It's About Time

Have a Great Summer!

Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

(click here to go to a MOMA webpage
 that describes the significance of this painting

Marcel Duchamp. Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, 1912.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

|Course Outline|Office Hours|Grading|
|Schedule and Reading Assignments|Midterms and Final Exam|

Course Outline - Spring Semester 2005

click here for a .pdf version of the Course Outline

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Dr. Bradley W. Carroll


SL 202








Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe, Nathan Spielberg and Bryon D. Anderson;

Measuring Eternity, Martin Gorst;

Einstein's Dreams, Alan Lightman;

Tom Stoppard: Plays Five, Tom Stoppard;

  Readings:  It's About Time

Science and math background assumed: none!



St. Augustine said of time,

 "I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled."

In this class we will examine our understanding of time, from the ancient Greeks through Einstein's relativity. We will examine our own perceptions of time and those of other cultures as we explore deep geological time and even deeper cosmological time. Along the way we will do experiments, watch a movie, read a play, and admire works of literature, art, and music.


 10:00 - 10:00 Daily
any other time I am in my office


Do the assigned reading and come prepared to discuss any of the topics. The midterms will consist of multiple-choice and short answer questions, and will be given in the Student Service Testing Center (SC 269) over a two-day period; remember to bring a picture ID and a #2 pencil for the multiple-choice. Each person is responsible for his or her own work. Academic dishonesty on any exam will result in a grade of zero being given for that examination. A second violation will constitute failure of the course.

Physics provides the fundamental description of physical reality, an exciting and sometimes startling view of the world that most people never get to see.  Above all,

Ask Questions at Any Time!

If you have questions that can't be cleared up in class, drop by my office anytime to discuss the meaning and implications of the material. Relax and enjoy this exploration of time, and remember the words of British scientist J. B. S. Haldane:

"Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine,

it is stranger than we can imagine!"




An overall midterm average of at least 80% and an acceptable approved project for a total of at least 90% (midterms + project) and a satisfactory effort in group discussion


An overall midterm average of at least 80% and a satisfactory effort in group discussion


An overall midterm average of at least 70% and a satisfactory effort in group discussion


An overall midterm average below 70% or an unsatisfactory effort in group discussion


An overall midterm average below 70% and an unsatisfactory effort in group discussion

The course project is worth up to 10%. It should be something original and creative, and must be at least peripherally related to the subject matter of the course. With your project you must hand in a short written paper that describes what you did and how it is connected to the course. No last-minute projects will be approved. Your project should be something we can both be proud to share with the rest of the class!



Click on a hyperlink for that day's handouts




Reading Assignment for this Class

Jan 10



Jan 12

Greek Astronomy

Seven Ideas, p. 14-29
Handout:  The Library at Alexandria
Images:  Prague Clock, Prague Clock Dial

Jan 14

Time for Plato and Aristotle

Plato: Timaeus, Sec. 3-5, 7, 21;
Plato: Plato’s Cave;
Aristotle: Physics, Book IV, 10-14;
Aristotle: On Coming-to-Be and Passing-Away
Handout:  The Allegory of Plato's Cave

Jan 17

Martin Luther King Holiday

Jan 19

Augustine and Time

Augustine: Confessions, Book XI;
Measuring Eternity
, Ch. 1

Jan 21

World Cultures and Time

Ezzell: Clocking Cultures

Jan 24

Copernicus and Kepler

Seven Ideas, p. 29-49
Handout:  Symbols

Jan 26

Aristotle’s Physics and Galileo

Seven Ideas, p. 50-70;
Measuring Eternity
, Ch. 2-4

Jan 28

Water Clock and Pendulum

Galileo: Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina
Handout:  Galileo's Moon

Jan 31

Newton’s 1st and 2nd Laws

Seven Ideas, p. 70-74
Review for Exam #1

Feb 2

Newton’s 3rd Law and Momentum

Seven Ideas, p. 74-78

Feb 4

Newton’s Law of Gravity

Seven Ideas, p. 78-83;
Nagel: Free Will

Feb 7

Dividing Time: Clocks and Music

Andrewes: A Chronicle of Timekeeping;
Crosby: Time;
Crosby: Music
Image:  Strasbourg clock (1352)
Link:  Gregorian Chant radio

Feb 9

Geological Time

Measuring Eternity, Ch. 5-9

Feb 11

Kinetic, Potential, and Thermal Energy

Seven Ideas, p. 84-100

Feb 14

Conservation of Energy

Seven Ideas, p. 100-105;
Measuring Eternity
, Ch. 10

Feb 16

Heat Engines

Seven Ideas, p. 106-124
  Newcomen Engine

Animation:  Newcomen Engine
Link:  Fairbottom Bobs, an early Newcomen Engine
Link:  The Newcomen Steam Engine

Feb 18

Entropy and the Arrow of Time

Seven Ideas, p. 124-138;
Byron: Darkness

Feb 21

Presidents’ Day Holiday

Feb 23

Algorithms and Chaos

Hall: Exploring Chaos
Handout:  Arcadia, Act 1, Scene 1 Questions

Feb 25

Arcadia 1

Arcadia, Act 1, Scene 1
Handout:  Arcadia, Act 1, Scene 2 Questions
Image:  Et in Arcadia Ego, by Nicolas Poussin (1647)
An Arcadia Glossary

Feb 28

Arcadia 2

Arcadia, Act 1, Scene 2
Handout:  Arcadia, Act 1, Scenes 3 and 4 Questions

Mar 2

Arcadia 3

Arcadia, Act 1, Scenes 3 and 4
Handout:  Arcadia, Act 2, Scenes 5 and 6 Questions

Mar 4

Arcadia 4

Arcadia, Act 2, Scenes 5 and 6
Handout:  Arcadia, Act 2, Scene 7 Questions

Mar 7

Arcadia 5

Arcadia, Act 2, Scene 7
Handout:  Arcadia:  The Main Themes

Mar 9

Biological Clocks

Whitrow: Biological Clocks;
Wright: Times of Our Lives

Mar 11

The Perception of Time

Sacks: The Lost Mariner;
Sacks: A Matter of Identity;
Damasio: Remembering When;
Pickover: The Brain’s Time Machine
Handouts:  Experience, Split-Brain Experiment, Review for Exam #2
Link:  Evidence for a Young World

Mar 14-18

Spring Break

Mar 21

Dating Techniques

Measuring Eternity, Ch. 11;
Einstein’s Dreams

Mar 23

What is Light?

Seven Ideas, p. 139-155
Handout: Double Slit Interference  

Mar 25

Einstein’s Two Postulates and the End of Simultaneity

Seven Ideas, p. 156-165;
J. Schwartz & M. McGuinness: The Relativity of Simultaneity

Mar 28

Time Dilation and Length Contraction

Seven Ideas, p. 165-168

Mar 30

Twin Paradox, E = mc2

Seven Ideas, p. 169-174

Apr 1

General Relativity

Seven Ideas, p. 174-183

Apr 4

Art and Physics

Shlain: Cubism/Space;
Shlain: Futurism/Time
Handout: Art and Physics

Apr 6

Blackbody Radiation and Photons

Seven Ideas, p. 184-199
Handout: Three Failures of Classical Physics

Apr 8

The Bohr Atom

Seven Ideas, p. 199-205

Apr 11

Matter Waves and Probability

Seven Ideas, p. 205-216
Handout:  Wave-Particle Duality

Apr 13

The End of Determinism

Seven Ideas, p. 216-224;
Feynman: Probability and Uncertainty

Apr 15

Stars and Stellar Evolution

Ferris: The Evolution of Atoms and Stars
Handout HR Diagrams, The Spectrum of the Sun, Summary of Stellar Evolution

Movie Night!


Bradbury: A Sound of Thunder;
Hilton-Young: The Choice

Apr 18

Black Holes

Pasachoff & Filippenko: Black Holes;
Davies: How to Build a Time Machine

Apr 20

The Expanding Universe

Measuring Eternity, Ch. 12, 13;
Pasachoff & Filippenko: A Universe of Galaxies,
     p. 315-318 & p. 330-335
Handout:  Cepheid Variable Stars, The Expanding Universe

Apr 22

The Big Bang and Nucleosynthesis

Measuring Eternity, Ch. 14;
Pasachoff & Filippenko: Cosmology, p. 365-377;
Pasachoff & Filippenko: In the Beginning,
     p. 391-402
Handouts:  The Cosmic Microwave Background, Review for Exam #3

Apr 25

The Formation of Structure in the Universe

Pasachoff & Filippenko: A Universe of Galaxies,
     p. 321-330 & p. 335-338
Handout:  Dark Matter

Apr 27

The Accelerating Universe

Measuring Eternity, Ch. 15;
Pasachoff & Filippenko: Cosmology, p. 377-388
Handout:  The Accelerating Universe, Cosmology

Apr 29

Course Wrap-Up

Davies: That Mysterious Flow;
Musser: A Hole in the Heart of Physics



Exam #1:

 February 10 and 11

Exam #2:

 March 24 and 25

Exam #3:

 April 28 and 29


Tuesday, Dec 9, 9:30-11:30

Presentation of course projects!




Last modified:  Monday, May 09, 2005 11:53 AM

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