Week 1: Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology

The first class of my course “Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology” (link), offered through SFU Continuing Studies, occurred today. It was a pleasure to see so many new and returning faces! Welcome to all.

The topic this week was Early Cosmology: The Big Bang. The class description:

The nature of the universe and our place in it has fascinated humanity throughout history. We will focus on how our understanding of the universe changed by examining key developments in the history of cosmology from a physics perspective. The Big Bang theory will form a touchstone for our discussions.

Students in the class can download the course notes for today by following the instructions below:

  1. Click on the “download” link, which will open a new window.
  2. You will then be asked to enter the password given in class to view the document. Type in the password, then click submit
  3. You can then view the document on your screen.
  4. Click the printer icon to print the document.
  5. Click the download arrow (the arrow pointing downwards) to download the document.


  • If you do not see the icons for printing and downloading at the top of your browser window, move your mouse cursor up to the top of the window to make the icons appear.
  • If you want to download (save a copy of) the document to your computer, you will have to enter the password each time you open the document.


Self-Study, Improvisational Theatre, and the Reflective Turn

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article “Self-Study, Improvisational Theatre, and the Reflective Turn: Using Video Data to Challenge My Pedagogy of Science Teacher Education” in the journal Educational Research for Social Change.

The abstract:

This article analyses a small section of data of a year-
long project in which I used a video camera to record nearly all the meetings of my physics curriculum methods courses in a pre-service teacher education programme. After briefly setting the context for the study, the article presents a lengthy selection of data from a critical incident in my teacher education classroom in a script-like form. The data are then analysed from three different theoretical lenses — the lens of the viewer, the researcher, and the teacher educator — as a way of examining how each lens can inform different aspects of myself. The article concludes with a discussion of the reflexive effects of both viewing video recordings of my classes and engaging with theatre literature on my pedagogy of science teacher education.

The article is is available freely, under a creative commons licence, by registering with the journal. Click here for the issue in which my article appears.

Philosopher’s Café: Science Literacy

Tonight (Monday October 20, 2014)  I am pleased to moderate a “Philosopher’s Café” on the topic of Science Literacy. These events are sponsored by SFU Continuing Studies and are free to the public.

The catalyst for tonight:

There has been (another) recent upsurge of interest in science education. How should we determine what science is taught in schools? How much science education should be compulsory? What does it mean to be a scientifically literate person?



The Gathering Place, Living room, 1100–2253 Leigh Square Pl., Port Coquitlam | Map

Please note that this is not a lecture or a class. It is an opportunity for  people to come together and discuss a topic of interest.

From the Philosopher’s Café program website:

Philosophers’ Café is a series of informal public discussions in libraries, cafés and restaurants throughout Metro Vancouver. The cafés, which are open to everyone, have brought dialogue and discussion to thousands of people who are interested in exploring issues from the absurd to the sublime. To learn more about the Philosophers’ Café, please visit their website.


Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology: My upcoming lecture and course

On Saturday October 18th, 2014,  I will be giving a lecture beginning at 10:30 as a part of SFU’s new “occasional Saturday series.” From the website:

Our new occasional Saturday series, “Quantum Leaps,” focuses on momentous change—explosive events or earth-shattering discoveries that were so special that human perspectives or the natural world itself altered, for good or ill and forever.

The fall series focuses on history and science. Each day consists of two back-to-back modules divided by a 40-minute lunch break. Although the general topic is designed to stimulate you to attend both lectures, the morning and afternoon sessions can be taken independently. Each lecture includes a question-and-answer period.

Click here for more information and to register.

My talk will provide a conceptual overview of the “big bang” and its role in modern cosmology.

Those who are interested in participating in SFU’s Continuing Studies program for adults 55+ might be interested in a new course I am offering beginning on Wednesday October 22nd, 2014, entitled “Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology.” From the course description:

Do any of the following questions appeal to you: Is the universe expanding, contracting or staying the same size? Where did stars come from? What happens when stars die? How did we discover planets outside our solar system? Why is Pluto no longer considered a planet? Why are the planets closer to our sun made of rock and outer planets made of gas?

We will conduct an in-depth exploration of selected topics in astrophysics and astronomy using perspectives informed by the history and philosophy of science, including the Big Bang, the formation and evolution of stars and the end of the universe. No advanced mathematical knowledge is required for this journey to the edge of the cosmos, but an interest in thinking about big questions is essential.

Click here for more information and to register.