Selected Topics in Physics: Cosmology
(Independent Study)
PHY 420  Spring 2001 Syllabus
Physics Department  Mercer University
Texts: See list below.
Class Meetings: MW 3:004:30pm, WSC 110
Instructor: Dr. Jose L. Balduz Jr
email: balduz_jl@mercer.edu
phone: 3012229
office: Willet Science Center 110
office hours: TR 11:00noon and 2:004:00pm, or by appointment, or try your luck anytime...
This is an advanced course in the history and present state of cosmology, for junior or senior level students. It is intended primarily for physics majors, but should be of interest also to many other students, especially those in the sciences and engineering. Prerequisite are PHY 161 & 162 General Physics I & II, PHY 305 & 306 Modern Physics I & II, and Mat 191 & 192 Calculus I & II. Students are therefore assumed to know some quantum physics and relativity, and to be able to use basic calculus. They will learn about the history and philosophical implications of cosmology from antiquity, through the Renaissance, to the modern era. They will also learn some of the physical foundations, mathematical formalism, and interpretation of modern work in this area. The goal is for students to develop both a broad understanding of this grand science in all its historical and cultural significance, as well as some of the more rigorous analysis and observations brought to bear on the subject in the 20^{th} century. We will use both technical texts dealing with modern cosmology, i.e. work done in the 20^{th} century, as well as other, nontechnical, descriptive and philosophical texts dealing with the history of cosmology in various cultures and time periods. Not every book on the list will be read in its entirety: The list follows:
Technical Texts:
Other Texts:
Meetings (20% of total grade): It is imperative that the student should meet with the instructor at least once a week. The student must come to this meeting well prepared: having read a sizable amount of material for discussion, and having at least attempted some numerical problems. Multiple meetings per week are recommended, up to about three or four hours per week.
Homework (40% of total grade): About once every other week, the student must work out a number of problems from the technical texts, to be handed in for grading. When a chosen problem presents difficulties beyond the student’s ability to overcome, they are encouraged to discuss the problem with the instructor, who will be glad to provide the needed help.
Papers (40% of total grade): The student will write two short papers (at least five pages each) and a longer one (at least ten pages). The first will be on a topic from cosmology in antiquity. The second paper will deal with cosmology in the medieval and Renaissance times. The third, longer paper will be on a topic in any area of cosmology, subject to agreement by the instructor and the student. These will not be mathematical papers, but will instead discuss the history of cosmology, its cultural context, its philosophical implications, and its impact on society.
Grading: The percentage for each activity is shown in the left table below. To convert the total percentage to a letter grade, use the scale shown in the right table below.


Miscellaneous policies: