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.

Science of the Physical Universe 19. The Energetic Universe
Catalog Number: 5923 Enrollment: Limited to 325.
Robert P. Kirshner (Astronomy)
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 11:30-1, and a weekly section to be arranged.
The nature and history of matter revealed by astronomical observation and experimental physics. Explores the Big Bang and models of the universe, stellar evolution and supernova explosions, evidence for invisible matter, and the development of structure in the universe. Demonstrates the physical principles used to interpret astronomical data and to construct a model for the evolution of the universe on the microscopic and cosmic scales. Examines the way microscopic properties of matter determine properties of people, stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole.
This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science A.

Science of the Physical Universe 21. Stellar Understanding of the Cosmos
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.