An introduction to the solar system using the methods of physics and geology (and chemistry and mathematics). The historical development of an understanding of the solar system builds a foundation for the rapid increase in information through the last 50 years of space exploration.
The emphasis throughout is on the development of basic principles, the nature of observational science, and the reliability of scientific data and conclusions. Hence the exploration of the solar system is used as a means to develop a scientific view of the cosmos, and not just as an end in itself- though that end is also important. Most of you will probably not pursue careers in science, let alone PLANETARY science, but hopefully after this course you will never look up at the sky in quite the same way....
The emphasis in most of the laboratories is on the basic principles and technology of "remote sensing" - figuring out what something is like without touching it - as this is fundamental to astronomical and planetary geochemical exploration.
text MOONS & PLANETS, by William K. Hartmann; fourth edition, Wadsworth Publishing Company; or fifth edition, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. We will "work our way" through most of the book. There will be a schedule of assignments to be read before each class meeting. Keep up! The book requires careful chewing and digesting- you cannot expect to read it all at one sitting! The book was used recently, so used copies are available, and there are five copies on reserve in the library. There is also a special journal for recording your observations of the sky which you should obtain at the bookstore.
classroom activities The class meetings will be used for questioning, lecture, demonstration, and discussion of the topics above.
labs Labs will meet weekly for 80 minutes. Each lab will involve a brief "writeup" due at a designated time, often at the end of the period or at the next class meeting. DO NOT SLEEP IN AND ATTEMPT TO COME TO A LAB SECTION OTHER THAN YOUR OWN. THE CLASS IS TOO BIG TO ALLOW THAT. COME TO YOUR OWN SECTION AND COME ON TIME. IF YOU ARE MORE THAN TEN MINUTES LATE I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO LOCK YOU OUT AND YOU WILL HAVE "MISSED" THE LAB. NO LAB MAKEUPS WILL BE PERMITTED WITHOUT A FORMAL "DEANS' EXCUSE".
homework A homework problem will be distributed each week and due the following week. The primary purpose of these is to give practice with techniques demonstrated in class but not used in the labs.
observations It is expected that most clear evenings a telescope observing program will be held. Each student will be expected to attend at least briefly multiple times during the semester. In addition, you are expected to observe the sky, moon, and planets on your own regularly throughout the semester and keep a journal of these observations, and the conclusions you draw from them. Planetary observations made through a telescope should also be noted in your journal. A special journal for doing this is available in the bookstore. See the Observing and Journal-Keeping page for more information.
selenography While the main emphasis throughout the course is on understanding the general principles and being able to apply them to a situation you have never seen before on another planet (literally!), a minimum basic knowledge of the location of major features on the near side of the moon will ease our conversation immensely- so I will give you a list of a few dozen places whose locations I will expect you to remember. This will be a free bonus if you keep your map of the moon by the bathroom mirror.... See the Selenography page for more information.
exams There will be three in-class exams and a final. In general, anything from the labs, homework, class activities, or your own observations is "fair game", although you should not expect many "plug in" problems. The best way to do well on the exams is to participate in all class activities and THINK. We have a good and provocative text- I strongly encourage you to THINK in class and not attempt to write down every word said by me or anyone else. If you don't leave class in a sweat, you have not been thinking hard enough!!!
The in-class exams will be January 24, February 14, and March 14, 2014. The final exam will be Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at 1:15 pm, unless the registrar changes the schedule.
There will be a separate "selenography" exam which you will be free to take over and over as many times as you like and only the best score will count.
Grading in the course will be according to the following percentages, unless in some specific case this for some reason seems unfair:
3 exams at 15% each = 45%
Observing Journal 5%
I EXPECT YOU TO COME TO CLASS! I will be showing pictures and videos not in the text, doing demonstrations with apparatus, providing alternate approaches to some important things in the text, filling in mathematical details in places where the text is brief, and prodding you into thinking on your own. I will also pass out all kinds of supplementary stuff. You will miss all of this if you sit home and try to read the book alone, and I will have little mercy for you. If you feel that the class meetings are not as useful as you would like, please TELL ME! I am always open to changing and want you to get all that you can out of the experience. In general, for our three class meetings a week, I think you should either be in class or in the health center.
For any lab you miss, you will receive a negative score, so that if you do the next lab perfectly the two will add up to zero. You will NOT be allowed to make up any lab without a formal "Deans' Excuse", because each lab must be put away to make room for the next one and because the class is too big to have a personal lab time for each person.
Homework handed in late will be corrected but given half credit. The observing journals will be collected and reviewed occasionally during the semester.
These statements might sound a little harsh, but this is a very large class with many components. There simply is not time to create a separate and different schedule for each person.
This class is something like a "top-down" engineering project, in which the project we are working on is quite complex, and must frequently be broken down into smaller pieces. From time to time a few of those "pieces" might seem to involve things you do not know- some mathematical skill, or some piece of information that your neighbor thinks is "obvious" but you have never heard of before. RELAX! That is a perfectly normal feeling, and one that people working on hard problems have all the time. The point is that you use the problem at hand as an excuse to learn the things you need to know to solve it! You should not expect that you already know all that you need to know to read our text without looking something up in another book now and then. Most of the problems of life are like that. If you can use this course as a way to boost your confidence in tackling really large problems where you have to learn other things along the way, then you will take something really wonderful away from it. Don't say "I can't do that because I haven't had _____." Rather, say "Before I can do that I need to learn _____," and go do it!
Like most courses at Bates, I do not think that you can sign up for this one and "accidentally" have a great experience. I think you have to WANT to try everything. If you do that, you will find me eager to help you at all hours to make this a wonderful experience and adventure.
You are encouraged to discuss ANYTHING related to the course or your peripheral interests with the me at any time. Besides extensive office hours and appointment opportunities, you will probably find me around most evenings and are welcome to drop in any time the light is on. You are also welcome to call me at home any time you think I might be there.
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