Caesar’s Last Breath Teacher Sheet

Caesar’s Last Breath Teacher Sheet


For this lesson plan, all of the suggested activities can be modified to better fit your class curriculum, topics, and resources. This teacher sheet identifies things to consider when assigning the student activities and when reviewing the projects.

Sam Kean Webinar Questions

How does the air you're breathing right now compare to what it was when the earth had just formed? What about when life first evolved?
What we’re breathing now is the fourth atmosphere, with oxygen, a lot of nitrogen, and many other components at very low levels.

The first atmosphere didn't have much in it - just hydrogen and helium.

When life first evolved, there was a lot of nitrogen in the atmosphere, but no oxygen.

What kinds of events or processes were involved in shaping the atmosphere?
In the discussion, you are looking for an understanding that there are many different types of processes that can and have shaped the atmosphere—from geology and impacts from space to microbial biological processes.

  • First Atmosphere: Hydrogen and Helium left over from the Earth's formation
  • Second Atmosphere: After the first atmosphere blew off into space, the second atmosphere came from gases released from volcanos. Most of these were very reactive.
  • Third Atmosphere: The non-reactive nitrogen from the volcanos stuck around and eventually built up over time.
  • Fourth Atmosphere: Microbes, and later plants, produced oxygen as part of photosynthesis, building up to the atmosphere we now breathe. Known as the Oxygen Catastrophe.

What motivated Einstein to work on refrigerators?
He wanted to improve safety. Other refrigerators used poisonous gases that could kill people when they leaked. He also was financially motivated because he was going broke, partly because of the German economy and because of divorcing and needing to support two families.

What were the three types of refrigerators Einstein and Szilard invented?
One was the People's Fridge, and was a small system that hooked up to the water tap to get a vacuum force.

One was a complicated device that pumped molten sodium, and was too elaborate for homes. But the concept was used later in nuclear power plants.

The last was powered by natural gas, not electricity, and had no motor. Without a motor, there wasn’t a need for seals that could break down, so it avoided the safety issues that led to people dying.

Why didn't Einstein's refrigerator become a common household appliance?
Other inventors came up with a different solution: a cheap and safe (for people) coolant that manufacturers could just swap in to the designs and manufacturing processes they already had.

What were some of the impacts of the refrigeration solution?
Refrigerators became common household appliances.

The CFCs, while safe for humans, caused a hole in the ozone layer and are also greenhouse gasses. The ozone hole that was caused largely by CFCs lead to a global response.

Assigning chapters

If you would like to focus the lesson on certain concept strands or technical topics, you may want to assign just a subset of chapters. The table lists technical topics covered by each chapter/interval pair along with strands that are particularly well covered, or missing, in each.

For a subset of chapters that have excellent discussions of how scientific inquiry advances using stories related to foundational physics and chemistry discoveries your students will likely be familiar with, like the Ideal Gas Law, check out Chapters 3, 5, and 6.

For a subset of chapters dealing with how science impacts society and vice versa, along with issues of science and ethics, check out Chapters 2, 7, and 8.

Communicating science comes up in most chapters in some form. Chapters 1 and 7 discuss efforts to communicate to the general public. Chapters 3, 4, and 6 involve scientists communicating to other experts.

Chapter and interlude

Major strands

Missing strands

Technical topics


Examples for most are discussed, but none have significant focus.

Society impacts science

Geology: volcanos, plate tectonics


Society impacts science, science impacts society, science and ethics,

Communicating Science

Nature of matter: chemical bonds, oxidation and reduction


How scientific inquiry advances, correcting misconceptions, communicating science

Science impacts society

Biology: photosynthesis and the Oxygen Catastrophe

Nature of matter: Conservation of matter, states of matter,


How scientific inquiry advances



Biology: effects of anesthesia and other compounds on people

Chemistry: charged particles


How scientific inquiry advances, society impacts science, science and ethics


Nature of matter: Gas has weight and pressure; phase transitions; energy conversion

Chemical reactions: explosions, process to produce steel


How scientific inquiry advances, communicating science

Science and ethics

Nature of matter: Archimedes’ principle (buoyancy), nature of gasses, Ideal Gas law, periodic table, interactions of atmosphere and light


Communicating science, society impacts science, science and ethics


Nature of matter: radiation, fallout, energy conversion; nature of heat


How scientific inquiry advances, society impacts science, science and ethics


Meteorology: the atmosphere and weather

Nature of matter: nature of heat, nature of gases, chaos theory


Very little related to strands

How scientific inquiry advances, society impacts science

The atmosphere and the climate, Astronomy and observing characteristics of other planets


Reading logs

For additional information on using reading logs, check out the Introduction to Reading Guides from The Invisible Kingdom Science NetLinks lesson.

Depending on your class topics, you may want to add relevant concept strands or topic sections to the reading log. If there is another style of reading log format that you prefer to use, feel free to modify the sheet to fit that format.

Because the students will build on their reading log sections when they develop the presentations, you may want to collect and review the logs to check the students’ understanding before they develop the presentations.

When you review the reading logs, remember that while students should have a log for all the assigned chapter/interval pairs, they may have empty boxes in the log, as not all chapters have good examples of all six strands. Satisfactory logs should summarize the chapter and identify relevant science concepts and identify relevant connections from the stories to the strands and the underlying learning goals. Logs that indicate a deeper understanding may also note cross connections (for example, some of the science impacts society and society impacts science examples feed into each other). These will also identify less obvious connections and may compare to information from outside the book (or, if you are assigning sections, across chapters).

This teacher sheet is a part of the Caesar's Last Breath lesson.

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