Week 6: The Fate of the Universe

The final class of my course “Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology” (link), offered through SFU Continuing Studies, occurred today.

The topic this week was The Fate of the Universe. The class description:

What is the ultimate fate of the universe– a Big Crunch or a slow ebb into cold lifelessness? What happens to stars when they reach the end of their lifecycle? We will examine the strange entities known as “black holes” and consider theories of how the universe might end.

In light of the recent historic events concerning the Philae probe, I decided to modify this week’s lecture slightly to talk a little bit about comets.

  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.

Notes:

  • 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.

Download

Week 5: Exoplanets

The fifth class of my course “Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology” (link), offered through SFU Continuing Studies, occurred today.

The topic this week was Exoplanets. The class description:

A thorough understanding of exoplanets will tell us much about how our solar system formed, why it has small, rocky planets near the Sun, why it has gas giant planets far from the Sun, why the Earth has the conditions and chemicals that can support life, and why conditions on other planets are hostile to life. Theories of planet formation and evolution are incomplete, but offer specific predictions. Detections of exoplanets are already testing, validating, and in some cases invalidating, details of these theories.

  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.

Notes:

  • 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.

Download

Week 4: Much ado about Pluto

The fourth class of my course “Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology” (link), offered through SFU Continuing Studies, occurred today.

The topic this week was Much ado about Pluto. The class description:

Pluto was recently “demoted” from being a planet. What is it, then? We will explore a recent tale of astronomical intrigue as we trace the debate around Pluto’s planetary status, and will conclude by examining the characteristics of a region of our solar system called the Kuiper Belt.

  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.

Notes:

  • 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.

Download

Week 3: Our Solar System

The third class of my course “Planets, Stars, Black Holes, and Cosmology” (link), offered through SFU Continuing Studies, occurred today.

The topic this week was: Our Solar System. The class description:

We will focus on our solar system’s celestial bodies: the planets, moons and asteroids that compose our section of the galaxy. We will begin with the solar system’s formation and then discuss unique features of each of the eight planets. We will also highlight some lesser-known but interesting moons.

I decided not to produce a handout this week given the absolutely outstanding resource that is available through NASA:

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov

I strongly encourage everyone to spend some time looking through the amazing array of “fact sheets”, histories of space exploration, and, of course, the remarkable images.

Snap, Crackle, Pop!: A Short History of Noise

My thanks to everyone who came out on a Saturday afternoon to listen to my lecture on the history of noise. The description of the lecture was:

The word “noise” is often synonymous with “nuisance,” which implies something to be avoided as much as possible. We label blaring sirens, the space between stations on the radio dial and the din of a busy street as “noise.” Is noise simply a sound we don’t like?  How have scientists defined noise? Is there ever a time when a noisy system is desirable?

We will consider the evolution of how scientists and engineers have thought about noise, beginning in the Victorian Era and continuing to the present day. We will explore the idea of noise as a social construction and a technological necessity. We’ll also touch on critical developments in the study of sound, the history of physics and engineering and the development of communications technology.

I used ideas from the history of physics, the history of music, the discipline of sound studies, and the history of electrical engineering to make the point that understanding “noise” is essential to understanding advancements in physics and engineering in the last century. We began with a discussion of 19th-century attitudes toward noise (and its association with “progress” and industry) before moving on to examine the early history of recorded sound and music, early attempts to measure noise, and the noise abatement movement. I concluded with a brief overview of my recent work on the role of noise in the development of the modem during the early Cold War.

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who attended and the SFU Seniors Lifelong Learners Society for sponsoring the event.

Week 2: We are all made of stars

The second 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 We are all made of stars. The class description:

The subject of children’s songs and mythology for centuries, stars have fascinating lifecycles. We will begin with a look at stellar birth and evolution before considering how stars are classified and go on to examine in detail our own star, the Sun. 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.

Notes:

  • 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.

Download

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.

Notes:

  • 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.

Download

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?

Details:

19:00-20:30

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.