As its name suggests, this course focuses on the many different types of collisions that occur as part of astronomical phenomena, from impacts between solar system bodies to binary stars to merging galaxies. Astronomers once believed that collisions within the solar system were unimportant today, but one event we will study is the crash of a comet into Jupiter in 1994. Possibly the most important large impact on Earth was the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, which is a topic we will study in detail.
This class is aimed at non-science majors. It will emphasize the scientific method and means scientists use to determine what we know about collisions in space. The only math skills required are those you should possess upon entry to the university: some simple algebra, the use of scientific notation, and how to interpret graphs.
TA: Ms. Elyse Casper
We will watch movie excerpts in-class on Thursday, March 3, 2005. Following the excerpts, you will complete a worksheet on the material in the movie excerpts and turn it in at the beginning of the next lecture, Tuesday, March 8, 2005. This write-up will count toward 4% of your grade.
There will be an in-class discussion of the book Night Comes to the Cretaceous on Tuesday, March 15, 2005. You will be discussing the book in small groups and answering questions about the book. The write-up for this activity will be handed in at the end of the class. This activity will count toward 4% of your grade.
There will be one midterm, one quiz, and one final. The midterm will be on Thursday, March 17, 2005. The quiz, which will take half the class period, will be on Thursday, April 21, 2005. The final exam will be held on Monday, May 16, 2005, from 8:00 - 10:00 am.
On the exams, you will be allowed to use a calculator. No cell phones, computers, PDAs, or other devices will be allowed.
Grading will be as follows:
|Letter Grade||Minimum Course Grade Percentage|
Try to budget time to start the homeworks before the night before they are due. If you read over and begin each problem, you will figure out which problems present difficulties for you that you might want to ask questions about.
Since this is a 3-credit class, you should be spending 9 hours a week on it. Here is a suggested budget for your time on a weekly basis:
|3 hours||Attending lecture|
|0.5 hour||Skimming reading assignments before lecture|
|3 hours||Reading assignments|
|2.5 hours||Homework and visiting office hours|
Also, something that I cannot emphasize enough: please come ask questions in office hours! Topics that you are welcome to ask questions about:
I encourage students in the class to discuss the assignments. However, be very careful that when you write up the assignments, you do so independently and do not copy the work of a classmate.
Be careful when writing up your assignments to avoid plagiarizing the book. If you must quote the book, indicate the quote and the source of the text. However, only a small fraction of your answer should be quoted material: most of it should be in your own words.
The schedule of topics, readings, and due dates for assignments is on
the next page. The readings should be completed prior to class. I
strongly suggest you at least skim them before class; you certainly
will need them to complete the homeworks.
On the schedule, NCC stands for Night Comes to the Cretaceous and ECP stands for The Essential Cosmic Perspective.
The book discussion write-up will be due at the end of the class period. The movie excerpt write-up and cratering experiment write-up are due as indicated on the schedule.
|Th||1/27||Course introduction;||NCC: Prologue;|
|scientific notation; units||ECP: 1.1-1.2, Apdx. C|
|T||2/1||Solar system overview;||NCC: Ch. 1;|
|craters in the solar system||ECP: 6.1, pp 133-143|
|Th||2/3||Gravity; energy;||NCC: Ch. 2;|
|impacts; crater types||ECP: 4.3-4.4|
|T||2/8||Formation of the||NCC: Ch. 3;||HW 1|
|solar system||ECP: 6.2-6.4|
|Th||2/10||Leftovers from the||NCC: Ch. 4;|
|formation of the solar system||ECP: 9.1-9.2|
|T||2/15||In-class Cratering Experiment||NCC: Ch. 5||HW 2|
|In room CSS 1109|
|Th||2/17||Erasing craters||NCC: Ch. 6;||Experiment write-up|
|T||2/22||Tunguska; comet collision||NCC: Ch. 7;|
|with Jupiter||ECP: pp 248-249|
|Th||2/24||Other giant impacts||NCC: Ch. 8;|
|in the solar system||ECP: p 157|
|T||3/1||Real threat of impacts;||NCC: Ch. 9;||HW3|
|protection strategies||ECP: pp 251-252|
|Th||3/3||In-class activity:||NCC: Ch. 10|
|Earth Impacts in the Movies|
|T||3/8||Alvarez Theory||NCC: Ch. 11;||Movies write-up|
|ECP: pp 157-159, 259-250|
|Th||3/10||Other mass extinctions; are they periodic?||NCC: Ch. 12|
|T||3/15||In-class discussion of book||NCC: Ch. 13||HW 4|
|T||3/29||Light; temperature; energy; spectra||ECP: 5.1-5.2|
|Th||3/31||Star formation; solar structure||ECP: 12.1, 10|
|T||4/5||Evolution of low-mass stars||ECP: 12.2||HW 5|
|Th||4/7||Evolution of high-mass stars||12.3-12.4|
|T||4/12||White dwarfs; neutron stars; black holes||ECP: 13||HW 6|
|Th||4/14||Milky Way galaxy||ECP: 14.1-14.2|
|T||4/19||Do stars collide?||ECP: 11.2-11.3, 12.4||HW 7|
|Star clusters; close binaries|
|Th||4/21||Quiz; other galaxy types||ECP: 15.1|
|T||4/26||Galaxy clusters; galaxy formation||ECP: 15.3|
|Th||4/28||Active galactic nuclei; Milky Way's||ECP: 15.4, 14.4,|
|black hole; lookback time||pp 387-388|
|T||5/3||Doppler effect; distance chain;||ECP: pp 116-117,||HW 8|
|Th||5/5||Rotation curves; dark matter;||ECP: 16.1-16.3|
|large scale structure|
|T||5/10||Big Bang||ECP: 17|
|Th||5/12||Big Crunch? review||ECP: 16.4, p 449||HW 9|
|M||5/16||Final Exam, 8 - 10 am|