Key: Thorne = the required textbook, Kip Thorne’s  Black holes and time warps; Seeds = Mike Seeds's Foundations of astronomy; Hawking = Stephen Hawking's A brief history of time; Silk = Joe Silk's The Big Bang.
ŕ = night-time class meeting, Hoyt Auditorium, 7-11 PM.
N  = on-line examination, 12-6 PM.




Required/recommended reading

Preliminaries, including our first meetings with the odd properties of black holes, which we will spend the rest of the semester explaining.


1 September 2009

How big is that? An introduction to the sizes, masses, distances, ages and speeds commonly encountered in astronomy. 

Seeds, chapter 1


3 September 2009

Prologue in outer space: what it’s like to be in the neighborhood of some typical black holes.

Thorne, pp. 23-59.


8 September 2009

Relativity: a non-mathematical introduction to the special and general theories of relativity.


10 September 2009

Einstein’s theories: special relativity; the warping of space and time; the Lorentz transformation and velocity-addition formulas; general relativity; experimental verifications of relativity. Thorne, pp. 59-120. Seeds, chapter 5.


15 September 2009


17 September 2009


22 September 2009

8 24 September 2009 Gravitational radiation, general relativity’s analogue of light. Thorne, pp. 357-396..
9 29 September 2009 General relativity predicts the existence of black holes Thorne, pp. 121-139. Hawking, chapter 6
ŕ 30 September 2009 Review session for Exam #1, with Jae Song presiding.  


1 October 2009

Exam #1, covering all subjects discussed to date.  
Quantum mechanics: important microscopic properties of the very dense progenitors of black holes and their relatives, the degenerate stars.


6 October 2009

Material strength and the uncertainty principle: can quantum mechanics keep black holes from forming? Thorne, pp. 140-163. Hawking, pp. 57-85.


8 October 2009

Degenerate stars. White dwarf stars and the Chandrasekhar maximum mass; neutron stars and the Oppenheimer maximum mass; supernovae; the inevitable formation of black holes. Thorne, pp. 164-257. Seeds, pp. 265-268, 285-295.


13 October 2009

Observations of black holes. They really do exist in nature, and here's how we know.


15 October 2009

Properties of real black holes. Thorne, pp. 258-299.


20 October 2009

Energetics of black holes, and the discovery of quasars. Thorne, pp. 300-321.


22 October 2009

Black holes unveiled. Astronomical objects thought, or known, to involve black holes: X-ray binary stars, active galaxy nuclei, the center of the Milky Way, and gamma-ray bursters. Thorne, pp. 322-356. Seeds, pp. 295-303, 356-376; Silk, pp. 259-284.


27 October 2009


29 October 2009


3 November 2009

ŕ 4 November 2009 Review session for Exam #2, with Brian DiCesare presiding.  


5 November 2009

Exam #2, emphasizing subjects introduced since Exam #1.  
The outsides and insides of horizons: black holes and their relation to thermodynamics, Hawking radiation, and odd relativistic objects that can be considered to be combinations of black holes.


10 November 2009

Black holes aren’t quite black: quantum fluctuations near the horizon, and black-hole evaporation. Thorne, pp. 412-448. Hawking, pp. 105-120.


12 November 2009

Inside black holes: physics beyond the black-hole horizon; or is it metaphysics? Thorne, pp. 397-411, 449-482.


17 November 2009

Wormholes and space travel: How (potentially) to use black holes to travel very long distances in a short time. Thorne, pp. 483-522.
ŕ 17 November 2009 AST 102 Film Festival: Star Trek (2009) and Contact (1997).  
ŕ 18 November 2009 AST 102 Film Festival: Contact (1997) and Star Trek (2009).  
22 19 November 2009 Wormhole time machines: Time travel may indeed be possible, if only in a limited sense, using wormholes. Thorne, pp. 483-522.
Cosmology: the Big Bang and the large-scale structure of the Universe, which turns out to be very black-hole-like.


24 November 2009

The homogeneous, isotropic, expanding Universe: According to GR it begins and/or ends in a singularity. Hawking, pp. 1-36; Silk, pp. 105-158.


1 December 2009

The Big Bang, its observation, and Big Bang cosmology: The present expansion and large-scale structure of the universe, dark matter, and the history and fate of matter-dominated universes. Seeds, pp. 378-400; Hawking, pp. 37-84 and 121-150; Silk, pp. 29-104 and 149-186.


3 December 2009

26 8 December 2009 The new flat universe: Acceleration of the expansion, dark energy, and other potential implications of the latest generation of cosmic microwave background observations.
ŕ 9 December 2009 Review session for Exam #3, with Brian DiCesare presiding.  


10 December 2009

Exam #3, emphasizing subjects introduced since Exam #2.