Throughout the course we will examine the process and philosophy of science from the astronomical perspective. We will use several examples from current research problems. Modern astronomy deals with some very mind-expanding stuff requiring sophisticated abstract and logical thinking so you will need to give your brain TIME to mull over and digest the concepts. If you take a look at any college astronomy textbook (not just mine) and any course outline for a college astronomy class, you will see that modern astronomy is mostly a "physics of the cosmos"—how things work and how we know. Astronomy is a visually beautiful and intellectually stimulating subject. We live in a beautiful universe on a gorgeous planet. Understanding how it became the way it is and how the parts interact with each other enriches and deepens our appreciation for the artistry around us. It is my hope that you will take the time and spend the effort to learn how our universe works.
At the end of the Physics of the Cosmos (Astr B1) course, the successful student will be able to:
I got two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Physics and one in Astronomy, at the University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ) in 1987. I worked for a year to decompress from the rigors of studying and then went on to graduate school at the University of Washington (in the Astronomy Department). I got my Master of Science in Astronomy in 1990 and finished my PhD in Astronomy in 1995.
While at the University of Washington I taught the introductory astronomy course, the introductory planetary science course, and the introductory cosmology course. I found I enjoyed teaching much more than research. I came to Bakersfield College in 1996. I adapted my 10-week introductory astronomy course to the 16-week semester at BC.
To find out more about me, visit my homepage.
Assignments and lecture slides will be posted on the class website. Check the class website several times a week.
The homework assignments will stress critical reasoning (and some computation). Four of them will be required—see the class website on the web for which ones they are. The required parts will be turned in at the beginning of a Wednesday's class. Required homework assignments may be turned in via email in plain text format---NO word processing file attachments. Most homework assignments will have an optional extra-credit part involving web research and a report handed in Wednesday at the beginning of class. Exam questions are drawn partly from the required homework assignments. No late (including tardy) homework assignments will be accepted.
Quizzes & exams are multiple-choice format. The quizzes will be on Wednesdays except in exam weeks or Wednesday holiday. The exam material will be drawn from homework, quizzes, in-class projects, lectures, and the textbook review questions. The exams are closed book---no live or electronic help, except a calculator, is allowed. Dates for exams are given at the end of the syllabus and also on class website. There are no make-up quizzes or exams without hardcopy documentation of a medical or legal emergency from an officially-recognized neutral third party. Any other reason, including work schedules, will not be accepted. You will need to do the quiz or exam make-up the week of your return. If you have another school activity or family event that prevents you from taking the exam or quiz on the given date, you will need to arrange with the instructor an alternate quiz/exam time that is before the given date.
The Skywatch assignment is due April 29 (Monday) and is worth 30 points. No late Skywatch reports will be accepted---mark your calendar and hand it in early if you will not be able to turn it in on the due date! Choose one of the Skywatch assignments described in chapters 4 and 5 of the Student Guide. The Skywatch requires a hardcopy report that will be turned in (or mailed or faxed) to me on campus—NO emailed skywatch reports! The hardcopy typed, complete data table, star chart, and/or photos are due by April 3 (Wednesday) at the beginning of the class time (NOT emailed!). No late, untyped, incomplete data records accepted; hand in early if necessary! You must turn in the complete, typed data record by the due date & time and it must be COMPLETE or you will receive zero credit for the final report (not just the data record)! Therefore, April 2 is the last possible date to complete your observations. If you mail me your data record or your final report, allow for at least 3 days mail transit time so that it arrives by the due date!
Understanding how the universe around us became the way it is and how the parts interact with each other enriches and deepens our appreciation for the artistry around us. However, it does mean that one has to confront and leave aside misconceptions and grapple with some complex (but manageable!) ideas. This class will be challenging but I hope you will find it rewarding and worth the time it takes to learn the subject so that at the end of the semester you will have that appreciation of our universe I spoke of above.Your role: I expect you to take responsibility for your own learning. The expectations for a college class are a definite jump up from what you had in high school! The standard for minimum acceptable work, the quality and amount of study time outside of class, and the pace the material is covered will be a significant jump up from high school. This a voluntary college course that meets two times a week for 85 minutes a lecture. Because of the limited time spent in class, you will need to spend at least 6 hours a week outside of class reviewing lecture material, reading the textbook, and doing the homework assignments. You will not pass if you only attend every lecture and do just the in-lecture-period work. Your grade is determined only by your performance on the required assignments not on "how well I feel you did". It is possible in a college course to get an "F" if your performance on the required assignments is below the "D" threshold regardless of the effort you put into the course.
Absence for an exam or quiz will result in zero credit. In the event of an unavoidable and documented medical or legal emergency that prevents you from taking a quiz or exam, I will consider a make-up quiz or exam on an individual basis. Work schedules are not valid excuses. The documentation must be from an officially-recognized neutral third party. You must take the exam or quiz the week of your return. Abuse of this policy will void your privilege of a make-up exam or quiz. It is possible to take the exam or quiz early in the case of medical, legal, or job conflicts. Exam and quiz dates are given on the class website. The Final Exam will be comprehensive and will be on the date given in the printed class schedule. It is always possible to take an exam or quiz early but usually only within a couple of days early.
Required homework and skywatch assignments are due at the beginning of class on the given due date. No late homework (including tardy!) will be accepted. No late skywatch reports or late, incomplete, untyped data records accepted at all. If you are sick, have a classmate turn it in. Assignments, including quizzes and exams, can always be turned in early.
I do not like people distracting their classmates by turning in something tardy after I have started instruction! If you are tardy when a homework assignment is due, do NOT turn it in at all. I want you to pay attention in class, not work on assignments that should be completed beforehand. Turn the assignment in the lecture before if you plan to miss class or be unavoidably late! You can also email me the homework and exam make-up assignments (not Skywatch) but only if they are emailed by the beginning of class time of the due day (not a minute or more later!!). Emailed assignments sent after the beginning of class time will simply be returned with no credit. The emailed assignments must be in the BODY of your email message---no file attachments. The Skywatch report & data record canNOT be emailed.
Absence of an in-class project (not pop quizzes, homework, or Skywatch) will result in half credit provided the work is made up within one week of the day when the project is given. Make-up of an in-class projects requiring me to set something up will have to be done at a time that is convenient for me, the instructor. I will be lenient in the case of unavoidable and documented medical or legal reasons. Other miscellaneous (and missed) in-class activities that may contribute to your participation grade will be dealt with on an individual basis.
Many have marked the speed with which Muad'Dib learned the necessities of Arrakis. The Bene Gesserit, of course, know the basis of this speed. For the others, we can say Muad'Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson. (From the "Humanity of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan)
--Frank Herbert in Dune
last updated: February 3, 2013 -- "opt-req" explanation link added after term start