University of Hawai˙i at Mänoa
Astronomy 110 (10:30 MWF)
Course Information and Policies
Paul H.I. Coleman
Fall Term 2014
This section of the Astronomy 110 course will be given by Paul H.I. Coleman. Prof. Coleman received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985 while working for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. After a year as a visiting assistant professor at Virginia Tech, He accepted a position at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen, The Netherlands. He was a member of the scientific staff there for eight years, then he returned to the United States with a series of appointments at New Mexico Tech, Yale University, and the University of Puerto Rico, before accepting his current position with the Institute for Astronomy here in Hawai˙i.
Prof. Coleman's research interests are primarily in studying the large scale structure of the universe. He is an advocate for fractal mathematical methods in the analysis of astronomical objects. He is also very interested in Hawaiian astronomy since he is a local boy and native Hawaiian.
Prof. Coleman's office is in Room C-206 in the Institute for Astronomy (which is a short ride on the Rainbow Shuttle (the faculty housing bus) from the main Mänoa campus) at 2680 Woodlawn Drive, right next to the new Mänoa public library). His phone number is 956-7598, and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – for about the hour before class and for about an hour after class in Watanabe 401. No appointment is needed. You are encouraged to come at these times to ask questions about the course, discuss larger intellectual, University, or personal issues, or just to have a general conversation and get to know each other. Prof. Coleman will also be happy to see students at his Institute for Astronomy office, but it is probably a good idea to make an appointment by phone or e-mail first. The graduate students assigned to all the Astronomy 110 lectures are pooling their office hours and you should feel free to go to any of their contact hours for assistance with any phase of the course. The current schedule should be posted in Watanabe Hall and will be announced in class.
Any edition of The Essential Cosmic Perspective by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit, should be acceptable, however, the most recent media enhanced version has the most extra material if you require more possible study materials. Also, any reading assignments will be made from the latest version. The topics etc. are roughly the same, but the page numbers and the most recent material will be different. Remember, astronomy is a constantly changing field and you might want to get the most up-to-date information. The problem is it is also the most expensive option. Prof. Coleman is also trying a new experiment this term by assigning homework from the text “Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy” which should be bundled with the class text in the bookstore. It is also available separately.
Relation of Text to Lectures
Examination topics for this course will be taken from the lectures, reading assignments, and homework questions. There is more material in the readings than will be covered in the lectures, and some of the material presented in the lectures will not be found in the assigned reading. At the end of each week’s material, you will be given some hints as to what is important in the material covered. The texts contain ample summary question material such as “The Big Picture”, “Summary of Key Concepts”, “Review Questions” etc. These are good summaries and tests of what you should know.
Professors in introductory science courses appreciate that students are concerned about the mathematics required to understand the course. Astronomy 110 is essentially a non-mathematical introduction to astronomy. However, astronomy is both a descriptive and a quantitative science. If we say only that some astronomical object is "big" or "far away," we will not get very much insight into the world around us. Simple arithmetic and ability to insert numbers into formulae are required. For instance, in the formula
distance traveled = (speed) x (time traveled),
or in algebraic symbols
d = st,
if speed = 30 miles per hour, and time traveled = 2 hours, you should be able to calculate that the distance traveled = 60 miles. Or, if given that s = 30 mph and d = 60 miles, that t = 2 hours.
You will need to be able to understand, and multiply and divide, numbers in powers of ten notation, e.g. 3,000 = 3 x 103. This is necessary in astronomy to avoid spending all one's time writing and counting zeros. Numerical values will be given in terms of metric units, which are used in science and in everyday life throughout the civilized world – except for the U.S.A. Professor Coleman is willing to assist as much as needed, so there is no reason to be anxious about your math abilities. Professor Coleman’s goal is to sneakily get you used to simple mathematics as used for simple astronomy situations.
You will be graded (primarily) on weekly in-class quizzes which will contain 10 multiple choice questions. Please come promptly to Friday’s class since the quiz occurs during the first 10 minutes and it is discussed immediately after it is collected. They are graded and returned at the beginning of the next class period.
Make-up quizzes will be offered only for serious emergencies. If this happens to you, you must speak with Professor Coleman as soon as you are able. Make-up quizzes, if permitted, may consist of essay-type questions. Permission to take make-up quizzes for athletics-related absences must be obtained in advance of the missed quiz; otherwise no make-up quiz will be offered. Finally, the lowest quiz score will be dropped from the final grade calculation.
Homework is assigned approximately once a week, normally on Friday. The content of the homework is part of the examinable material of the course and one of the quiz questions will probably be directly taken from the homework. The homework may require answers of a few sentences, simple calculations, or perhaps a drawing a graph. They are designed to help you to work with the ideas and concepts presented in the course. The homework will normally be due the next Wednesday. Homework papers will be collected at the beginning of the lecture on the day they are due. Late homework papers will not be accepted since the solutions will be discussed and published on the due date. The average of the homework marks will count for some small but important percentage of the final grade - perhaps equal in importance to 2 or 3 quizzes. (10-15%).
Possible Grading Scheme:
Weekly quizzes 85%
Special events - one half a grade up
Objectives of the Course
There are two major themes to this course. The first is to develop a basic knowledge of the variety of objects and events in the large-scale universe. The night sky is awesome. Astronomy is one of the scientific subjects which is in the newspaper almost daily - especially here in Hawai'i. We are fortunate in that we have the best astronomical institute in the world right here (the Institute for Astronomy) and the best site on Earth for viewing the skies (Maunakea). We intend to provide the minimum knowledge about astronomy that an educated person in the modern world should know.
Secondly, we live in a technological age in which science provides the paradigm for arriving at knowledge. An educated person in the modern world must understand what constitutes scientific knowledge, how scientific knowledge is gained, and what the strengths and limitations of this approach to knowledge are. Astronomy provides an excellent vehicle for illustrating these ideas and explaining the "magic" in the world around us. We will take astronomy as an example of how science works, how knowledge and understanding are developed, and we will also examine the limitations of the scientific method.
A lot of material falls under the heading "what every educated person should know" about the Universe. I will essentially follow the lecture list here. Some of the topics will be studied in more or less depth. For example, the study of planets will be quickly done while the study of the large scale structure of the Universe will be done in more depth.
If you have read this far, the magic word is Kowabunga!
Class lectures in powerpoint (pptx) and .pdf will appear after the Wednesday lecture each week: