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Astronomy A100 - The Solar System

First Semester 1996 Section 0475
Tuesday nights 6:50 to 9:20 pm
Swain Hall West 221


Dan Swearingen
Office: Swain West 326
Astronomy Dept. Secretary: 855-6911

E-mail:               dan@PolyWeb.com
Class Web Site: http://www.PolyWeb.com//site_menu/a100

Required materials:

Text: Arny, Explorations, 1996 version
Calculator: Basic scientific with scientific notation, square root, and cube root capability
Email Account: Campus account or commercial provider (America Online, etc.)

Course Information Welcome to A100. This course serves several purposes. The first, and most obvious, is that this course is to introduce you to the science of Astronomy. Another purpose is to satisfy part of the University's natural and mathematical science requirement. To me, however, this course represents an opportunity for non-science majors (99% of those attending) to acquire an understanding of some of the more technical topics and issues that will be facing you as educated citizens and voters of this country.

Astronomy is the collection and interpretation of information about our universe as seen from here on earth. We only have one semester so I will emphasize how we learn, prove and argue about things in astronomy with the hope that you will carry this type of analysis with you into your chosen career.

A100 covers the Sun and the solar system while A105 covers everything else, excepting the solar system. A110 tries to cover it all in one course. A110 does not count towards your graduation if you have taken either A100 or A105 before. This may be the only science course you will take while in college so I choose to add some topics that are not strictly within the usual bounds of an astronomy course. The Internet, basic nuclear weapons technology and human-caused climate change will be the most prominent examples.

A word about MATH. Basic Arithmetic is used continually in this course. I am fully aware that roughly half of the students in this class chose it (instead of physics or chemistry) to minimize their mathematical suffering. I can't teach this course without math but I will start with easy problems and slowly increase the difficulty as the course goes on. I will not spend a lot of class time teaching math since you are supposed to know it.

Teaching Philosophy I believe that success in the modern workplace requires skills that most american students do not learn in high school or college. American students are the worst in the industrialized world. When asked, however, american students feel they have very high academic skills. I have two goals in my teaching. First, to impress upon you that many of you do not know things you should. Second, to fill in as many of these gaps in your education as possible within the format of a college astronomy class.
Office Hours We meet only once a week. Missing a couple of classes is the same as missing two entire weeks of class. If you fall behind it will be extraordinarily difficult to catch up. If you have any difficulty with the course, have any questions or comments, PLEASE please PLEASE! see me during my office hours. My scheduled office hours will be held in my office, SW 326. If you find you need more individual help or if my scheduled time conflicts with other commitments of yours, please speak with me and schedule an individual appointment with me.

Scheduled Office Hours: Iíll be available before class, Tuesday afternoons 4:30 to about 6:30 pm at my office: SW326.

UN-Scheduled Office Hours: by arrangement. Feel free to ask questions by phone or e-mail. You may contact me at home but please use normal etiquette regarding the hours you call.

Grading Your grade will be based on:
7 homework assignments 35 points each, lowest dropped
1 take-home final exam 125 points
5 (or so) pop quizzes 10 points each, lowest 2 dropped
Grading philosophy My overall feeling after years of looking at homework papers and exams is that there are only four kinds of work I see students do: good work, sincere efforts with mistakes, B.S.(Bad Stuff), and no work. On assignments and exams I give letter grades: A(100%), B(85%), C (65%), D(50%), F(0%). I grade by looking at all the papers turned in, deciding which papers are best (and why), and then categorizing each paper into piles: the A pile, the B pile, etc.
Homework Homework problems will be very similar to exam questions and therefore represent practice for the exam. Homework assignments are due the moment class starts on the due date. This means 6:50:00 pm Hoosier Standard Time. Homework assignments will not be accepted late under any circumstances. If you arrive in class with your paper in hand but ten minutes late I wonít accept the paper (actually, sometimes I will if you are just a couple of minutes late but only if I'm in a good mood which is not something you can depend on). If you will not be attending the day homework is due you need to turn in the assignment early. Grades possible are: A(100%), B(85%), D(50%), F(0%).
The Exam The Final exam will be a take home exam due the scheduled time for the final exam in this class. The final exam will not be accepted late under any circumstances.
Pop Quizzes Early in my teaching I noticed that essentially 100% of those students who were doing poorly were also not attending class regularly. While students hate the idea of pop quizzes I use them to reward and encourage regular attendance. I will probably give a pop quiz about every other week. The words "probably" and "about" mean that I intend to be very unpredictable. The quizzes themselves are such that if you have done the assigned reading you are should get full credit (10 points).

* If I hand out the quiz at the beginning of class, those who are late to class miss the quiz.

* If I hand out the quiz at the end of class, those who left at our 15 minute break miss the quiz.

How do I decide to give a pop quiz? I look out at the class and if I see many faces missing (at either the beginning or end of class) then there is a good chance that I will give a pop quiz. I know this is really mean but it has proven to be effective. Two pop quiz scores will be thrown out giving each student the opportunity to miss 2 pop quizzes with no penalty. Grades possible are: A (100%), C (65%), F (0%).

Make Up exams or Homeworks I donít give make-ups unless you have experienced a (documented) catastrophe along the lines of an Act of God. Sorry guys, this is an area where generations of abuse by students before you has made it tough for you.
Conflicts with other classes On several occasions in the past, students have missed class, quizzes, or exams because some other class they were taking required them to be absent from this class. My feelings about such conflicts are as follows:

1. You are responsible for any conflicts in your schedule. If your personal schedule conflicts with this class too much, you really should drop.

2. This class meets at times specified in the schedule of classes and this means that this class has precedence over any other classís un-scheduled activities during these times.

3. Donít let instructors snow you: Here at IU, instructors may not force participation in un-scheduled activities without the unanimous agreement of the students affected. For example: if your business class instructor wants to schedule a quiz on the night my class meets, you can say that date/time does not work for you and the other instructor must come up with a different arrangement which is fair to you.

Overall Letter Grades I grade on a curve with the objective of achieving the following distribution:

A+ = greater than 100%

A = 90-100%

B = 77-89%

C = 65-76%

D = 50-64%

No score lower than 50% shall be given a passing grade.

These numbers may change. However, any change will be in your favor. I assign pluses and minuses at the end of the semester after setting the main grade breaks. Our small class size can make achieving a perfect curve impossible and/or unfair. As far as I am concerned, it is possible for the whole class to get A's (or D's!) depending on how this class's performance compares with normal performance of students in other A100 sections throughout recorded time. The class performance will be discussed in class in an ongoing fashion during the session and each student's current score will be posted (by Student ID #) outside my office and at this website

WARNING: Cheating in any form will not be tolerated. The policy on academic dishonesty and misconduct found in the schedule of classes will be strictly enforced.
Some Comments on Attendance: Our class meets 14 times during the session. Good attendance is your easiest path to a good grade. My experience is that students who only attend occasionally end up really breaking their butts at exam time and do poorly anyway. My definition of good attendance is missing no more than two (2) of the 14 classes. While I do not grade attendance (except perhaps by pop quizzes) I certainly consider attendance if a student is in serious trouble. In other words: if you are failing the course and have not been attending I don't see why I need to be sympathetic. The reverse is also true: if you are doing poorly and have attended every class I will give you as much benefit of the doubt as I can while still being fair to those who scored higher than you did.

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