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This course is approved for the Natural Sciences Core Curriculum. There are no prerequisites.
This course will emphasize visualization and conceptual understanding, although course material will involve high school math and science. If you are a science major, or if you would prefer a more mathematically oriented course, then you should consider taking ASTR 3740 Relativity and Cosmology.
This course will not be an easy A. The concepts of relativity are strange and non-intuitive, and it will require hard work on your part to begin to grasp them.
The Statement of Expectations for Natural Sciences Core Curriculum Courses (pdf) states that all Natural Science Core courses should involve the exercise of quantitative reasoning and mathematical skills, and this course is no different. In particular, most of the homeworks apply mathematics to solve intriguing questions about black holes.
Who should take this course? | Why? |
---|---|
Artists | Learn how draw relativistically |
Writers, movie makers | Learn the truth about Black Holes |
Educators | Every kid wants to know about Black Holes |
Business folk | Black Holes sell |
Psych types | Why do Black Holes fascinate? |
Engineers | Can BHs be used for spacetime travel? |
Scientists | Learn the phenomenology before climbing the math mountain |
You | What are your goals? |
The exams will cover material discussed in class and in the assigned reading, and will consist largely of multiple choice and short-answer questions. The Sep 22 midterm will be on Special Relativity. The Oct 13 midterm will be on General Relativity and Black Holes. The final will cover all material covered cumulatively during the semester up to and including Dec 1, with an emphasis on material covered since the Oct 13 midterm. The penultimate week of the semester, week 15, will cover the Big Bang, and will not be tested on the final. The last week of the semester, week 16, will be devoted to review.
I will drop either your worst midterm score, or half your final score, or your clicker score (see below), whichever is worst.
The principal goal of the projects is to get you to think and argue logically with your peers. The projects are not intended to be chug-and-plug exercises.
Each project is intended to take approximately 30 minutes, and will take place during the class period. For the project, you will assemble into groups of 3 or 4. You should immediately assign one of your group to be the "Scribe". The group should discuss and solve the project together.
It is the Scribe's responsibility to write up the results obtained by the group, and to submit them at the end of class. I will accept only one submission from each group. The write-up must include the name of the Scribe, and the names of all the other members of the group.
To simplify the logistics, the groups will be informal, probably consisting of your nearest neighbors. You do not have to stay in the same group, and indeed I encourage you to rotate into other groups.
If possible, you should rotate the role of Scribe. Make a goal that you personally should be Scribe for at least one group project during the semester.
Only the 3 best of your 5 group projects will count for grade. Thus you may omit 2 group projects without penalty. This includes cases where you cannot be in class for a project for reasons beyond your control.
Only the 3 best of your 4 homeworks will count for grade. Thus you may omit 1 homework without penalty.
There will be a tendency for Homework problems to be more mathematical than group projects or exams.
Clicker questions will generally be of two kinds:
You win clicker points as follows:
Points | Assessment |
---|---|
0 | No answer |
1 | Wrong answer |
2 | Right answer |
Every person gets 6 free clicker days, meaning that we will omit the worst scoring 6 days from your clicker score. These free clicker days include all eventualities, including days when your clicker fails to work, days when you forgot your clicker, days when you have a personal or family emergency, days when you have to be elsewhere to represent your team or club or University, and days when you go skiing.
As stated above under Exams, I will drop either your worst midterm score, or half your final score, or your clicker score, whichever is worst.
It is strictly forbidden to operate someone else's clicker for them. If you are discovered doing this, then both you and the person whose clicker you operated will receive an F. If you see a classmate operating two or more clickers, please bring it immediately to my attention.
TA Eduardo Calleja will be looking after the clicker system, and any questions regarding clickers should be addressed to him.
Item | Date | Weight |
---|---|---|
In class group Projects | see Timetable | 1/6 |
Homework | see Timetable | 1/6 |
Clicker points | every class | 1/6 |
Midterms | Fri Sep 22, Fri Oct 13 | 1/3 (1/6 each) |
Final | 4:30-7pm Mon Dec 18 | 1/3 |
Here is the relation between numerical and letter grade. I may choose to curve the grade at the end of the semester, but only upward.
Score at least | Grade |
---|---|
95% | A+ |
91% | A |
87% | A- |
83% | B+ |
79% | B |
75% | B- |
71% | C+ |
67% | C |
63% | C- |
59% | D+ |
55% | D |
50% | D- |
0% | F |
In past years, students have gained extra credit by advising me of a movie or TV episode that involves Black Holes or Wormholes. Thanks to the efforts of previous generations of students, the list of movies and TV episodes has become fairly extensive. For this class, therefore, I am broadening the scope to include works of science fiction, including both novels and short stories.
To gain the full extra credit, you must name a specific work of science fiction, you must have read the work yourself, and you must include a short review of the work (don't forget the quotes rule). Preferably you should provide a link to a place on the web where further information about the work can be found.
Extra credits are first come first served. You can submit an extra credit any time during the semester, and, if approved, I will add it to the website. After that, another student may not use the same novel, short story, or movie for extra credit.
You may expect me:
I have a very simple rule regarding the quoting or use of material obtained through the web or elsewhere:
syllabus | timetable | projects | homework | clicker questions | weekly summaries | books, movies | images |
Updated 2006 Aug 28