USNA229: Astronomical Arguments: Pluto, Dark Matter, and Beyond

MWF 10:30 - 11:20, Sears 552

Instructor:

Chris Mihos
mihos@case.edu
Sears 557

Office Hours: TR 3:30-4:30, or by appointment

Writing Co-Instructor:

Terri Mester
terri.mester@case.edu


Office Hours: TR 5-6, F 11:30-1:30, SAGES cafe


Web site: http://burro.case.edu/Academics/USNA229/

This course explores how scientific controversies are resolved, using examples from astronomy and cosmology. We start with a discussion of the scientific process -- both as an ideal and as a practical reality -- and an overview of the scale of the universe in space and time. Then we address some historical controversies (with the benefit of scientific hindsight!), before turning  to modern examples of astronomical debates (which remain unresolved). In each case, we will examine the scientific basis of the controversy as well as the roles played by cultural and human biases.

Textbooks:

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn (not required; excerpts will be posted). Here is an online synopsis, good for an overview before tackling the actual reading.
Blind Watchers of the Sky, Rocky Kolb (required)

Assignments/Grading:

Participation (20%):
Presentation (15%):  Each student will conduct a 15 minute oral presentation of an astronomical topic of interest. Two weeks before your presentation, you must clear your topic with Prof Mihos. These presentations will be critiqued by the class as well as the instructors. List of presentation topics can be found here.

Writing Assignments: There will be three writing assignments throughout the semester. The writing assignment will be broken down as follows:


Course Schedule:

Always subject to change....

Week Date
Reading Discussion
Leader
Oral
Presenter
Assignments Due
Week 1
Aug 24
Introduction & Welcome

--


Aug 26
Kuhn Chapter 2
The Scientific Method (courtesy Frank Wolfs, University of Rochester)
The Scientific Method Flow Chart

--


Aug 28
Kuhn Chapter 3
Readings from Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science by Royston Roberts

--

Week 2 Aug 31
Kuhn Chapter 6;
Objectivity (prologue from Objectivity, by Daston and Galison)

--


Sep 2
Kuhn Chapter 7;
Scientific Arrogance, and replies

--


Sep 4
Kuhn Chapter 8
Thesis statements
Kevin
---

Week 3
Sep 7
Labor Day (no class)
--
--


Sep 9
Kuhn Chapter 9; Motivation in the Real World of Science
Sophia
--
Thesis Statement

Sep 11
Library Resources; meet in the Dampeer Room at KSL
--
Shu Guo

Week 4
Sep 14
Kuhn Chapter 12;
Eric
--


Sep 16
The Copernican Revolution - Kolb Chapter 2
Harsha
--
Paper 1

Sep 18
The Copernican Revolution - Kolb Chapter 3
Shawn
--

Week 5
Sep 21
The Copernican Revolution - Kolb Chapter 4 Ryo
--


Sep 23
The Copernican Revolution - Kolb Chapter 5
Matthew
--


Sep 25
Oral Presentations / Paper Revisions

Prof Mihos

Week 6
Sep 28
The Realm of the Nebulae - Kolb Chapter 6
John
--
Paper 1 Rev

Sep 30
The Realm of the Nebulae - Kolb Chapter 7
Jose
Sophia


Oct 2
The Realm of the Nebulae - Kolb Chapter 8
Brian
Jude

Week 7
Oct 5
Nebulae Wrap-up
Mihos
Patrick


Oct 7
The Expanding Universe: Going Over to the Dark Side
Nathan
Kevin


Oct 9
Writing Workshop
Terri
Harsha

Week 8
Oct 12
Dark Energy and the Fate of the Universe:
Ravin
--


Oct 14
Dark Energy, or not?: Does Dark Energy Really Exist?
Patrick
Nick


Oct 16
Dark Energy Wrap Up / Dark Matter Intro:
Mihos --


Oct 18



Paper 2 electronic due date (11:59pm)
Week 9
Oct 19
Fall Break (no class)
--
--


Oct 21
Dark Matter: What do we really know about dark matter?
Jude
--
Paper 2 harddcopy

Oct 23
Writing Workshop
Terri
--

Week 10
Oct 26
Dark Matter: Out of Sight, Out of MOND
Bryan Ryo


Oct 28
Dark Matter: Battlefield galactica: Dark Matter vs MOND
Mihos Shawn


Oct 30
Is Pluto a Planet?
Nick --

Week 11
Nov 2
Is Pluto a Planet?
Lauren Eric


Nov 4
Is Pluto a Planet?

--
Paper 2 Revision

Nov 6
Life on Mars: Percival Lowell and the History of Mars

Brian

Week 12
Nov 9
Life on Mars: War of the Worlds

Ravin


Nov 11
The Search for Extraterrestrial Life: The Drake Equation

Lauren


Nov 13
Online Drake Equation Calculator (courtesy NOVA/PBS)

--

Week 13
Nov 16
Why SETI Will Fail

--
Paper 3 Outline

Nov 18
Two things:


Bryan


Nov 20
Collisions with Comets and Asteroids

John
Week 14
Nov 23
Modern Impacts:

Jose


Nov 25
No class (Thanksgiving) --
--


Nov 27
No class (Thanksgiving) --
--

Week 15
Nov 30
Writing Workshop

Matt


Dec 2
Asteroids and Mass Extinctions

Nathan


Dec 4
On Being Wrong

--
Paper 3

Other Possible Topics (TBD):