Course Description and Philosophy
Textbook and Reading Assignments
FINAL EXAM: Wednesday, June 9, 3:30-5:30 p.m. The exam is closed book and covers material from the entire course, though with more emphasis on the second half. A formula sheet will be provided. Bring a calculator.
Welcome to the home page for Physics 131: Survey of the Universe! Watch this space for important announcements and useful hints. Plan to use email to ask questions about homework assignments and the course readings so that we can give you timely feedback and send any relevant homework hints to everyone else in the class.
Office hours: see above for office hours of the instructor and teaching assistant.
This course is designed to introduce Astronomy to non-physics majors. Emphasis will be on understanding of important concepts, backed up by simple quantitative analysis. No calculus will be used in this class. However, knowledge of basic high school level mathematics such as algebra and geometry will be assumed. A review of mathematical concepts will be distributed in class. Please review these notes immediately and see the instructor or TA if you have questions.
Topics that will be covered in this course include
Have fun and ask lots of questions! I hope that this course stretches your imagination.
Please read the assignments before class and prepare to ask questions.
See the Course Schedule below for the weekly reading assignments.
The following sections of the syllabus describe each of these components.
Solutions to the homework will be handed out in class on the due date (and posted on the web page), which is why late homework will not be accepted. Please strive to present your answers in a neat, workmanlike fashion; the clarity of your solutions will count toward your grade. You must show your work, clearly backing up your answers with calculations where necessary, to get full credit.
Brainstorming is fun! (Even Einstein received help.) But you and you alone are responsible for the work that you turn in. Please write up your own solutions to the problems. Breaches of this policy will result in homework scores being divided by the number of ``participants.'' Second offenses may result in failure (of the class).
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, April 8
Homework 2: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, April 15
Homework 3: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, April 22
Homework 4: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, April 29
Homework 5: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, May 13.
Homework 6: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, May 20.
Homework 7: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, May 27.
Homework 8: PDF file
Due at 12:30 p.m. in class Thursday, June 3.
See the handout "Class Presentation Guidelines" for more details. For your group assignment, see the handout "Class Presentation Groups". I will distribute a class list with faces and email addresses to facilitate identifying group members.
The Final will be during exam week and will include material from the entire course, but with some emphasis on the second half of the course.
Both exams will be closed book. Bring a calculator. However, you may not preprogram your calculator with memorized formulae. Ask me if you are uncertain about this policy.
Problem 6: You are asked to compute the parallax of a star that is 5 lightyears away. The "parallax" is the angular distance that the star appears to move in the sky when seen from two different positions of the Earth. Try drawing a little diagram. Imagine that first you observe the star in, for example, June when the Earth is on one side of the Sun. Six months later, in December, you observe the same star again, but now you're on the other side of the Sun. Draw a line between those two positions of the Earth - they're 2 A.U. apart (where one Astronomical Unit is 1.5 X 108 km). Suppose that the star lies 5 light years away from the Sun along a line that is perpendicular to the first line. Now, connect the star's position to both Earth positions. You've just drawn a triangle, where the base of the triangle has the two Earth positions at the corners, and the star is at the third corner. The parallax is half the interior angle in the star's corner.
In class, we discussed how, at large distance, the angular size is angle = (physical size)/(distance) X (360)/(2 pi) degrees Try thinking of our triangle above from the standpoint of the distance star, and use this formula to compute the parallax. Think carefully. What are the relevant physical size and distance in this case?
Problem 2: Try to solve this using ratios of the masses and radii and use the table on p. 146 of the textbook, which lists the radii and masses of the planets and Moon in terms of Earth's radius and mass.
Problem 3a: There is some overlap in dates when they lived, so you could use their birth years to sort them.
|1||March 30, April 1||1.1-1.5|
|2||April 6, 8||2.1-2.7||HW1 due|
|3||April 13, 15||3.1, 3.3, 3.4 3.5, 4.1, 5.1, 5.2, 5.6||HW2 due|
|4||April 20, 22||6.1-5, 9.1-2, 9.5, 10.1-2, 10.4-5||HW3 due|
|5||April 27, 29||16.1, 16.5, 17.1, 17.3-5, 17.7-8||HW4 due|
|6||May 4, 6||20.1-4||Midterm (May 4)|
|7||May 11, 13||21.2-5, 22.1, 22.5-8||HW5 due|
|8||May 18, 20||21.1-3, 23.6-7, 24.1-3, 24.5||HW6 due|
|9||May 25, 27||26.1-6||HW7 due|
|10||June 1, 3||27.2, 4, 5||HW8 due|
|11||June 7-12||Final Exam Week|
Last update: May 26, 2004