This course, whose subject matter covers the entire universe, targets the frontiers of modern astrophysics. Topics include the planets of our solar system; the search for extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life and intelligence; the birth, life, and death of stars; black holes; the zoo of galaxies and their evolution; the Big Bang and the expanding universe; and dark matter, dark energy, and the large-scale structure of the universe. This course is designed for the non-science major and has no prerequisites past high school algebra and geometry. High school physics would be useful, but is not required.
Spring 2020 Undergraduate Courses
Instructors: Christopher F. Chyba, Jo Dunkley, Michael Abram Strauss
Topics in Modern Astronomy
This course provides a broad overview of modern astronomy and astrophysics for students in the sciences. Emphasis is on the application of basic physics to understanding of astronomical systems. Topics include the Solar System; planetary systems and exoplanets; the birth, life, and death of stars; white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; the Milky Way and distant galaxies; cosmology, dark matter and dark energy, and the history of the Universe.
Instructors: Joshua Nathan Winn
The Science of Fission and Fusion Energy
Power from the nucleus offers a low-carbon source of electricity. However, fission power also carries significant risks: nuclear proliferation (North Korea, Iran), major accidents (Chernobyl, Fukushima), and waste disposal (Yucca Mountain). Fusion carries fewer risks, but the timetable for its commercialization is uncertain. We will delve into the scientific underpinnings of these two energy sources, so you can assess them for yourselves. A benefit of this course is that you will expand your scientific and computational skills by applying them to important real-world problems.
Instructors: Robert James Goldston
A general review of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. Topics include the properties and nature of galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters, the large-scale structure of the universe, evidence for the existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, the expanding universe, the early universe, and the formation and evolution of structure.
Instructors: Neta A. Bahcall