What is the level of the course?

The course has little or no mathematical content (the complexity of the mathematics underlying the theories is quite beyond the scope of any bachelor's degree, including physics). The only equation that is ever discussed in detail is E=mc2. However, we do not stay away from any theoretical-physics concept that has relevance to cosmology, no matter how complicated (``spacetime foam'', ``event horizon'', ``symmetry breaking'', you name it). The level of the course is that of a standard astronomy class for liberal arts students (see for instance: Astronomy, by Jay M. Pasachoff, Saunders College Publishing, any edition). In other words, the level is that of Chapter 9 of Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. Check out the textbooks that have been used in the past:

Other books that have been used occasionally:

Some of these books are available at the Gumberg Library.

Are there special activities?

As a matter of fact, there are. One of them is a really cool (it is!) computer experience, where the computer simulates the controls of an actual telescope. The purpose of the experience is to find out the age of the universe. The other neat activity is a field trip to the Buhl Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center. This is done on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and it's a lot of fun (seriously!). Other field trips that might be considered include the Allegheny Observatory (I bet you never heard of it), usually done on a Thursday or Friday night, in April, and a star party with the Pittsburgh Association of Amateur Astronomers, which can be scheduled any evening.

What level of dedication is necessary?

First and foremost: You must COME TO LECTURE. Additionally, you MUST DO THE READING. Finally: you must complete a number of special assignments if you are aiming for an A (special assignments include internet searches, computer excercises and scrapbooks). Typical students have not complained about dedication time. Typical ``lecture skippers'', however, have not obtained grades to be proud of.


Just one: MOTIVATION. No deep answer comes without baggage, so guess what: whatever physics we need to know in order to reach an answer, we'll learn on the way, no matter how mundane. Little kids will eat even celery for a piece of candy, so if you really, REALLY wanna know the cool answers, there is a good chance you'll make it through the boring and be happy too. Self-test: You should not consider registering if the term ``black hole'' does not excite your curiosity.

Who should register for this class?

There are two kinds of students that would benefit from this class. One kind is a student from the humanities who has a general interest in science, at the level of NOVA videos about deep space. This student would achieve instruction in many fields of physics in a solid, self-contained class, at a level that the student is willing to put up with, namely: with no math! In this category, students from all years in all disciplines have truly enjoyed this class, and the ones who practically raved about it happened to be Seniors, all disciplines (English, Philosophy, Communications). These students use this class to satisfy science requirements. Most students in this category find this a challenging but very enjoyable class. This class makes a nice prepackaged science set with Core Earth.

The other kind of student that would benefit from this class is the student in the sciences who appreciates the qualitative and conceptual value of science beyond its mathematical language. Some science students feel attracted towards astrophysics, but have no background to make a decision, so they take this class to make up their minds. Other science students have had enough math content in their discipline and wish to learn something interesting in a relaxed atmosphere (for once). Still, other science students have a general interest in astrophysics and take advantage of this as the only opportunity to receive mild instruction in this field before they graduate. In this category, students from all years have enjoyed the class. Most students in this category find this a moderate-easy class. These students take this class as an elective or as a requisite.

You should not register if: 1) you feel that physics is boring, pointless or much too difficult; or 2) you feel that a science class is not worth taking if stripped of its content of mathematics. In the first case, the course will feel above your head. In the second case, the course will feel too elementary and uninteresting.

Is this class offered next year?

Because of shortage of teachers in the Department of Physics, there is a good chance that this class will be skipped in Spring 06 and every even year after that. Students who will be graduating by Fall 06 and plan to take the course will be wise to register this year.

The best that we have heard about this class

" Taking this class has really sparked an interest in the universe, its makings, its workings and the world around me. I am amazed almost daily by the universe I am a part of. " (2002)
"Thanks for showing me how neat astronomy can be. [...] Thank you for a pleasant, yet educational experience, I enjoyed it greatly!" (2002)
"If I was aksed to summarize my whole experience [at the Buhl Planetarium] I would say AMAZING, honestly speaking this is an experience that I will never forget." (2002)
"My experience at the Carnegie Science Center was so fascinating that I want to go back again on my own and visit all the exhibits." (2002)
"I think that the trip to the Carnegie Science Center should be included in the class because it was a very fun educational trip that was a benefit to the class. I know that all of the people that I went with enjoyed and so will everyone else." (2002)
"Overall the trip [to the Carnegie Science Center] was fun and I am glad it was a part of this class." (2002)
"The course was clear and illuminating and a credit to Duquesne's Physics Department and to the teaching ability of Dr. Fritelli. Your course [...] has helped me [...] rediscover my fascination with the scientific exploration of the world. [...] Without equations to struggle with, I was left free to understand the ideas and processes at another level." (1997)
"Most of what I got out of the class was entirely new to me and exciting. At times it was somewhat in-depth and ``blew my mind'' which in itself was a fascinating experience." (1997)
"As an elective, this has been a very enjoyable course."(1999)
"[Dr. Frittelli] makes even things such as quantum mechanics seem like a piece of cake..." (1998)
"Although I believe I struggled a bit, I learned a lot from the course." (1999)
"The lack of math was the only thing that made it possible for me to take this class." (1997)
"The videos and photographs were wonderfully helpful."(1998)

Some of this feedback comes from responses in the TEQ's; some comes from field-trip reports, yet some is volunteered. If you are a student who took this class, feel free to send us your feedback, preferably by e-mail to simo@mayu.physics.duq.edu.

Created and maintained by Simonetta Frittelli. Last updated October 14, 2004