Natural Science 176 -- Inventing Reality: The Human Search for Truth

Spring 2001, Hampshire College

Creating order out of our universe has been a perennial human pastime. Accepted truths have had a history of transience, with the models of each age yielding to the paradigm shifts of the next. Here we examine this continuing human dialogue, tracing a crooked line from ancient Babylonia to the present, accompanied along the way by such powerful thinkers as Aristotle, Aquinas, Newton, and Einstein. We will explore the physical world on all scales, from the fundamental constituents of matter to the origin, evolution, and fate of the universe. Though the focus will be on astronomy, related topics in classical physics, quantum mechanics, religion, music, art, and philosophy will not be avoided.

No prior background in astronomy or physics is assumed, and math will be limited to high school algebra and geometry. Students will directly confront the original writings of the philosophers, scientists, and theologians studied, and there will be frequent short writing assignments in addition to one longer paper. Class will meet three times a week for one hour and 20 minutes, with one session held in the evening to allow astronomical observations.

Lecture Time and Place:
Mon. 1:00 - 2:20 Adele Simmons Hall Auditorium
Mon. 8:00 - 9:20 Franklin Patterson Hall, Rm. 108
Wed. 1:00 - 2:20 Cole Science Center, Rm. 333
Fri. 1:00 - 2:20 Cole Science Center, Rm. 333
Instructor: Douglas Leonard
Office: Room 212, Cole Science Center
Office Hours: M 2:30 - 3:30; M 9:30 - 10:00 (PM); W 2:30 - 3:30
Telephone: 413 559-5422

News Flash: Have a great summer!

I hope to see some of you sitting at the Astronomy Roundtable in the Fall!

  • Course syllabus (HTML)

  • Course syllabus (PS)

  • Course syllabus (PDF)

  • Past Reading Assignments

  • Final Paper/Project assignment, due Wed., May 2(HTML)
  • Final Paper/Project assignment, due Wed., May 2 (PS)
  • Bookreview Assignment, Due March 28 (HTML)
  • Bookreview Assignment, Due March 28 (PS)
  • Course references (HTML)

  • The Night Sky.
  • *The Double-Slit experiment animated!
  • Thomson's discovery of the electron.
  • Bus Routes and Schedules. Routes 38 and 39 are the ones to use to get from Hampshire to Mt. Holyoke.
  • Demonstration of Retrograde Motion
  • Thomas Aquinas' On the Eternity of the World
  • Boethius of Dacia, and the Condemnation of 1270
  • Kepler's Laws Demonstration
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    Last Updated 2001.05.04 By Douglas Leonard