Period I: 4000 BCE – Ptolemy (c. 150 CE)
1) *The ancient civilizations knew that the Earth was round from very early on; give two examples of this and explain how these observations proved that the Earth is round.
2) Many of the ancient cultures used poems and short tales to help explain the world around them. What were some of the similarities between these different cultures? Why were these stories important to these cultures?
3) *Aristotle spoke about the “Potency of Place” and how if everything is annihilated, place would still exist. Explain how this was important to Aristotle’s views about the existence of the universe.
4) *Compare the difference between Aristarchus’ model of the universe and Copernicus’ model. Explain how each model influenced future cosmological findings.
5) Plato and Aristotle, had distinct views between the terrestrial and celestial spheres of the universe. Explain their differences and how their doctrines influenced future cosmological findings.
6) *Ptolemy’s theory consists of the idea of epicycles and deferents. He believed that epicycles were small circles whose centers moved around the circumference of the deferents. Explain the flaws of his theory.
7) *What are the four cosmological questions and how would they have been answered according to Aristotle?
8) *Plato and Aristotle both represent many things, one of which was the early debate on cosmological thought. How did they differ?
9) Who the heck is Ptolemy and why is he part of this class? Describe not only who he was but also what debate he was engaged in trying to solve and how was it a benefit towards our eventual understanding of our solar system.
10) Given that Ptolemy created his own model of the universe, from whom did he build his observations off of and why?
11) Hipparchus’ mathematical model, using the observations of equinoxes and a solstice, was used to calculate what important information about the universe?
12) *Why was the Ptolemaic model accepted for such a long time into the future and who was a major influence in this happening?
13) *Imagine you are living during the period of Aristotle and Plato. Which philosopher’s cosmology would you follow and why? In you answer compare and contrast their philosophies on cosmology.
14) *Which control belief of the first period of cosmology (4000 BCE to 150 CE) do you believe was held most strongly? Why do you believe that this belief was held so deeply?
15) Aristotle’s universe had layers (earth, water, fire, and air). He believed that all objects when released were attempting to go to their natural position. How would he describe an object like a sponge? When out of water it falls to the earth, but when dropped in water it floats, and when submerged in water it sinks.
16) *The cosmologies of early civilizations (Greek, Mayan, Indian, etc.) usually have a mythical creation story, as well as provide an overarching structure of meaning for human lives—their place in their world, their ultimate telos, etc. Is there a comparable union of myth, meaning, and cosmology in the modern world that is similar to early cosmologies? If so, what? If not, why might this be the case?
17) *In the early formulations of a heliocentric model of the solar system, the Ptolemaic/geocentric models provided more accurate predictions of the movements of the planets than the heliocentric models. Ultimately, however, we know that the heliocentric model is correct, and heliocentric models eventually came to produce more accurate descriptions of the movement of the planets than the Ptolemaic/geocentric model. This nonetheless raises interesting questions regarding the nature of scientific theories. For example, in placing emphasis on the outcomes and hard data of scientific theories, do we risk stunting the progress of scientific thought, holding on to a theory that, while ultimately incorrect, has more data and produces better predictions? How ought we to mitigate such a risk?
18) Why did the Greeks abandon early heliocentric models of the solar system in favor of geocentric models? What were the societal forces that influenced this change?
Period II: Ptolemy (c. 150 CE) – Newton (c. 1730 CE)
1.) Describe the relationship between Galileo and Kepler. What 3 concepts did Kepler contribute to the new model of the solar system and what was it called? How did his telescope differ from Galileo’s?
2.) *What name is best associated to the comet of 1577? How did this affect the way in which society thought of the universe?
3.) *Discuss the implications of Newton’s laws. How do these translate to the current depiction of the universe?
4.) *Compare and contrast the main differences between Ptolemy’s system to that of Copernicus’ heliocentric system.
5.) Explain Kepler’s discovery in lenses.
6.) What improvements and changes did Kepler make to Galileo’s telescope design?
7.) Explain Copernicus’s idea of an epicycle. What is an epicycle? What are the ecliptic motions of an epicycle (i.e. east to west)?
8.) *What was Tycho Brahe’s main contribution to cosmology? What advancements did Brahe make in technology? How did Brahe help prove Kepler’s model?
9.) *Explain Nicole Oresme’s arguments for and against the notion of the daily rotation of Earth on its axis? Give Oresme’s evidence for each argument. How did Oresme’s claims argue in favor of heliocentrism?
10.) What problems arise from Ptolemy’s model to explain the retrograde motion of the planets?
11.) *Why was heliocentrism (even though ultimately correct) not accepted in the late sixteenth century?
12.) What are the differences and similarities between Descartes’ and Bacon’s method of studying the universe?
13.) *Explain what the terrestrial parallax was, and why it was important.
14.) What was the concept of impetus? Why was it so groundbreaking?
15.) Describe the main differences between the Copernican model and the Ptolemaic model.
Period III: Newton (c. 1730 CE) – Today
1.) *What is meant by the term spacetime? Discuss the impact of Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity on modern cosmology.
2.) Sir Isaac Newton formulated the theory of gravitation in 1687. How did Kepler’s laws of planetary motion influence Newtonian gravitation? (In your answer, provide a description of at least two of Kepler’s laws).
3.) *The empirical-based nature of modern cosmology is demonstrated by Edwin Hubble’s collection of precise redshift data in the 1920s. What role did this discovery play in the establishment of the prevailing present-day cosmological model of the creation of the universe, the Big Bang Theory?
4.) Albert Einstein discovered the ground work for black holes in the 1920’s. Describe what law he came up with and how does it work.
5.) *Provide 3 pieces of evidence supporting the Big Bang.
6.) Scientists came up with a theory explaining what happened directly after the Big Bang. What is it and how long did it last?
7.) *Many prominent figures have contributed to our present-day knowledge of cosmology. Those like Aristarchus and Copernicus did not believe that the Earth was at the center and that heliocentrism was/is a better model that describes our system. What did Edwin Hubble propose regarding the universe’s cosmology and how did he represent his proposal (HINT: mathematical equation!)?
8.) *In speaking about a relativistic universe, Albert Einstein contributes his two postulates: the Universality of the Speed of Light and the Principle of Covariance. Give a short description of each postulate and focus on the former (the Universality of the Speed of Light). How did Einstein demonstrate the postulate (HINT: think about experiments)? Describe and explain the demonstration.
9.) *Isaac Newton is well-known for his contributions to physics, including the three Laws of Motion and Law of Universal Gravitation. The Law of Universal Gravitation was of particular interest and would lead Bentley to raise an important cosmological question. This would then lead Newton to make two conclusions about the world’s cosmology. What was Bentley’s question and what inferences did Newton make after taking Bentley’s inquiry into consideration? In answering the question, you might need to describe the Law of Universal Gravitation and how it would apply to celestial bodies in space/the universe.
10.) What is Newton’s law of Universal Gravitation? Why is it important? Describe at least three phenomena it helped to explain.
11.) What law did Edwin Hubble discover in 1929? What does the law state? How does this law heavily support the Big Bang Theory?
12.) *Briefly describe the Big Bang Theory and the Steady State Theory. Which one is more widely accepted and why?
13.) *Copernicus was prosecuted for his scientific beliefs by the Church. Compare and contrast this to the modern day battle centered around evolution in schools.
14.) Pluto lost its status as a planet some years ago, how did this affect you? Compare this to the philosophical questions asked by early cosmologists when they began questioning space.
15.) With the discovery of new galaxies, the Earth and our place in the universe feels increasingly more insignificant. Discuss your feelings on the expanding universe and your place in it, using examples from early in the class as well as your own ideas.
16.) *Discuss how the red shift effect was used by Hubble to determine distances of supernovas and what applications it still has in cosmology today.
17.) *Explain the theory of Einstein’s cosmological constant and what caused cosmologists to reconsider its plausibility.
18.) Explain the process of nucleosynthesis which took place during the infancy of the universe following the big bang.
Period IV: The full historical span of cosmological speculation
1.) *Discuss three instances where the imagined/perceived scale of the universe increased in size.
2.) Describe Aristotle’s theories of physics, and compare it to the laws of physics we live by today.
3.) *Who do you think had/has the biggest impact throughout the entire history of cosmological speculation? Discuss using factual evidence.
4.) *In the 20th century, what were two major discoveries that supported the Big Bang theory? Explain how they supported the Big Bang Theory. How was the use of technology important in these discoveries?
5.) Compare and contrast the Copernican and Ptolemaic model. What major component of these models was complicated and why?
6.) *Who were the major figures behind the ideas of induction and deduction? Explain their approaches to science. Name a cosmological example for induction.
7.) What was the difference between Galileo’s telescope and Kepler’s?
8.) What were some of the characteristics of the plasma that filled the universe immediately after the big bang?
9.) What is necessary for a quark to be visible?
10.) *Control beliefs have withheld growth and learning in cosmology for centuries, before and after astronomy or astrophysics became formal academic fields. Name three control beliefs that possibly stalled thought innovation. Explain why these beliefs were accepted for so long and how they were rejected.
11.) *The four cosmological questions discussed in the beginning of the semester have maintained relevancy throughout every epoch of thought about the universe. Pick one of these four questions (temporal, spatial, composition, or teleological) and describe the timeline of answers it has had throughout the three defined periods of Western cosmological thought (4000 BCE-Ptolemy, Ptolemy-Newton, Newton-today).
12.) *Throughout the development of Western cosmological thought, many great minds have made significant contributions. Though we now consider these ideas part of the body of cosmological theory, not all of these thinkers were strictly astronomers or scientists; several of our semester’s major contributors came from other disciplines. Name two great thinkers who came from another focus and explain the value of interdisciplinary thought and intersectionality in academics.
13.) Describe retrograde motion. Why is this significant to cosmology? Describe two different explanations for this motion
14.) *Describe “Plato’s Cave” and how it relates to cosmology.
15.) *In Aristotelian Physical theory there are two “Realms.” Name these realms and describe each in detail.