Online reading assignment: cosmology (SLO campus)

Astronomy 210, fall semester 2012
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on evidence for the big bang, and models of the early big bang.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"Universe expansion. Interesting and mystifying to ponder how the universe can expand if it already is everything."

"Heinrich Olbers' question was truly interesting--if there is actually an end to the universe--because I wonder the same thing everyday."

"The farther we look out in space, the farther back in time we are looking. So we can see Deneb which is 1,400 light years away, but what we are looking at is not as it is now, but 1,400 years ago. It sounds dumb, but I had really never thought about it before."

"The story of the elephant's trunk getting stretched by the crocodile."

"The way most science teachers explain it, to me it seems as though the big bang is a topic that is elaborated yet skimmed over quickly so a teacher can say they discussed it. When in all actuality, it is pretty complex, that deserves enough time to learn about it."

"It seems impossible that a big bang created everything so perfectly."

"The big bang and what made it happen. What made it happen?"
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"At this point, just about everything in class confuses me."

"How you could look 'back in time.'"

"None of this is fulfilling."

"Universe expansion. How is this possible? If the universe is everything it is really creepy to me that it is expanding outside of itself. Are we just a science experiment in a petri dish for some gigantic creatures that created us, and then how were they created? I don't think I like this section."

"I can't wrap my head around the fact that the universe doesn't have an edge. If the universe is expanding, then where is it expanding to?"

"If everything we are seeing in space is seen as it was in the past however many light years away it is, then how will we ever know what is happening right now?"

"How light could not survive with the scattering of photons back before recombination."
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Do you have a cat?" (Yes, and she has her own Facebook page.)

"What triggered the creation of the universe in the first place? How were the particles of matter brought into existence?" (To quote Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the Director-General of CERN: 'There's a need for us, as naïve scientists, to discuss with philosophers and theologians the time before or around big bang.')

"Can we postpone Quiz 6 until the week after Thanksgiving? I would be very thankful." (The second midterm, which covers Quiz 6, is already scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving, so no, Quiz 6 has to be just before Thanksgiving.)

"There's gotta be aliens. It just wouldn't make sense for there not to be."

"How can we get a hold of the answers for the study guides that are posted on the website, when we study? I can only find one set and it only contains three answers." (I would be more than willing to discuss your responses to the archived quizzes/exams and flashcard questions during posted office hours or an arranged appointment, just before/after lecture, or via e-mail.)

"When is this assignment due? Can you please explain how to read your calendar again?" (Online reading assignments are open Thursday-Tuesday, and are posted just after the previous Wednesday's lecture, and are posted again (for redundancy) just before the following Wednesday's lecture.)

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