Department of Astronomy

SAGES Seminars

Here are a sampling of SAGES seminar courses we offer.

Archaeoastronomy (Topical First Seminar)

The unifying theme of this course is how astronomical practice and knowledge is central to ancient civilizations and how that emphasis continues today as manifested through scientific endeavor and also as strongly through the power of unifying myth. We will begin with a discussion of the sky, its motions, and its relation to us and to our forebears and then discuss why ancient man studied the sky – ritual or practical prediction? We shall seek evidence in diverse cultures and times spanning prehistoric monuments in Great Britain to Mayan codices.

Our Perplexing Universe: From Pluto to Cosmology (University Seminar)

Varied and extensive observations over the past century have dramatically changed our understanding of the universe and led to the current era of precision cosmology.  Despite the immense progress, several key puzzles about the nature and makeup of the universe remain. How do we make sense of our universe? Why do these questions persist, even with our continued efforts and advanced technologies?  In this course, we will consider many of the “big questions” about the cosmos, how our views of it have evolved, and speculate on some of the outstanding problems in modern cosmology. Our inquiry will range from Pluto’s planetary status to the Big Bang model and the evidence for dark matter and dark energy, with a special emphasis on the challenge of elucidating these complex phenomena to a wide audience.

Perspectives on the Cosmos: From the Ancient Philosophers to Modern Science (University Seminar)

Cosmology is the nexus where science, philosophy, and religion collide. This course will explore the roles of faith, philosophy, and empirical knowledge on prevailing attitudes towards the nature of the world model over time. Subjects to be covered include the first vital steps of the ancient philosophers, the tension between geocentric and heliocentric world models at the time of Copernicus and Galileo, and the modern scientific world view.

Einstein, Space, and Time (University Seminar)

This course explores the profound changes in our conception of space and time brought about by Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity.

Pluto, Dark Matter, and other Astronomical Arguments (University Seminar)

This course explores how scientific controversies are resolved, using examples from astronomy and cosmology. We start with a discussion of the scientific process — both as an ideal and as a practical reality — and an overview of the scale of the universe in space and time. Then we address some historical controversies (with the benefit of scientific hindsight!), before turning to modern examples of astronomical debates (which remain unresolved). In each case, we will examine the scientific basis of the controversy as well as the roles played by cultural and human biases.

Page last modified: January 15, 2016