Cosmology is an exciting field of astrophysics and underwent an important transformation in the 1990s from a speculative science in which factors of two in predictions were routinely ignored to a precision science able to constrain the Universe's global parameters into the single digit percent ranges (and that's 2-σ no less). Through the early years of this millennium, a "concordance" model about various cosmological parameters emerged, which, while not entirely controversy free, looks likely to stand the tests of new data for the immediate future. Having said that, the numerical values of the concordance model leave some exciting challenges unanswered for future physicists and astronomers such as yourselves to solve.
This course is intended primarily for ambitious juniors and seniors in physics and/or astronomy. We will survey over many topics in modern physical cosmology, such as (in no particular order here):
For you to answer these questions requires a broad understanding of many different branches of physics: a bit of quantum mechanics, a healthy dose of general relativity, a functional grasp of thermodynamics, a passing acquaintance with nuclear physics, and, of course, an understanding of basic astronomy. We will attempt to outline basic controversies and the most current and upcoming data.
We will use a fair amount of mathematics in this course and a lot of physical reasoning. To that end, various tricks of the trade will be used on how to estimate quantities, how to check units and how to argue dependencies. Within the first two weeks, you will get a taste of the level of work expected, an outline of the various topics covered a sense of the in-class discussions and problem solving sessions and a homework assignment so that you can assay how prepared you are for this course. Your challenge is not a small order: you will learn to master this diverse and extensive body of knowledge in order to create a large scale understanding of the past, present and future of the largest scales in the Universe.Back to Top
This course was set up by Stacy McGaugh and ultimate grade decisions will be made by convolving your two homeworks and test prior to Spring Break set by him with the two homeworks and test I will give after Spring Break. Together, the four homeworks and two tests will count as 80% of your grade.
During the last three lectures, you will each present a ~10 minute talk on a cosmological parameter (or perhaps a degenerate combination of parameters) which is (are) constrained by a particular method. On the first date of those three days, you must submit a ~1 page abstract describing what you will be presenting. This will count towards 20% of your grade. There will be no final.
My two assignments will be available as pdfs on the Homework Assignments & Tests webpage. Partial points on the homeworks and test will be generously given for reasonable attempts at solutions, and English sentences or phrases explaining the meaning of what things mean will go a long way. Back to Top
Although you are HEAVILY encouraged to discuss the homework problems with your classmates, the final writeup must be in your own words. If you consult a reference other than your own brain or your notes, including websites, please acknowledge or cite it in your homework!
Each homework assignment is due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late homework (as in more than fifteen minutes after class has begun) will not be accepted. Due dates are listed both on the Lecture Schedule and on the Homework Assignments webpage.Back to Top