Lecture/Discussion: TTh 2:00-3:15, Room CSS2400
Discussion sections in Room CSS2428
Instructor: Prof. Andrew Harris
email: harris @ astro.umd.edu (do not include spaces when
you type this!)
Office: PSC 1164, (301) 405-7531
Office Hours: T 3:15-4:15 and by appointment (this works best)
Teaching Assistant: Ms. Marie Bernard
@ gmail.com (do not include spaces
when you type this!)
Office: CSS 1250
Office Hours: TTh 1:00-2:00 and by appointment
Textbook and readings:
No textbook is required, but any introductory Astronomy
textbook is strongly recommended. Much of the class
material will be from the web, including web (or print) access
to the Washington Post and New York Times, and other sites.
It is quite
feasible for non-scientists to use the news media to maintain
contact with scientific progress if they first master the key
critical thinking skills used by scientists and remain aware of
how the media filters the presentation of scientific news.The goal in this
course is for you to learn how to utilize the media to
understand and keep abreast of scientific research long after
you leave this class and the University.
simultaneously address the questions of:
and why scientists conduct research in the modern world.
and why news media filter and choose which science to present
to the general public.
and why institutions, government, pressure groups and
individual scientists influence the process.
course structure will be a series of 1-2 week case studies on
science news stories, pairing in-depth reviews of the scientific
background with relevant media coverage. We will analyze the
motivations that scientists, journalists, governmental
organizations, and advocates have. When appropriate, we will
venture outside of astronomy to cover scientific topics that have
high impact on our lives. This
class will help students develop the skills and a strategy
necessary to use the science media for continual learning
throughout one's life.
Lecture attendance: The entire class meets for lecture/discussion sessions
in CSS 2400 on TuTh from 2:00-3:15 PM. Attendance is required
unless you have an excused absence as defined by the University (see
below). Prof. Harris
will lead the lectures but you will be expected to raise questions
and participate in discussions. You should read over the material
before lecture and be prepared to discuss it. Another reading
is recommended after lecture. You should study your class notes
sometime before the next lecture to make sure that everything is
clear. You are encouraged to ask questions in class -- any
question you have is certain to be one others have -- during office
hours, or over email.
Discussion section attendance: Subsets of the class meet for
class time focused on discussion and group work in CSS 2428.
You must attend the discussion section you have enrolled in.
Attendance is required unless you have an excused absence as defined
by the University (see below).
Study wisely and ask for help if you need it. Please ask Prof.
Harris or the TA if you have questions. If you just cram the
night before assignments or exams, you probably will not do very
well. It is better (and easier) if you keep up with the material on
a daily basis. If you have questions, please see Prof. Harris or
your TA. We are here to help you
Communication: The main channel for communication outside
lecture and discussion sections will be through the ELMS course web
pages. Reading assignments, writing assignments, and grading
results will all be posted there. Either direct email (see top
of page) or messages through ELMS are the best way to contact the
Grading is on a point scale with different assignments weighted as
shown in the table. A description of each of these components is
contained in this syllabus.
The Midterm and Final Exams are Major Scheduled Grading events
defined in the University's policy on attendance (http://www.president.umd.edu/policies/v100g.html).
least 75%. Letter grades will be assigned based upon your
cumulative score. Here is how your grade will be determined from
your point total in the class.
Plus/minus grades will be given within each letter grade for
scores near the top and bottom of the percentage ranges.
This point scale makes it possible for everyone in the class to
do well. For example, if everyone scores above 75% in the course,
everyone would receive either an A or a B letter grade. Any
adjustments to the scores will make it easier to get a given
grade, never more difficult.
Quizzes and brief homeworks
A major component of this class is discussion of readings of
background material and published matter. There will be
approximately weekly quizzes on readings and lecture material at the
beginning of class, along with associated brief homeworks.
Figure that there will be something every lecture, then be happy (or
not) when we skip.
There will be four writing assignments for this course,
available from the Assignments link on the class ELMS page.
All assignments must be typed
and turned in as hard copy by the end of class on the assignment
due date. The format is single-spaced 12
point text on 8.5x11 inch paper with 1 inch margins, with your
name at the top right of the page outside the 1 inch margin.
If for whatever reason, the University is officially
closed on the due date, the due date shifts to the next lecture
date. Except by prior special arrangement with Prof. Harris
electronically mailed versions of your assignment without advance
arrangement will not be accepted. Assignments turned in
after the lecture ends will be considered late and will receive
20% of the credit at most until 24 hours after the end of lecture,
and 50% credit at most until the next lecture; no credit will be
given for assignments handed in more than one lecture late.
If you have an excused absence that prevents you from handing in
your assignment on time, you must document it in writing (see Attendance and Absences,
below) and arrange to have the assignment turned in as soon
as possible, but no later than during the next lecture.
Although you may discuss the assignments with your friends, the
final writeup must be
your own work in your own words. Copying from a friend's
assignments, copying from a book, or allowing a friend to copy
your assignment is academic dishonesty (see Academic Integrity, below) and
will not be tolerated in this class. If you consult a reference
other than the course text, please acknowledge it in your
assignment - this includes websites!
The discussion sections promote close examination of topics through
teamwork and other interactions that are more intensive than
possible with the entire class. Participation at individual
and team levels is consequently very important, and forms the basis
for grading credit.
There will be two in-class 75-minute midterm examinations,
held during class in CSS 2400 on Feb. 24 and Apr. 7.
These exams are closed book with no notes allowed. The
schedule of lectures included in this syllabus shows what material
will be covered on the midterm exam. The midterm exam is a
Major Grading Event (see policy on attendances and absences).
If for whatever reason, the University is officially
closed on the exam date, the exam date shifts to the next lecture
According to the University calendar, the final exam for
this course will be held on Monday, May 18, from 10:30 AM to 12:30
PM in CSS 2400. This final exam is cumulative: it will
cover all material discussed in this course.
Material not covered by the midterm exams (see Lecture Schedule) will be somewhat
emphasized in the final exam. This exam is closed book with no
notes, but do bring a calculator. The final exam is a Major
Grading Event (see policy on attendances
There will be no extra credit assignments in this class.
If you need to invoke an excused absence, you must do so in
writing and furnish supporting documentation.
You must notify Prof. Harris of the reason for an excused
absence as soon as possible. This will include sending
Prof. Harris email or leaving a voicemail message as long as possible before absences
from exams or other deadlines. For absences known far in
advance (for instance, religious observance or participation in
activities at the request of University authorities), you must
notify Prof. Harris by the end of the schedule adjustment
The midterm exams, writing assignment deadlines, and final
exam are Major Scheduled Grading Events for this class.
A prolonged absence in the sense of the University's policies
on attendance and absence is two or more consecutive lectures.
If you will be absent on a day an assignment is due you may
hand in writing assignments early, either to Prof. Harris or in
his mailbox in the Department office. A classmate may turn
in your assignment for you if you are able to attend the class
in which it is due (but please understand the University's
policies on Academic Integrity and its potential implications
before you do this).
If you have a medical or other excused absence for a single
lecture that coincides with an assignment deadline, and wish to
turn in assignments up to one class meeting later, the policy in
Sec. II.A. of http://www.president.umd.edu/policies/docs/V-100G.pdf
Exams on alternative dates or for make-up are possible only in
cases of excused absences. When possible, exams will be
given before the
regularly-scheduled exams. For unexpected absences from
the midterm or final exams, it is your responsibility to contact
Prof. Harris to discuss make-up work within 48 hours of the
The academic community at the University abides by a Code of
Academic Integrity. Acts of academic dishonesty include cheating,
fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism.
Activities such as cheating on exams or quizzes, copying homework
from a friend or book, allowing your homework or paper to be copied,
and submitting forged excuses for absences from exams are violations
of this code. If we suspect that an incident of academic dishonesty
has occurred, we will turn the case over to the Student Honor
Council to investigate and resolve. If the suspected party is judged
`responsible' for the act(s) of academic dishonesty, the normal
sanction is a course grade of `XF' which denotes failure due to
academic dishonesty. This grade is recorded onto the student's
academic transcript. The Code of Academic Integrity can be found in
the Academic Info section of the Schedule of Classes. It is printed
in full in the Undergraduate catalog and on the web at http://www.president.umd.edu/policies/docs/III-100A.pdf.
Please refer to this Code if you have further questions about what
is construed as academic dishonesty. We are very serious
In principle, laptops can allow you to take notes faster and access
the class website. In practice, they are frequently distracting and
used for non-class purposes. Laptop displays of non-class
material can be very distracting for other students who have a view
of your screen. In this class, if you use a
You must sit in the far back row or on the sides with no one
behind you to minimize distractions to other students.
You must turn the sound off and not use headphones.
If, despite these approaches, the use of laptops turns out to be too
distracting for the class as a whole, Prof. Harris may need to
ban them entirely. Let's hope that doesn't happen.
There is no need to use phones or other mobile devices during class,
even for texting. Please refrain.
Students with a documented disability should inform Prof. Harris as
soon as possible (preferably on the first day of class, and
certainly by the end of the schedule adjustment period) so that
appropriate academic accommodations can be made.