You and the Universe. What’s it all about? How big is it? How (and possibly why) did it start?
When will it end? Where is it going? Is there more than one? And what is our place in it? Are we an irrelevant and insignificant add on? Or are we deeply implicated? Do we have a mission? If so, what? These, and a lot of other questions will be discussed and, possibly, even answered in this course which has been designed for scientists and non-scientists alike.
Our perspectives of the universe have changed radically over time, despite our viewing it from one and the same place! Science has (literally and metaphorically) radically expanded our views of the cosmos and this course will consider scientific suggestions as to its origin, duration and end – while avoiding technical jargon and including only enough mathematics to clarify concepts. However, examination of this material will prompt us to ask whether science can answer, or even ask all the relevant questions. This will lead us to consider philosophical, psychological and religious views and will finally invite you to examine your own personal views and how they might influence your life.
Some of the issues considered in this course are: –
Ancient views (not necessarily all eclipsed by modern knowledge) Advances in physical understanding – Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo. Newton
Faraday and Maxwell Einstein
Hubble Big Bang
The Anthropic principle, multi-verses and other mind-benders Limitations of science
Philosophy, Psychology and Religion Your views!
At the same time students also produce their own work, both individually and on a collaborative, group basis, which is developed and assessed in guided workshops. Individual work is led by the students themselves on the basis of one-on-one tutorial sessions, and can take any appropriate form.
This class is normally delivered over one term, with 90 teaching hours or equivalent in Michaelmas term, and 60 teaching contact hours for Hilary and Trinity terms. For students requesting credit, we recommend the transfer of three college credits for Michaelmas and two college credits for Hilary and Trinity, on successful completion of the class and the final project.
Assessment is continuous and will enable a variety of skills to be measured. All work must be word-processed. A short thesis, of approximately 2000 – 3000 words, will be required at the end of the course. All of the work produced will be gathered together in a portfolio which will contain records of research.
|DISTINCTION||Excellent knowledge and understanding of theory, and congruent|
|Grade A||facility in its application. Shows independent judgement and original|
|thinking, together with an ability to make new and convincing|
|connections. Excellent organisation.|
|CREDIT||Good knowledge and understanding, showing ability to analyse and|
|Grade B||use evidence. Beginnings of independent judgement. Mostly|
|relevant, but some minor lapses and lack of clarity. Good|
|organisation of material and effective sequencing of ideas. Good|
|range of appropriate analysis. Use of appropriate academic|
|MERIT||Satisfactory knowledge and understanding. Some ability to analyse|
|Grade C||and use evidence. Attempts to evaluate but treatment often too|
|superficial. Satisfactory organisation of material. Limited range of|
|PASS||Some knowledge and understanding but significant omissions.|
|Grade D||Shows limited ability to analyse and use evidence. Some attempt to|
|construct an argument. However, lacks ability to argue meaningfully|
|or make significant connections.|
|FAIL||None of the criteria listed above met.|
The list below is for guidance and to supply some ideas for preliminary reading. We recommend that you do not purchase the books on this list before arrival and certainly not all of them; most should be available from a good library. Your tutor will recommend the most appropriate books for purchase at the first class of term.
‘The Riddle of the Universe’ W.M. Smart. Longmans 1968 (a little dated but not out-of-date, with much to commend its content and non-technical style).
‘Realm of the Universe’ George O. Abell. Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc. 1973
‘The Astronomer’s Universe’ Herbert Friedman. W.W. Norton and Co. 1990
‘The Music of the Spheres’ Guy Murchie. Dover 1967
‘The Big Bang Never Happened’ Eric Lerner. Random House Inc. 1992
“The Goldilocks Enigma” Paul Davies Penguin Books 2007