V1900 Seminar in Contemporary Physics and Astronomy
Elementary Seminar in Modern Cosmology

Catalog Course Description:
 1 pt.  Prerequisite or corequisite: any 1000-level course in the Physics or Astronomy Department. May be taken for Pass/Fail credit only. Lectures on current areas of research with discussions of motivation, techniques, and results, as well as difficulties and unsolved problems. Each student submits a written report on one field of active research.

Instructor's Course Description:

The first few years of physics study generally concentrate on ideas that were on the cutting edge centuries ago.  In this course, we jump ahead and talk about what is being done today on the forefront of physic
s research - specifically in the study of cosmology. This course is designed for those with a  variety of backgrounds and doesn't either assume advanced mathematical knowledge, or require advanced physics courses. We will review the physics that you will need in order to understand the concepts being discussed and keep the discussion largely to the conceptual. Readings will be suggested for those interested in pursuing various topics in more depth.

Cosmology is the study of the history and evolution of the universe. In this course, we discuss the astronomical observables available to us for studying the universe at various stages in its evolution and talk about how physics experiments are designed to reveal the nature of the universe and to use it as a laboratory for understanding fundamental physics. We will discuss what is known about cosmology, how we know it, what remains to be understood, and the ways in which cosmologists are attempting to answer the remaining exciting and difficult questions on the frontier of this rapidly developing field. These questions include the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the state of the universe when it was much less than one second old, and the fundamental origin of our universe.

The course is taught in a lecture format with questions encouraged and expected. There is flexibility in the syllabus for expanding or compressing topics in response to student interest.


Course Syllabus:

1.     Introduction and Tools for Exploring the Universe
2.     
Tools for Exploring the universe (Standard Candles and Redshifts)
3.     
The Expanding Universe and Multiwavelength Astrophysics
4.    
Inflation and the Primordial Plasma
5.     
The Seeds of Structure Formation
6.     
Cosmology with the Cosmic Microwave Background
7.    
Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity
        (Tools for examining the initial singularity)
8.     
Reconciling General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics
        (Introduction to String Theory)
9.    
The First moments after the Initial Singularity
10.   
Inflation, Baryogenesis, and Nucleosynthesis
11.   
Models for an Expanding Universe, Why we need Dark Matter and
         Dark Energy
12.   
Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and CMB Polarization