A24:  Spring 2005 Freshman Seminar

Black Holes:  the Science Behind the Science Fiction





Instructor:  Prof. Eliot Quataert, Astronomy Dept. UC Berkeley

Office Hours:  Monday 5-6 (after seminar), or by appt.  (645 Campbell Hall)

When:  Monday 4PM (first meeting is 1/24)

Where:  501 Campbell Hall

What: Black holes are one of the most remarkable predictions of General Relativity,
            Albert Einstein's theory of Gravity:  so much mass is compressed into such
            a small volume that nothing, not even light, can escape.  Black holes have
            also captured the public imagination, and are commonly featured in popular
            culture, from Star Trek to Hollywood movies.  In this seminar we will demystify
            black holes.  We will learn what they are and (just as importantly!) what
            they are not.  We will find out how black holes are actually discovered
            in nature and how they are responsible for some of the most dramatic
            phenomena observed in the universe.  The seminar will center on reading
            popular-level (but scientifically accurate) books/articles about black holes.

Books:   Gravity's Fatal Attaction  (GFA) by Mitchell Begelman and Martin Rees
              Black Holes & Time Warps  (BHTW) by Kip Thorne

                These are 2 excellent Scientific American level books on Black Holes.  We will read from both, focusing on
                Gravity's Fatal Attraction, which has a bit more of the astrophysics.   The books are not available from the
                Berkeley bookstore (sorry!), so you need to buy them locally or order from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com
                etc.  The links above are to Amazon.

Format & Requirements:  Each week we will read a chapter from one of the books (starting w/ the 2nd meeting on 1/31).
                                                  Each meeting of the seminar will center on discussing the reading.   The point of the seminar is
                                                  discussion, not lecture.   You will be required to write a 1 page (a paragraph or two) summary of
                                                  the reading each week (double spaced is fine).  In addition, you should come up with 5 questions
                                                  about the reading each week to help facilitate discussion.  Your summary paragraph and
                                                  questions are due in class each week (late assignments are not accepted).   Your grade (P/NP)
                                                  is based on your write-ups and participation.

Schedule:

1/24:  Organization and Intro Lecture on BHs
1/31:  Ch. 1 of GFA
2/7:    Class canceled
2/14:  Ch. 1 of BHTW
2/21:  No class bec. of President's Day
2/28:  Ch. 2 of GFA
3/7:  Ch. 3 of GFA
3/14:  Ch. 4 of GFA
3/21:  No class (Spring Break)
3/28:  Ch. 5 of GFA
4/4:    Ch. 6 of GFA
4/11:    Ch. 7 of GFA
4/18:    Ch. 8 of GFA
4/25:    Ch. 12 of BHTW
5/2:    Ch. 13 of BHTW
5/9:   Read either Ch. 14 of BHTW or Ch. 9 of GFA.  No write-up necessary