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This course aims at providing a conceptual understanding of some of the many faces of the Universe. General issues relating to the nature of mathematics and science, of space and time, and of the universe as a whole will be discussed. The course will be divided into the following sections: History of Astronomy; The Structure of the Universe; The Geometry of Space-Time, including Special and General Relativity; Cosmology and the Arrow of Time; Quantum Mechanics; the Anthropic Principle; and Extra-Terrestrial Life. The various sections will be introduced in a historical context emphasising the evolution of thought leading to current understanding.

Course code: MATH1042 / PHIL2042
Convenors: Dayal Wickramasinghe and Jason Grossman (0478 297 911, jason.grossman@anu.edu.au)
Tutor: Jason Grossman

Course website

http://xeny.net/PhilosophyOfTheCosmos

Mode of delivery

lectures and tutorials

Workload

38 hours of lectures and 11 hours of tutorials, plus readings.

Learning outcomes

  • An understanding in outline of the history of cosmology, and of contemporary cosmology.

  • A conceptual understanding of relativity theory and quantum mechanics.

  • An appreciation that many of the theories underlying modern cosmology are contentious.

  • An understanding of what would be involved in further study in philosophy of science, and in cosmology.

  • A habit of educated questioning of scientific orthodoxy.

Course schedule

See http://xeny.net/PhilosophyOfTheCosmos_-_syllabus.

Assessment details

Each of the following five components of assessment is compulsory.

  1. One multiple-choice question each in any 10 of the 11 tutorials, each worth 1% of the overall mark for the course (so that in total the multiple choice questions are worth 10% of the overall mark for the course).

  2. One 600-word written assignment worth 15% of the overall mark for the course, on a topic handed out in class;
    assignment task handed out on Tuesday 11 March; due by 4 pm on Thursday 20 March

  3. One 600-word written assignment worth 20% of the overall mark for the course, on a topic handed out in class;
    assignment task handed out on Tuesday 25 March; due by 4 pm on Thursday 3 April

  4. One 1,500-word essay (MATH1042 students) or one 3,000-word essay (PHIL2042 students) worth 40% of the overall mark for the course,
    on a choice of topics selected from those handed out in class;
    assignment task handed out on Tuesday 13 May; due by 4 pm, Friday 13 June

  5. Participation in tutorials and on the web discussion board (during the teaching period), worth 15% of the overall mark for the course, assessed by the tutors according to the following categories:

    — make less than 2 worthwhile contributions to tutorials or the discussion board: 0% for the participation component

    — make at least 2 worthwhile contributions to tutorials or the discussion board: 40% for the participation component (adding 6% to the overall course mark)

    — make worthwhile contributions to several tutorials or several worthwhile discussion board postings: 70% for the participation component (adding 10.5% to the overall course mark)

    — make original and outstanding contributions to several tutorials or the discussion board: 80—100% for the participation component (adding 12—15% to the overall course mark)

All students are expected to earn participation marks by contributing to the tutorials. Marks for participation on the web discussion board are combined with the tutorial marks to make up the overall participation mark. Participation on the web discussion board is not compulsory, and it is possible (although more difficult) for a student to obtain the maximum participation mark without using the discussion board.

Prescribed text

Readings available on Wattle, and additional readings recommended on the web site and/or handed out periodically in lectures.

Proscribed text

none

Generic skills

This course aims to develop the generic skills of critical thinking, verbal discussion and iconoclasm.

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General information

For ANU policy and procedures regarding academic honesty, and plagiarism and appeals, please visit http://policies.anu.edu.au/policies/code_of_practice_for_student_academic_integrity/policy

For assistance with assignment writing and completion, visit the Academic Skills and Learning Centre at https://academicskills.anu.edu.au, Lower Ground Floor, Pauline Griffin Building (Building no. 11).

ANU Library: See http://library.anu.edu.au.

ANU Counselling Centre: The ANU offers a free and confidential counselling service to all current ANU students and staff. See http://www.anu.edu.au/counsel.

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