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Tentative Schedule

The following is a tentative schedule for the current class (Summer 2010). It probably will not survive intact, as I tend to slow down when people have trouble and speed up when it is smooth sailing, which varies year to year. But it is a schedule that will carry us through the material in a timely way, and complete all the required work in the allotted time.

May 19-21

Topics: We will start with a general course description, and review what we will cover, the material above, how to study and do the homework. We will then begin our study of astronomy with some essential philosophy, in particular the building of a worldview. We will cover: the scientific method, the small angle formula (with a bit of trigonometry and geometry), scientific notation, length and time scales, and some of the units that you will need to know. Following this we will consider the history of astronomy (in particular things accomplished with naked eye observations in the millennia before the invention of the telescope) and we will make our first pass through learning how to navigate the heavens and find ``interesting'' objects by means of their declination and right ascension - the ``latitude'' and ``longitude'' of the heavens, as it were.
Reading Assignment: This syllabus (completely), Chapters 1 and 2 in Freedman for Thursday and Friday respectively, and skim the rest of the textbook to become generally familiar with its contents. Click on at least a couple of links in the ``wikilinks'' section above and read what you find there, then follow the links in the article itself and read as much as you like - this should be fun!
Homework: Chapter 1- 28, 29, 35, 36, 37, 38. Prepare to discuss 40, 41. When you get a chance (and it isn't cloudy) do 45, 46, 47 from somewhere "dark" on campus, being careful to be safe - do this in groups. If no opportunity presents itself, don't worry - we'll try to schedule a (weather permitting) trip out to our private observation site in Duke Forest perhaps over this weekend and to it together there. The moon will be in its first quarter then, which will give us a great opportunity to look at it as the ancients must have - just barely too small to be able to make out details like mountains and craters and see that it is an approximate sphere. Chapter 2- 29, 30, 42, 48. Add activities such as 60 and 61 to your list of observation chores.

Finally, write me a short, informal paper or letter that explains why you are taking this course, and what (aside from a science credit) you hope to get out of it. Is there anything in particular you hope to learn? Have you always been curious about science in general, or astronomy in particular? Do you want to know how (as best we can tell) the Universe came to be as it is? Are you hoping to learn enough to pursue amateur astronomy as a hobby, perhaps with your own telescope? Whatever your interests or goals here, articulate them both for me and for yourself - at the end of the course you can assess whether or not you have accomplished what you set out to accomplish and learned what you hoped to learn.

This homework assignment will be due Monday, 5/24 at the beginning of class.

May 24-28

Topics: Sidereal time, Celestial Navigation, Parallax (from Chapter 2).

All About the Moon and the Tides!

Gravity, orbits, the planets. The problem of retrograde motion on the ``spheres''. The first working solution - the Ptolemaic geocentric model. What is good and bad about it (and why one it is bad to have a religious mythology in the way of unbiased reason). Occam/Ockham's Razor - should Nature be ``simple''? Copernican heliocentric model2. Synodic and sidereal periods revisited (opposition and conjunction).

Tycho Brahe's observations. Johannes Kepler and Kepler's Laws. Galileo and (St.) Bellarmine. Newton and Newton's Laws. Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. Orbits. Kepler's Laws revisited. The Tides once again.

We'll start (but probably not finish) the study of light in chapter 5.

Reading Assignment: Chapters 3, 4 and 5. Also, read the links to all of the people and topics mentioned in the topics section on wikipedia, and follow interesting links from those pages as the mood strikes you.

Also read St. Bellarmine's Letter to Galileo and, if you like, do more google-based work looking up the woes of Copernicus and Galileo, in particular.

Homework: Chapter 3 - You should know all of the ``Key Ideas'' from the chapter. You should also learn most of the ``true facts'' about the moon that we talked about in class - its size, probable natural history, approximate radius of its orbit, the inclination of the plane of its orbit compared to the ecliptic, and about the saros and how to predict the interval between ``similar'' eclipses. Also do problems: 26, 31, 37, 48, 50, 53.

You should note that we are due to have a gangbusters solar eclipse right across NC from the look of it in 2017, a mere seven years from now. Plan your reunion visits early! These problems are due on Friday (before our probable quiz on Chapters 1-3).

June 1-4

Topics: Conclude gravitation/tides and motion of the planets (Chapter 4). Study light: speed of light, light as a wave with frequency and wavelength, the spectrum, interference and diffraction, blackbody radiation (from hot objects, so "temperature" as well), Wien's law, Stefan-Boltzmann law for a blackbody, photon hypothesis, chemically specific spectra (blackbody, emission, absorption), Rayleigh scattering (why the sky is blue and sunset red), doppler shift. Also telescopes and how the eye and magnifiers work (Chapter's 5-6).

Homework: Chapter 4: 15, 22, 30, 31, 38, 41, 43, 46, 51, 52, 53 (2-3 items per person, not an essay). Due Thursday. Chapter 5: 10, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22, 28, 31, 36, 38, 45, 46. Due Monday of next week.

June 7-11

Topics: Simple geometric optics (chapter 6): How the eye works, how lenses create magnified images, how a telescope works, how the different kinds of telescope work (e.g. refracting, reflecting, and hybrids such as Schmidt-Cassegrain). Parameters that describe a telescope (to help you one day make such a purchase!): F-Number, magnification, light gathering power, chromatic abberation, limits to angular resolution (diffraction, atmosphere/adaptive optics, light pollution, dew), using e.g. CCD cameras to further increase light gathering power IF one has a rock solid tracking scope. Famous telescopes and radio interferometry telescopes, telescopes that focus on one part of the spectrum.

Our Solar System (chapters 7-16, overlapping into the next week): Kinds of planets: rocky, gas giants, dwarf planets and moons. Names of planets, order, characteristics. Kinetic energy, temperature, and planetary atmosphere. Asteroids. Comets. Cratering and how it relates to age and history and internal geology of planets, moons, etc where we can observe it. Magnetic field and fluid planetary interiors (and Jupiter!).

Homework: Chapter 6: 8, 19, 29, 31, 32, 33, 37, 38. Chapter 7: 22, 24, 25, 29, 34. Chapter 6 due Friday, Chapter 7 due Monday.

It is also time to switch over to ``information, not equations'' mode. For the rest of the summer session, your standing assignment will be reading the Unverse textbook like a novel, just for the fun and the very cool interesting stuff in it, at the rate of 2 chapters per night (this should take you no longer than a couple of hours, as the chapters aren't that long).

Don't just read! Take notes as you go, highlight things that you want to talk about in class or things you'd like to see or have further explained. There will be a smattering of problems from the chapters as we go, added below, but from now on we really will focus much more on reading and understanding the vast wealth of what is known about our Universe. At this point you know enough of the science that most of this should now make sense to you. Of course, whatever doesn't should be brought to class and discussed!

June 14-18

Topics: Our Solar System, in detail. Basically we'll try to cover several bodies a day, trying to learn all that is "interesting" about objects in the solar system, concentrating on the Sun, models for formation, and what we have learned from what we can see plus space missions to perform on-site measurements.
Homework: Continue to read 2 chapters (or more) a night for discussion. Check back here as I'll add a handful of homework problems from all of the chapters involved over the course of the week just to give you some concrete questions to study for exams etc.

June 21-25

Topics: Stars, their spectrum, the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagrams, how they are forming as we speak, their life cycle as revealed by the H-R diagram and parallax-based observations (the way we've been discussing).
Homework: Continue to read 2 chapters a night for discussion. Check back here as I'll add a handful of homework problems from all of the chapters involved over the course of the week just to give you some concrete questions to study for exams etc. This should pretty much exactly take us through the textbook by the end of the session.

June 28-30

Topics: June 28 is last day of class, so we'll wrap up with a discussion and review of everything. June 29 will be the reading period; I'd suggest that we again meet as usual for review and discussion, and then you can retire to study for the final exam, which is from 2-5 pm on June 30th in our regular classroom.
Homework: Chapter 17: 19, 27, 44, 46, 55. Chapter 18: 11, 13, 18, 44. Chapter 19: 15, 21, 28, 30. Chapter 20: 14, 16, 22, 53. Note that most of this is ``review'' of the material we covered last week plus the applications of the physics we learned at the beginning.

Be sure to read the rest of the book! I will not ask questions on it as we didn't cover it in detail in class, but the chapters on the structure of galaxies and the origin and evolution of the Universe are very interesting. On Monday I will try to go over at least some parts of chapter 26 so we can add some detail to our existing picture of the big bang (and review the evidence, including evidence such as the inference of the expanding Universe and Hubble constant that we have not yet covered). Tuesday is, as I note above, the reading period (which I had forgotten) and there will be no class. I will, however, be available in our classroom during our normal time period and would be happy to hold a review session and answer questions for anybody during that period and for as long afterwards as people wish to stay.

All homework (including any missing assignments) is due by the 28th at the very latest (by University rule). This will let me grade the last of it and give it back to you in time to study from it on the 29th. The long paper you can hand in anytime up to the exam on Wednesday.

next up previous contents
Next: About this document ... Up: Physics 55 Syllabus and Previous: The Method of Three   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2010-06-26