Many of the activities we honor and cherish in our culture—such as art, literature, music, philosophy, sports, and religion—struggle with the question, “What is our place in the universe?” Our attempts to answer this question have always been influenced by our perception of the answer to another question, “What is the universe?” The size, shape, center, nature, and origin of the universe are some of humanity’s oldest and deepest questions. The readings and lectures of this course will trace the development of our view of the universe starting with the Earth-centered cosmology of Aristotle, through the Sun-centered universe in the Copernican revolution, to the modern big bang theory, and recent speculations about a quantum origin of the universe. The course focuses on the ideas as well as the people who shaped our view of the universe. The readings and lectures will not require mathematics or physics, only a curiosity about the universe. Readings include: Edward W. Kolb’s Blind Watchers of the Sky, Craig Hogan’s The Little Book of the Big Bang, Alan Guth’s The Inflationary Universe, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
This course fulfills the Physical Science requirement.
MLAP 33200: Models of the Universe Syllabus (Past syllabus for reference only)
MLAP 33200: Models of the Universe Course Information (Past information for reference only)
Rocky Kolb is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. He was the founding head of the NASA/Fermilab Astrophysics Group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In addition to more than 200 scientific papers, he is a coauthor of The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology. His book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky (winner of the 1996 Emme Award from the AAS), is the story of the people and ideas that shaped our view of the universe. Kolb was awarded the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers.