Topics covered - Introduction and overview.
Readings and Activities - Pick a Universe: Hesiod, Plato or Lucretius.
Nighttime star-gazing: A special star.
Topics covered - The study of ideas. Prehistoric attitudes towards
nature, and the Children of Woot; beginnings of science in Egypt and
Mesopotamia; ancient Greece, and the development of writing - the world of
Homer, Hesiod, and the rise of philosophy; the Ionian School and the question
of ultimate reality; free-will vs. determinism; the validity of the senses. A
grain of sand and the 2-sphere cosmology.
Readings and Activities - Hesiod: Theogony. Lucretius: The Nature of
Topics covered - Lucretius, free will, and the basic tenets of Ionian philosophy. The discovery of the invisible: Empedocles and the ``water thief''. Harmony in music: An introduction to Pythagoras and the Pythagorean Brotherhood. Unity behind diversity - numbers or atoms. Retrograde motion and the problem of the planets.
Readings and Activities - Empedocles: Love and Strife. Socrates.
Ferris: ``The Dome of Heaven.''
Topics covered - A different perspective: Socrates, Plato. The beauty of a sphere. The power of pure thought. Euclid's axiomatic method. A Timid Monk solves the problem: Copernicus, and the last gasp of Plato.
Readings and Activities - Euclid: Elements. Plato: The Simile of the
Caves; Theory of Art. Abell: Copernicus and the Heliocentric
Hypothesis. Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.
Topics covered - Aristotle explains it all. Violent motion and an
idealized cosmos. Tycho's island. The marriage of Kepler and Pythagoras, and
the struggle to smash the sphere. Kepler's 3rd law. Galileo's telescope.
Readings and Activities - Aristotle: Physics and On the
Heavens. Tycho Brahe: A pictorial salute. Kepler: The moment of his
conception, and the Harmonies of the World. Abell: Kepler, Copernicus, and
Galileo. Telescopic viewing of sunspots.
Topics covered - The entrenchment of Aristotelian thought: Anasazi petroglyphs and the invisible supernova of 1054. Galileo, falling bodies, and the death of Aristotle. Once per civilization: Introduction to Isaac Newton and the physics of motion.
Readings and Activities - Newton: Certain Philosophical
Questions. Wolf on Galileo and Newton. Hewitt: Motion and Inertia.
Topics covered - The Newtonian synthesis and a glimpse into the world of
genius: Newton's laws, gravity, the Principia, the secret life of an
alchemist, the search for truth and his fundamental reality, theory of light,
the immutable nature of time, theology and spiritualism. Momentum. Newton's
version of Kepler's 3rd law. Newton's legacy: The nightmare of determinism.
Fuzzy patches hold the key - The question of the nebulae: Island universes or
solar systems forming?
Readings and Activities - Newton: Principia, Letters to Richard
Bentley, and his alchemical notebooks. Laplace: On Probability. Hewitt:
Force and acceleration; universal gravitation. Wolf: The Nightmare of
First paper (book review) due by Fri., March 15.
Topics covered - How does energy get from here to there? The union of
physics and astronomy, and the study of particles and waves. It sure
looks like a wave: Young's experiment and Maxwell's discovery. The science of
spectroscopy - Kirchoff's Laws and the fingerprints of the elements. The
Doppler effect and discovering black holes.
Readings and Activities - Hewitt: Vibrations and Waves;
Diffraction and Interference. Gribbon: Light. Ferris: Island Universes.
Topics covered - The controversy rages, and the mystery is solved. Hubble
discovers a law; the expanding universe; looking back to the Big Bang, shadows
of creation; the unity of physics and cosmology. The fate of the universe.
An invisible universe: Dark matter.
Readings and Activities - Hubble: The Realm of the Nebulae.
Pasachoff: The Dark Side of Matter. Lab: The Expansion of the Universe.
Topics covered - Einstein draws a picture: The photon is born. A new
look at Young's double-slit experiment. Einstein's ``biggest blunder'': The
Cosmological Constant. Inside the atom.
Readings and Activities - Gribbon: The Atom. Wolf: The End of
the Mechanical Age.
Topics covered - Bohr takes a quantum leap; a Prince imagines a wave;
the end of pictures: Schrodinger's unimaginable world; God's dice and
uncertainty; Einstein's hidden orders.
Readings and Activities - Feynman: Quantum Behavior. Wolf: The End of
Mechanical Models; Einstein and Bohr. Griffiths: The Wave Function.
Topics covered - Einstein's challenge - The EPR paradox and Bell's
Readings and Activities - Gribbon: The EPR Paradox. Griffiths:
What is a measurement?
Topics covered - Supernovae and dark energy; Sisyphean nightmares and
Readings and Activities - Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus.
Final paper due by Fri., May 3.