. Lest you forget, last year’s 8th grade project (the second planet from this same star) was a nightmare to clean up, and we won’t be able to re-use that world again due to the caustic atmosphere we had to introduce to eliminate the problem.
All members of Group 3 receive a passing grade except for A48725, who receives a failing mark for the dinosaur prank, and for the incident that took place during Group 4’s portion of the assignment (see below).
Group 4: Complex Biology
Your group probably had the biggest challenge of all, given that your task was entirely dependent upon the other three groups. That said, it took entirely too many solar cycles for complex neural networks to emerge among the mammalian creatures, and the cold-blooded and exothermic creatures never managed to progress forward. Indeed, by the end of the assignment, there were still thousands of animals from Group 3 still roaming the planet.
It wasn’t until the very end of the assignment that someone – I can assume it was one person pulling an all-nighter – managed to coax some semblance of what could be called “intelligence” in one branch of the mammalian line. The result of that was actually rather exciting. In just a few thousand solar cycles, the “humans” went from wandering hunters to a rather complex society, capable of global communication and even escaping the orbit of their planet.
The humans were not, however, able to cope with the third challenge I introduced (a gamma ray burst), and as of the end of the assignment are all but extinct.
The following students were observed interfering directly with the project and will receive failing grades.
Student X54843 violated the student code of conduct by visiting the planet directly. According to data recordings from the hyperspace tunneler, a plasma burst during takeoff resulted in the direct ignition of plant life. This introduced fire to the humans far too early in their development.
Student A48725 made several visits to the planet and interacted with the humans, causing them to form competing sects that believed the student to be some sort of deity. This, combined with their violent and territorial nature, led to an unending string of mass murder throughout the final portion of the assignment.
Because of their direct interference in the final portion of the assignment, the planet is being reset so X54843 and A48725 can repeat the project over the summer.
For everyone else in the class, I am giving a B-. A good attempt, but the life you created proved far too fragile to evolve into a Phase I Protointelligence. Please pay more attention so you don’t make the same mistakes on your 9th grade solar system projects.