Further information on Fall 2020 courses

 

Rich Noer: It’s About Time

 

Course text

In Search of Time: The History, Physics and Philosophy of Time, by Dan Falk (St. Martin’s Press, 2010, paperback; list price $19) – available at Content bookstore and online.  Used copies are available (Amazon.com, AbeBooks.com, and elsewhere) for considerably less than the new price; several versions are available, each with a different subtitle but (as far as I can tell) identical text.  A Kindle e-book version sells for about $10.

This is an historically oriented book for a general audience, written in a very readable and non-mathematical style. I’ll recommend reading almost all of it, in chunks that average about 25 pages a week.

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Expanded description

Classes will consist of informal online lectures, structured around PowerPoint slides, and liberally interspersed with student questions and discussion.

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Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

Class     Topics

Sept. 14:  Student and instructor introductions

   “Now”; past, present, future

   History: cyclic vs linear time

 

Sept. 21:  History: astronomical clocks, how decide which is right?

            Units: day, month, year; then hours, minutes, seconds

            Calendars: Julian vs Gregorian; leap years, leap seconds…

 

Sept. 28:  Clocks

   Pulse beats, water flow

            Gravity clocks: pendulum, escapement

            Spring watches

            Harrison & longitude measurement challenge

            Digital watches

            Atomic clocks

 

Oct. 5:  Newtonian absolute time

            Newton vs Leibniz controversy

            Causality & block time

 

Oct. 12:  Einstein’s time; clock synchronization

            Relativity of simultaneity; time dilation

            World lines, light cones

 

Oct. 19:  Time travel

            Twins “paradox”; travel to future

            Wormholes: travel to past, problems & paradoxes

 

Oct. 26:  Arrow of time

            Second law of thermodynamics, billiards vs scrambled eggs

            Geologic time, evolution

            Darwinian evolution

            Big bang, cosmic evolution

 

Nov. 2:  Time as illusion vs real flow (of what?)

            Final thoughts