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Understanding the Universe

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1516
Section 001
Instructor Matthew Stanley
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SCI, EARLY



This class is an interdisciplinary exploration of how humans have tried to understand the universe. We begin with the first Greek attempts to make sense of the universe, discuss the “Scientific Revolution,” through to modern Big Bang theory. Themes include the interaction of astronomy, physics, and philosophy necessary for talking about the cosmos, and how scientists came to accept that the universe changes and develops over time. We discuss the history of how scientists came to understand the nature of stars, galaxies, black holes, extra-terrestrial life, and the apparent “fine tuning” of the laws of nature. Special attention is paid to the problem of how we can talk scientifically about things we can never experiment on or reproduce. We will examine not just ideas about the universe (what is it? where did it come from? and so on), but also the methods used to arrive at those conclusions (observations and theories), literary and visual representations of the universe, and larger philosophical issues (why are we here?). Readings may include: Aristotle, Copernicus, Newton, Kant, Einstein.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)