A Brief History of Matter in the Universe

Tuesday & Thursday: 9:30-10:45
6515 Sterling Hall

Professor Eric M. Wilcots
5524 Sterling Hall

Course Description

Course Syllabus

Week One - The Atom & The Elements

Janaury 23 - (#1) - Introduction/Overview/Writing Styles in Science
January 25 - (#2) - The Elements: Historical Perspective/Introduction
Reading: Brownlow (Ch 1); GC: Lucretius, Butterfield,

Week Two - The Atom & The Elements

January 30 - (#3) - Components & Structure of the Atom/Definition of the Elements
February 1 - (#4) - Definition of the Elements/The Art of Spectroscopy
Reading: Brownlow (Ch 1);GC: Duncan, Curie, Lavoisier, Levi, Oppenheimer

Week Three - What's Stuff Made Of?

February 6 - (#5) - The Spectrum of the Sun/Composition of Orion
February 8 - (#6) - Composition of Rocks and the Earth
Reading: Ferris (Ch 9),Brownlow (Ch 1); GC: Cannon;  Allegre et al; Esteban et al.;

Polished Draft of Paper #1 Due 2/8 (Writing Fellows)

Week Four - Where Did It Come From?

February 13 - (#7) - The Size and Expansion of the Universe
February 15 - (#8) - The Big Bang
Reading: Ferris: (Ch 8-11);Hubble & Humason, Penzias & Wilson; GC: Hoyle, Smoot,Galileo(167); Silk (Ch 3-8)

Week Five - Where Did It Come From?

February 20 - (#9) -   The Big Bang
February 22 - (#10) - The Origin of H and He
Reading: Ferris: (Ch 8-11);Silk (Ch 3-8)

Final Version of Paper #1 Due 2/22 (Prof. Wilcots)

Week Six - Where Did It Come From?

February 27 - (#11) - Nucleosynthesis/Stellar Evolution
Febraruy 29 - (#12) - Nucleosynthesis/Stellar Evolution
Reading:  Silk (Ch 15);Ferris (Ch 14);GC: Rutherford, Heisenberg, Sagan (Ch 9)

Week Seven - Where Did It Come From?

March 6 - (#13) - Stellar Evolution/Polluting the ISM
March 8 - (#14) - Formation and Early Evolution of Galaxies
Reading:  Tinsley& Larson; Gilmore & Wyse; Silk (Ch 9,10)

Polished Draft of Paper #2 (Popular Article) Due 3/8 (Prof. Wilcots)

Spring Break

March 13
March 15

Week Eight - Where Did It Come From?

March 20 - (#15) - History of the Milky Way
March 22 - (#16) - Molecules in Space
Reading: Tinsley & Larson, Gilmore & Wyse, Ward & Brownlee (Ch 2); Turner, Herbst; GC: Maxwell

Week Nine - How Did it Get Here?

March 27 - (#17) - Star Formation
March 29 - (#18) - Formation of the Solar System
Reading: Silk (Ch 13,14), van Dishoeck & Blake, Gilmore, Hartmann (Ch 4-5)

Final Version of Paper #2 Due 3/29 (Prof. Wilcots)

Week Ten - Lab Week

April 3 - (#19) - Rock Lab
April 5 - (#20) - Rock Lab
Reading: Brownlow (Ch 7-9), Hartmann (Ch 10), GC: McPhee

Week Eleven - Chemical History of the Solar System

April 10 - (#21) - Chemistry of the Solar System - Meteorites
April 12 - (#22) - Chemistry of the Solar System - Meteorites and Comets
Reading: Hartmann: (Ch 4-7), van Dishoeck & Blake, Gilmore

Week Twelve - Chemical History of the Solar System

April 17 - (#23) - Composition of the Outer Solar System
April 19 - (#24) - Case Study: Composition of the Moon
Reading: Hartmann (Ch 8)

Rock Lab Journal Articles Due April 19

Week Thirteen - The Chemical History of the Earth

April 24 - (#25) - Distribution of the Elements
April 26 - (#26) - Origin of Igneous Rocks
Reading: Krauskopf & Bird: (Ch 17, 20), Hartmann (Ch 5), Rehkamper, Alard et al.

Polished Draft of Paper #4 Due (Writing Fellows) 4/26

Week Fourteen - The Chemical History of the Earth

May 1 - (#27) - Evolution of the Mantle and Crust
May 3 - (#28) - Plate Tectonics
Reading: Krauskopf & Bird: (Ch 17,18), Brownlow: (Ch 7-9), GC: da Vinci, Sullivan, Wegener

Week Fifteen - The Chemical History of the Earth

May 8 - (#29) - Oceans and Atmospheres
May 10 - (#30) - Overview
Reading: Krauskopf & Bird: (Ch 21), GC: Herodotus

Final Version of Paper #4 Due May 10

Final Exam - 10:05am, Wednesday, May 16


Writing in Astronomy 236

Astronomy 236 is a writing-intensive course that fulfills the University's Communications-B requirement.  The course assignments are designed to improve your compositional skills as well as to enhance your knowledge of the chemical history of the Universe.  The readings and writing assignments are also designed to introduce you to a variety of different styles of scientific writing.

This course takes advantage of the Student Writing Fellow Program.  Fellows are competitively chosen undergraduates who help students develop their writing skills.  They will work with you individually outside of class to help you improve the clarity and effectiveness of your writing.  I have chosen to work with Writing Fellows this semester because I believe they will be an invaluable asset to the course.

Writing Fellows are:
- undergraduate students who will read your writing and make constructive suggestions for revision
- trained in how to critically evaluate writing and respond helpfully
- supervised closely by your professor

Writing Fellows do not:
- grade your papers
- teach you course-specific content

How it works:  The writing fellows will work with you on two different assignments, the first one on a critical evaluation of different styles of scientific writing and the fourth one, which is the proposal.  In each case you will submit a polished draft of your paper to me on the assigned due date.  I will pass it along to the Writing Fellow, who will carefully read your paper, make comments on your draft, and then meet with you individually for a conference to discuss your writing and suggestions for revision.  You will then revise your paper and submit both the original draft and your revised version on the specified revision due date.  Please include a cover letter briefly explaining how you responded to each of your Writing Fellow's comments.

A "polished draft" represents your best effort at the assignment.  It is type-written (double spaced) and has a complete list of references.  It is of quality comparable to what you would turn in for grading.  It is not an outline, a rough draft, or a first draft.  Proofread carefully to remove any grammar or spelling errors (get familiar with the spell checker, even though they often butcher scientific words).  This will ensure that when you meet, your Writing Fellow can focus on larger issues like organization, presentation, and clarity of style.

Due Date Policy: I will deduct 10% per day up to two days if papers are late.  I will not accept papers more than two days after the due date (this holds for both the polished draft and final paper due dates).  Please see me if you start to fall behind or need assistance.

References: You must cite references for facts and ideas that are not your own.  Anything less is plagiarism.  You may also cite class lectures as (A236 Lecture 1/23/01).

Writing Assignments

In addition to the major assignments detailed below we will also have a number of short writing exercises to be determined as the class progresses.

Writing Assignment #1  Essay on Writing Styles in Science: You have all been exposed to countless science textbooks and numerous popular writings, but probably not that many articles from a scientific journal. A major goal of this course is to expose you to the wide variety of scientific writing styles that exist.  The goal of this assignment is for you to critically assess the value of several different examples of the different writing styles.  Pick a chapter from a textbook (Chapter 1 in Brownlow would do, or one of the science textbooks you have at home), an article from a popular science magazine such as Astronomy, an article from Scientific American, and a chapter from a popular book like Carl Sagan's "Cosmos".  For each piece of writing critically assess how effective that piece of writing is at conveying its main scientific point to its intended audience.  The various texts do not have to cover the same topic, though that might make it an easier assignment. The length should be 5 pages.

The rough draft will be reviewed by the writing fellows and you must have conference with one of the writing fellows.  You will turn in: the rough draft, the writing fellow's comments, a cover letter stating which of the writing fellow's comments you did or did not incorporate into your final draft, and the final draft.

Writing Assignment #2  Writing for Non-Scientists: Pick some topic covered in the course (other than the Big Bang  there are enough popular texts on that already) and write an article for a popular science magazine.  If you'd prefer you can write a chapter for a popular book like Ferris' "Coming of Age in the Milky Way" or Sagan's "Cosmos".  Feel free to select a topic that we have not yet discussed in lecture there are some very interesting possibilities in the material we will cover in the second half of the class. Your audience is college-educated but not necessarily scientific.  The length should be 5 pages.

Writing Assignment #3  Writing for a Scientific Journal: Write up the results (and procedure) of the "rock lab" in the form of an article in a scientific journal.  Use the articles from Nature as a guide for the format and style (e.g. references etc) you should adapt.  Your audience is your colleagues.

Writing Assignment #4  The Proposal: The primary goal of this assignment is to allow you to develop a deeper understanding of some facet of this course.  Academics spend large amounts of time writing proposals, the most important of which request funding from the Federal government to support our scientific research.  Astronomers, geologists, physicists, and chemists are often funded by the National Science Foundation, though there are some other important funding agencies such as NASA.

The heart of any proposal is the research statement, a document that effectively demonstrates the author's familiarity with their area of research, poses and justifies in a persuasive manner a question or series of questions to be answered by the funded research.  Your assignment is to write a research proposal to the National Science Foundation.  You may choose your own topic but it must be closely related to the scientific themes of this course.  You must get approval for your topic before the rough drafts are due. You are limited to a maximum of 8 pages and it will be difficult to write a good proposal in less than 5.

You will be assessed on the following criteria:
1.      Is the proposal well written?
2.      Does the proposal pose an interesting question or series of questions that are important for the
         advancement of the field?
3.      Is the author familiar with the salient literature?
4.      Is the proposed research feasible?