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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Paul Boynton
ASTR 211
Seattle Campus

The Universe and Change

Gravity as central to the form and evolution of the universe. Conceptual formulation of gravity from the Renaissance to Einstein. Its consequences from the falling of an apple to the slowing of the expansion of the universe. Offered: W.

Class description

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

REQUIRED TEXT: Cosmology: A Cosmic Perspective (available from ASUW Lecture Notes, HUB)

Recommended preparation

There are no prerequisites for this course; but a good preparation would be provided by Astronomy 101, 102, or 150, or one quarter of college physics. We do assume each student has retained some skills in geometry and algebra from high school. It would be helpful to bring some curiosity about how we have come to live in a world whose values and view of reality are profoundly affected by the apparent success of science and thechnology.

Class assignments and grading

Course Overview

Modern physical science is based on a distinctly late-Renaissance worldview whose character was shaped largely in the 16th and 17th centuries with major contributions from Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton. However, the roots of this particular mode of thinking about the physical world can be traced as far back as Classical Greece. In The Universe and Change, we attempt to reveal the development of scientific inquiry by examining in four eras (Classical Greece, Hellenism, the Renaissance, and the Twentieth Century) the solutions to a crucial puzzle posed by visual observations of the night sky that suggest underlying order in the celestial realm. This series of struggles in problem-solving reveals not only the success and power of this modern way of knowing the world, but also its inherent limitations.

The primary theme of the examples studied here is the phenomenon of gravitation. Examining this theme reveals how our approach to understanding the physical world has taken several forms over the past two millennia. We will see that universal gravitation not only solves the historical problem of interpreting earth-bound observation of the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets, but also leads to the 20th century realization that gravity is intimately involved in determining the structure of the universe from the largest scale (cosmological) to the smallest (atomic and nuclear). Consequentially, gravity is a central player in setting up conditions for life in the universe.

Two, one-hour quizzes, a midterm, weekly homework, two projects, and a final exam.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Ana M. Larson
Date: 12/22/2000