H163: Readings # 3

Required Reading

The main reading for the second half of the course will be The Light at the Edge of the Universe. This book is lighter going than The First Three Minutes, with a higher ratio of personality to science, but the science is still pretty good. Its strength is that it will give you a sense of what astronomers and physicists actually do as they try to answer fundamental questions about the universe.

Although the book covers much of the same ground as the second half of the course, the order is different, so the reading assignments are not particularly timed to the subjects covered in class. You should read chapters 1-4 by Monday, November 18.

Keep track of questions that you have about the book, either things that are unclear or further questions that it raises. You can bring these up at any point, and I'll try to set aside some times specifically for this purpose.

I'll say more next week about the essay assignment due the last day of class, but basically you will pick a topic in relativity or cosmology that you find interesting and write a 5-7 page essay on it. As you start reading The Light at the Edge of the Universe, keep your eyes open for topics you might want to learn more about.

Optional Reading

Optional reading on the material we have covered about expansion of the universe and the Big Bang Theory is chapters 26 and 28 of Universe.

If you are interested in reading a popular account of the discovery of galaxies and the expansion of the universe by the person who did it, I recommend The Realm of the Nebulae, by Edwin Hubble, first published in 1936, just seven years after the paper announcing the discovery of Hubble's law. I think this book (published by Yale University Press) is now out of print, but one can find copies in libraries and at the occasional high-quality garage sale.

The classic book that I recommended on dimensional analogies is Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbott, first published in the 1880s. There is a modern ``sequel'' called Sphereland: A Fantasy About Curved Spacetime and an Expanding Universe, by Dionys Burger. I notice that the Dover Books edition of Flatland is available for $1.50 from amazon.com, and that a Harper Books edition that has both in one volume is available for $10.50. And just yesterday I noticed an advertisement for a new book, Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So, by Ian Stewart, which updates the theme and goes on to topics like the 10-dimensional spacetime predicted by string theory. I can highly recommend Flatland, and I remember enjoying Sphereland (but it was a long time ago); I haven't read Flatterland.

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Updated: 2002 November 7[dhw]