AST 1905: Spring 2006
T: 3:35-5:30, Physics Room B49
Instructor - L. Rudnick, 383 Physics, x4-3396,
Office Hours:  1:15-2:15pm Tue, or very flexibly by appointment.

: In this course you will:
    a) Become better acquainted with other students, a faculty member, and the U;
    b) Appreciate how human limitations affect our understanding of the (big) U, and
      the technological tools astronomers use to circumvent these;
    c) Understand the special time and place that we inhabit in the (big) U;
    d) Have fun.

REQUIREMENTS: (details below)
    a) Attend all classes
    b) Do assigned readings
    c) Make two weekly journal entries on the web and read other students' entries
    d) Prepare and make one class presentation on assigned topic
    e) Participate actively in discussions - including the weekly "fascinating fact"
    f) Write one 500 word reflective essay on the course

DAILY SCHEDULE:  (non-visit days)
    Check in time (10 min)
    Fascinating facts (15-20 min)
    Questions/followup on readings and previous material (20 min)
     Break (5 min)
    Presentation/exercise by LR and/or Students (60 min)
    Check-out time (5min)

    "Coming of Age in the Milky Way," Timothy Ferris  (MW) - purchase at bookstore
    Introductory Astronomy text - (you'll receive on loan) - (A)
    Other material will be assigned on the web or on library reserve.
    Projects will involve library and web research.

Readings and questions:

Readings in either MW  or Astro or both will be assigned most weeks.  Some of these are listed here; others will be announced and posted on updates here.

Weekly web entries

Each week, you will post two entries on the web, in the appropriate "Discussion Topic". 
    The first entry will be a commentary on the Readings for the week - (not a summary of what you read, but an interesting comment, reaction you had, etc, etc), followed by  TWO NUMBERED QUESTIONS for class discussion. 
    The second entry  will be an original and thoughtful commentary, reflection, etc. on the material we covered that week in class.

 Entries should be approximately 100 words and should be interesting to other members of the class (a tough standard!) - 
they  must be posted no later than Sunday night at 11:59pm.

Final reflective essays

Your final reflective essays may either be posted in the Final Essay forum on the web site, or be submitted by e-mail to by May 9  at 11:59pm. They should be 450-550 words long, and be original and thoughtful reflections on the content and experience of the course. Essays that appear to be first drafts will be returned for revision with a loss of one grade. Standards will be discussed further in class.

Presentation guidelines: (in groups of 2 or 3)

One week before your presentation, you will submit in writing an outline of the topics you will cover, along with the references you are using.

You will prepare a 40 minute lesson (combined) for the class, to be followed by an open discussion/exercise. For the class participation portion, you should prepare either questions for us to discuss and/or a class activity. The presentations should be interesting and informative, and their format (lecture, audio-visual, interactive, etc) is open to negotiation.

  All weekly assignments will be graded on a three-level basis:  excellent (3) , satisfactory (2) , and unsatisfactory (1).
An average grade of "satisfactory" will be equivalent to a B.
    Reading reflections and questions (web)   20%
    Class reflections (web) 20%
    Final essay    20%
    Class presentation     20%  (to be discussed later)
    Class participation over whole semester  20%, including 'fascinating facts'

READING (incomplete)
Jan 17
People and Course
Probing the Limits
MW: Ch. 1,2,3
(on your own, no class disc.)
Jan 24
Making Sense of
the Sky
MW: Ch. 4, 5
 Visit - New Student Wknd
Jan 31
Human Limits
 A: Light/Telescopes
Feb 7
Brain and Vision
Windows into the Brain
 Computational Vision Lab
GO directly to N13 Elliot - see HERE
Dan Kersten
Feb 14
The world of the too small
Three short pieces: 
1. Mission/Objectives of Characterization Facil.
2. Look at pictures through instruments (click on each picture)
3. Pick one instrument from here, and look at "applications" on its page
Characterization Facility - Shepherd Labs basement
(meet in B49)

Greg Haugstad
Feb 21
Building a better? brain
Meet in B49
(simplified but informative) and also pick TWO projects to read about from 
Meet in B49
Nikos Papanikolopoulos
Feb 28

The Statistics on Magnetic Reversals
Will the Compasses Point South?

Probing the Geodynamo
Earth's Magnetism, Geology
Subir Banerjee
Mar 7

  selections from:  
    Who is Blind?
     Care and Feeding...
 Seeing Beyond the Eyes
Jennifer Dunnam
Mar 21
Newton vs. Einstein -  the world at high speeds and high gravity
MW:  Chapters 6,10
Late addition, please try to read: Alchemy

False Hopes, Alchemists,  Lamarckians, etc.
Topic List/Biblio 3/7
Detailed Outline 3/14
Mar 28

  MW:  11,12,13
Apr 4

Higher Dimensions?

Life in two dimensions

Apr 11

Reading Instructions - READ FIRST!
Reading 1
Reading 2
Reading 3
Reading 4

Science and Absolute Truth
Apr 18

Dark matter reading (Carlos Frenk)

p. 413-419 (or further if you want) in MW
Dark matter, dark energy and the fate of the universe-
Apr 25
 Is Anyone Out There?
MW: 19  
The Search for ET
at home and away 
May 2 Origins and the Anthropic Principle MW: 18, 20 + reserve readings