This is a new course that extends Cosmology 101: Basic Themes, but can be taken as a stand-alone cosmology course. The basics are always reviewed before further and emerging themes are discussed. Key brand-new topics are also presented. This course requires more than listening to lectures; it needs class participation to clarify, correct, comment upon, and extend the themes being addressed.
Cosmology is the study of big issues in astronomy, such as where did the universe come from, when, how, and what are its present and future conditions? Previously, cosmology questions and issues were only addressed by philosophy and religion. Now astrophysics investigates them and formulates intriguing, complex answers.
Before the course begins registrants receive its Zoom link and an “invitation” to officially join its Google Classroom in which downloads, syllabus, and correspondence are posted.
July 7: From the Big Bang to Today
Review of Big Bang essentials and evidences, and Hubble’s Law. The expansion rate and the age of the universe are further developed. A detailed look at the cosmic stages following the Big Bang, including the newer concept of inflation. Interpreting complex cosmology diagrams depicting the evolution of the universe. H(t) vs H0.
July 14: Expansion Rate and Size of the Universe
Units for masses, energy, density, distances, and time. Introduction to dimensional analysis. The all-important Friedman equation that governs the rates of expansion– past, present, future. Critical density and omega values. How the Hubble parameter, H(t), has changed during eras following the Big Bang. Current value for radius of the universe calculated. Getting H(t) from z(t).
July 21: The Ultimate Constituents of the Universe
Review of atoms, molecules, elements and their isotopes. The explosion of new particles beyond the proton, neutron, and electron creating a “zoo” of subatomic particles. Quark theory and QCD now central to the “Standard Model” of particles. Recent validation of the Higgs particle that establishes particle masses. Proposal to go to deeper constituents– string theory.
July 28: Fundamentals of Force; Universal Constants
•Four fundamental forces. Postulated grand unification during the Big Bang. Force-carrying particles, mediating the forces, namely gluon, photon, Z, W, and Higgs particles. Feynman diagrams map out particle and force interactions.
•Selected fundamental constants that underly the universe. Restated as unitless Planck constants, revised SI units, and Rees’ 6 key cosmology constants. The mystery of 137, the Fine Structure Constant.
•Is the universe finely tuned?
August 4: WMAP and Planck Cornucopia on the CMBR
Review of the CMBR emitted during recombination 380,000 y after Big Bang when universe had a radius of 42 million lightyears. Extensive and detailed analysis on these images. For example, their granulation reflects standing acoustic waves in the infant universe forming clumps of known size and separation. Essential findings about our cosmos, including NASA’s top ten. Quantum fluctuations during the Big Bang were the seeds of today’s cosmic web of galaxies and clusters.
August 11: Hot-Button Issues
•Dark matter and dark energy. What are they, why invented, mapping of, and possible constituents for?
•Dark energy as a repulsive form of gravity reflecting vacuum pressure of space and Einstein’s Cosmological Constant. Fifth force?
• On-going investigations on H0. Discrepancies in latest research and their significance.
• Is G really constant over time?
• Gravity waves. Review. Latest findings and prospects for future astronomy.
• Exoplanets. Techniques for discovering. IR imaging and Webb telescope hopes.
• Multiverses. Mind-bending infinities or just one fined-tuned universe?
August 18: 7th Class if necessary
Location: Classes will be online using Zoom. You’ll receive the link when you register. Class recordings available during the course and for 4 weeks after.
Time: 7-9 PM, Wednesdays
Cost: $60, AAA Members only. Not a Member? Join for $35.
Instructor: David Kiefer holds various Masters degrees, including a M.S. in astronomy from the Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing in Melbourne, Australia. He has taught physics and astronomy at colleges in New York and New Jersey, and is presently a lecturer at Brooklyn College. A member of the AAA, Mr. Kiefer observes at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and at upstate sites. He also teaches AAA Classes and is in the Class Coordination Committee.