Reviews of Classes taught by Eric Jensen of the Physics and Astronomy Department

Astronomy 001 - Introductory Astronomy Astronomy 003 - The Physical Universe

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Astronomy 001

Name: Blair Cochran Year: 2003 Major: Undecided Course: ASTR 001 - Introductory Astronomy Taken Spring 2000 Recommends? yes

I enjoyed this class a lot, mostly because Jensen is a great, great guy. Entertaining in class, available outside of it, and really enthusiastic about his subject. And ever so nice.

As for the class itself: as a non-major (and pretty much a non-science person in general), I liked the content, though those of a more analytical bent might not. The emphasis was on the history of astronomy and on explaining seasonal changes, etc, in the sky, rather than the math. The work was manageable and in general rewarding: a short set of questions for homework each week, a quiz every few weeks, 2 papers (the first of which you revise, which I appreciated) and a final. Jensen goes to great lengths to make sure you're prepared for all of the above. One caveat: the reading (usually in the textbook) is definitely doable, but there's not much incentive to actually do it, since he covers it pretty exactly in class. Otherwise, the perfect Natural Science PDC for non-majors. Interesting, enlightening, and non-back-breaking.

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Astronomy 003

Name: Tom Kawczynski Year: 2003 Major: History/Political Science Course: ASTR 003 - The Physical Universe Taken Fall 1999 Recommends? yes

ASTR 003 is basically an astronomy course for non-majors that is a NS PDC. This was an interesting course to me and I thought it was presented very well. The class was lecture based but Jensen liked to ask questions as well. Eric Jensen is a very enthusiastic lecturer and does an effective job presenting his material. You will take many notes but they should make sense easily. I found him to be very accessible and friendly.

This was not a difficult course in general. The reading was minimal and we only had occasional worksheets. We did problems which were largely related to physics in an astronomical setting. Like the title of the course, it really is an overview of how the universe operates. A basic foundation in physics and a calculator is all you need to get through this course. The math is not overwhelming for those who worry about that, simple algebra is as bad as it gets.

We wrote three papers of five to six pages in this course on various topics. We had a choice of topics and had to submit our paper in the form of a scientific proposal. For instance, in one paper, the student had to select whether to argue for Martian exploration or not. Most of the papers ran along these lines.

We had three or four labs in the semester which consisted largely of astronomical observation. In one, we had to count the number of visible stars in a section of the sky and compare that to the number found using a telescope. The labs were quite simple and only required a minimal write up which could be done during the lab and well within three hours.

Both the midterm and final exams consisted of a mixture of questions about general knowledge and also problems involving calculations. They are not too hard if you have read all the material and remember the formulas that he advises. He held study sessions for those who were interested if you find that helpful.

Personally, I was just taking this course because I needed a NS PDC, but I enjoyed the class more than I have any other science class I have taken. Jensen is a lively lecturer who is both helpful and interesting so I enjoyed this class in spite of my expectations. It is not a terribly difficult or deep class, but I would recommend it, especially for those of you looking for a comprehensible science course.

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