Introduction to Cosmology: Ph 444 Fall 2004

General Description


Dr. Jerry Sellwood, room 308 in the Physics & Astronomy Building, Busch Campus, telephone 445-5287,

Classes are Tues 4 & Thurs 4 in room 205 of the Allison Road Classroom Building (ARC). I will declare an office hour on request, but I prefer to keep it informal and to be available more or less any time.

Lecture notes

Some notes for my lectures will be posted on this page shortly before each class. Sept 2, Sept 7, Sept 9, Sept 14, Sept 16, Sept 21, Sept 23, Sept 28, Sept 30, Oct 5, Oct 7, Oct 12, Oct 14, Oct 19, Oct 21, Oct 26, Oct 28, Nov 2, Nov 4, Nov 9, Nov 11, Nov 16, Nov 18. Nov 23.

Solutions to homework: #1 and #5.


The topic of this course is one of the hottest research topics in astronomy today. New data and ideas are emerging all the time, although we now have a basic picture that is not expected to require radical revision. (Statements like this have always proved wrong in the past!) After a brief introduction and overview, we will describe our current working picture, how it emerged, what are the problems it faces, etc. Some topics which we will dwell on in depth are:


I recommend Introduction to Cosmology by Barbara Ryden, published by Addison Wesley as the text for this course. This is a new book, which seems pretty good, and the course will follow it reasonably closely. I will also assign homework from the book.


There will not be any exams. The homework will be problems from the book (mostly), but I will also require a small amount of computational work. I will require a term paper the end of the semester on a topic of your choice from within the material of the course, which you will also present to the class. With such a small class, the lectures will be quite informal and I will try to encourage discussion of the material. Participation in these discussions will be part of the assessment.

Grades will be based on the term paper and presentation (40%), homework (40%), and participation and attendance in class (20%).

Term paper

The term paper should be on a topic closely related to the course. The paper should explain why the selected topic is interesting and should include your own assessement of the principal challenges (observational or theoretical) facing your selected topic. It should assume knowledge gained from the course, and cite and discuss papers from the recent literature, going into more detail than in the lectures. But it must be more than simply a summary of one or two papers - I'd like to read what did, or did not, impress you about each paper. Feel free to throw in an idea or two of your own as well.

I would prefer you to select your own topic, but I can suggest ideas if you are stuck. You should let me know your topic by the end of September. I may suggest that you narrow it down or broaden it, if appropriate, and can suggest papers that you would find helpful.

The term paper will count 40% of your grade and will be assessed in three parts:

Astronomy on the web

An enormous amount of astronomical information is available on the web. This is a good web page to start from for general astronomical information. There are a couple of very useful search engines for articles from the modern astronomical literature. All Journal articles are indexed, and most are retrievable, from here. Preprints in most branches of physics are posted here with those in astronomy on astro-ph.