Leader: David Clark

Description:  The short story of our universe from violent birth to peaceful (?) death.  If you want to know how everything came from nothing in the Big Bang, are curious about the "real" nature of space and time, want to learn about terrifying "hidden" forces, black holes, exploding stars, nuclear power, exotic quarks, neutrinos, the Higgs Boson, "antimatter" - AND how humans were created literally out of stardust - this may be a course for you! We will gently introduce at a non-rigorous level some basic cosmology and a FEW ideas from Newton's "classical" physics, Einstein's shocking relativity theories, and just a touch of "weirdness" from quantum mechanics.

Curiosity is a strong prerequisite but science background is not!

Topical Outline:

  1. The Universe. Stars, galaxies, black holes, light, radiation, Runaway galaxies, Einstein's blunder, the universe expands.
  2. Creation. The "Big Bang" creates space, time, matter, energy, the Four Forces, the simplest particles - from "nothing".
  3. Pioneer Particles. Quarks, electrons, protons, neutrons, simple atoms form. Light floods the universe.
  4. Stardust. Gravity forms stars, fusion reactions form elements, stars explode to spew stardust into space, our solar system forms.
  5. Humans. Evolution creates humans on one tiny planet. Humans discover (create?) some of the Laws of Nature.
  6. What happens next? Dark matter and energy. Runaway expansion and the death of everything by "vacuum"? Maybe.

Biography: David Clark holds an M.S. in Chemistry (Bucknell University 1969) and a B.A. in chemistry with minors in physics and mathematics (Lycoming College 1963). He retired in 2005 from Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn State) after 38 years teaching chemistry and other science courses.

Materials for course: Death from Above by Dr. Philip Plait (2009 paperback, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-14-311604-2). Supplemental handouts will be provided.

Number of participants: 

Minimum: 4
Maximum 16

Location: Public Library for Union County  - Small Meeting Room

Meeting time: Thursdays, February 27 through April 3, 1 - 3 p.m.  

(Note: Each class is two hours long.)

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