General Education Courses Offered

Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning 19. The Art of Numbers
Harvard College/GSAS: 947
Alyssa A. Goodman (Astronomy)
Meeting Time: Tu., Th., 1-2:30 and a weekly section to be arranged.
This course focuses on the insight into quantitative information offered by graphs, tables, charts, maps, and other illustrations. As data sets get larger and larger, visual tools for exploring them become even more important. "The Art of Numbers" focuses on the insight into quantitative information offered by graphs, tables, charts, maps, and other illustrations. The course explores which graphical tool(s) are best for communicating what kinds of data, and why? Ideas about causality, approximation, statistical significance, credibility, and dimensionality are addressed by analyzing real data and their display. Examples are drawn from epidemiology, astronomy, sports, social-science, finance, geography, politics and economics. Approximately one-half of the course material focuses on web, interactive, and live presentations of data. Textbooks include classic work by Edward Tufte.
This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Quantitative Reasoning.

Celestial Navigation photo

Celestial navigation

Celestial Navigation. Astronomy 2
Harvard College: General Education Credit - SPU or EMR
Phillip Sadler (Astronomy)
Meeting times: Tu. 11:30-1:00 and evening lab 7:00-10:00PM
Never be lost again! Find your way on sea, land, or air by employing celestial and terrestrial techniques. Acquire expertise in using navigators' tools (sextant, compass, and charts) while learning the steps to the celestial dance of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. This 125-year-old course continues to develop practical skills and rely on collaborative problem-solving, while utilizing historical artifacts (instruments, maps, captains' logs), student-built devices, and applies concepts to modern navigational issues and techniques. Culminates in a day-long cruise to practice navigation skills.
Note: Class meets during lunch each Tuesday in the Observatory Classroom and again just after dinner the same day in Phillips Auditorium. Minimal lecturing; predominantly practical activities with individual attention from teaching staff. Math beyond high school trigonometry and geometry unnecessary (but always helpful). Be prepared to apply the mathematics you have studied to practical problems in many contexts. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for either Science of the Physical Universe or Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning, but not both.

Science of the Physical Universe 21. Stellar Understanding of the Cosmos  NOT CURRENTLY OFFERED
Catalog Number: 4775 Limited to 18.
Jonathan E. Grindlay (Astronomy)
Half course (fall term). M., W., 1-2:30, and laboratory sessions (evening and day) to be arranged.
Direct measurements of the stars and Sun with telescopes on the Science Center to learn how we can understand our solar system, galaxy and the distant universe from stars, the basic building blocks and markers of cosmic evolution. In small sections, students conduct both visual and computer-assisted observations to measure physical properties of stars and formulate their own cosmic understanding from physical laws.

Science of the Physical Universe 22. The Unity of Science: From the Big Bang to the Brontosaurus and Beyond
Catalog Number: 32997
Irwin I. Shapiro (University Professor; Astronomy; Physics)
Half course (spring term). M., W., at 10, and a weekly section to be arranged.
Science is like well-woven, ever-expanding fabric, designed to (un)cover Nature’s secrets. This course emphasizes the strong connections between subfields of science, showing it as the never-ending and greatest detective story ever told, with evidence always the arbiter. These characteristics are exhibited in the semi-historical treatment of three themes: unveiling the universe, the earth and its fossils, and the story of life. Opportunities include working with Harvard’s scientific facilities and making short films.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for either Science of the Physical Universe or Science of Living Systems, but not both. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for either Science A or Science B, but not both.

Science of the Physical Universe 30. Life as a Planetary Phenomenon
Catalog Number: 5680
Dimitar D. Sasselov (Astronomy)
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 11:30–1, and a weekly section to be arranged.
This course considers the relationship between life and the planet on which it resides. It examines the scientific quest to understand where life might thrive beyond Earth. On Earth, life was born of planetary processes and has been sustained by plate tectonics and other physical processes. Through evolution, life has in fact emerged as major influence on our planet’s surface. Fundamental features of terrestrial life and evolution are addressed in the context of astronomy, planetary physics and chemistry. These, in turn, provide a basis for the exploration for other habitable planets, both within our solar system and in the greater universe.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science A.