Expanded descriptions of Winter 2018 courses


Rich Noer: Gravity – From Aristotle to Einstein and Beyond

Classes will consist of informal lectures, easily interrupted by student questions and comments.  Background readings will be suggested (see below), but I plan to devote most of the class time to discussing the relevant ideas and results in a way that doesn’t depend on students having done all the readings. 

A tentative schedule is as follows:

Class       Topics

Jan. 8      Greek cosmology: Aristotle and Ptolemy, the 5 elements and natural motion        

Jan. 15    Copernicus: Earth’s motion, gravity from sphericity

Jan. 22    Kepler and Galileo: studied ignorance

Jan. 29    Descartes and Newton: collisions of tiny particles vs action at a distance

Feb. 5      Einstein I: spacetime background

Feb. 12    Einstein II: general relativity; gravity as a fictitious force; black holes

Feb. 19    Predictions: dark matter; puzzles: dark energy and quantum reconciliation

Feb. 26    Gravitational waves: recent detections at LIGO and Virgo


Recommended background readings will come from Gravity: Cracking the Cosmic Code, by Nicholas Mee (Virtual Image Publishing, 2014, paperback; list price $24.95; also available as an Amazon Kindle e-edition for $9.99).  Though not ideal, this is the best book I’ve found that’s both relevant to the course and affordable.  Mee gives a decent presentation of most of the theories and events that we’ll study – but be warned that I will strongly disagree with many of his historical and philosophical judgments about past attempts to explain gravity.  I will send enrolled students information on how to buy this book; unfortunately it will not be available in Northfield.