ASTR 302 [Fall 2019]

Foundations of Cosmological Thought
with Prof. Dr. Harold Geller
Subject to change and revisions throughout semester


Follow me on Twitter @AstroBioProf
Check Out the Observing Schedule for the Fall 2019 Semester
Check Out the GMU Observatory

Synopsis

This course examines the scientific, historical, and philosophical foundations and development of cosmological thought from antiquity to the present. Emphasis will be on a qualitative understanding of the development of cosmology concluding with the present concepts of the origin and evolution of the Universe. No advanced background in mathematics or the natural sciences is required. Either ASTR 103 or ASTR 111 and 113 recommended.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE
Other Fall 2019 Semester Information
Classes begin							August 26
Last day to drop with no tuition liability			September 3
Last day to add classes						September 3
Last day to drop						September 27
Last day of classes						December 7

Instructor: Grading Policy
The term paper will be worth 40% of your final grade. There will be two examinations worth 40% of your final grade. Class participation (via iClickers) will be worth 20% of your final grade.
			Term Paper and Presentation			40 %
			Class Participation				20 %
			Two Examinations				40 %
									====
									100%
Honor Code Adherence
Students are expected to follow the George Mason University rules of student honor. As noted in the catalog:

"George Mason University shares in the tradition of an honor system that has existed in Virginia since 1842. The Honor Code is an integral part of university life. On the application for admission, students sign a statement agreeing to conform to and uphold the Honor Code. Therefore, students are responsible for understanding the provisions of the code. In the spirit of the code, a student's word is a declaration of good faith acceptable as truth in all academic matters. Therefore, cheating and attempted cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing of academic work and related materials constitute Honor Code violations. To maintain an academic community according to these standards, students and faculty must report all alleged violations of the Honor Code to the Honor Committee. Any student who has knowledge of, but does not report, an Honor Code violation may be accused of lying under the Honor Code."

[Source: http://www.gmu.edu/catalog/apolicies/index.html ]


Course Format - Lectures
Lectures will consist of various forms of presentation material including videos, computer displays, demonstrations and transparencies. Questions are acceptable at any time during the lecture. Students should be alert during the lecture and prepared to answer queries posed as they arise.

Entry level Competencies
The course requires elementary calculus, algebra and geometry. Students should have English composition skills at least comparable to the English 101 level.

Course Objectives
  1. to familiarize students with the historical, philosophical, and scientific background of cosmological thought as it pertains to the modern science of cosmology;
  2. to familiarize students with the physical concepts and terms used in modern physics, mathematics, astronomy, and cosmology, so as to contribute to a student's understanding of the physical nature of human existence in the Universe;
  3. to expose students to the practices, methodology, and the conceptual basis of a modern physical science, such as cosmology; and,
  4. to provide an exposure to one of the important areas in the history and philosophy of science.

These objectives will be pursued in basically a non-mathematical way. However, a qualitative understanding of the physical basis of modern cosmology will be used in the presentation of the material. Although examinations do not involve problem solving, lectures will use quantitative material. Major Topics to be Included
  1. The night sky as a source of wonder
  2. The mythological roots of cosmology
  3. The scientific method
  4. Greek cosmology
  5. The Copernican Revolution
  6. Tycho Brahe and Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion
  7. Galileo Galilei
  8. Newton's Laws of Motion
  9. Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation
  10. The age of the Earth
  11. The Nature of Matter
  12. The Nature of Electromagnetic Radiation
  13. Wien's Law
  14. Stefan-Boltzmann Law
  15. The nature of galaxies
  16. The life cycle of stars
  17. The anthropic principle
  18. The cosmological principle
  19. The Michelson-Morley Experiment
  20. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity
  21. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity
  22. The nature of black holes
  23. Hubble's Law and the Expansion of the Universe
  24. Simple cosmological models
  25. The Big Bang Theory of the Origin of the Universe
  26. The nucleosynthesis of chemical elements
  27. The cosmic microwave background radiation
  28. Dark Matter
  29. The Large Scale Structure of the Universe
  30. The Inflationary Universe
  31. Modern Cosmological Models of the Universe

Additional Topics Regarding Classwork
As deemed appropriate, the course may be supplemented with homework, guest speakers and discussions of new discoveries.

See a summary of APA guidelines for term papers at this location.



SAMPLE outline of term paper
Abstract
1. Introduction
1.1 Where in the Universe is Carmen Sandiego?
1.2 Who is Carmen Sandiego?
1.3 What is the universe where Carmen Sandiego can be?
2. Searching for Carmen Sandiego
2.1 What can be used to search for Carmen Sandiego?
2.2 Where do you search?
3. Background of Other Searches for Carmen Sandiego
3.1 The American Search for Carmen Sandiego
3.2 The British Search for Carmen Sandiego
3.3 The Chinese Search for Carmen Sandiego
4. Discussion of Current Search for Carmen Sandiego
4.1 Search in the Solar System
4.2 Search in the Milky Way Galaxy
5. Conclusion
5.1 Did we find Carmen Sandiego in this Galaxy?
5.2 Did we find Carmen Sandiego in this Universe?
6. Future Research
6.1 New Technolgy for Searching
6.2 Future Searches for Carmen Sandiego
7. References