Paper Topics

Students and groups assigned to topics are given underneath in bold.

1. What were the most important factors responsible for the acceptance of Copernicanism? (Physical evidence, such as that presented by Galileo’s telescope observations of the phases of Venus, was very important; but, remember, Kepler and Galileo adopted Copernicanism before they had that evidence.)

2. Discuss the early non-geocentric cosmologies (either the many-world cosmologies of the ancient atomists through to Bruno, or the Pythagorean cosmologies through to Aristarchus). Make sure you discuss what arguments or evidence these thinkers had for displacing the earth from the centre of the cosmos, or for the cosmos’s not possessing a centre.

3. What were the primary issues at stake in the controversy between Leibniz and Clarke over the nature of space and time? Explain their rival views on the nature of space and time, and the relevance of these views to contemporary concerns.

4. Discuss the significance of Newton’s thought experiment with the revolving bucket, explaining how it was directed against Descartes’ theory of motion. How did this thought experiment figure in later debate between relationalists and absolutists?

Joseph Mentlik and Ethan Greenberg

5. Discuss the importance of measurement of distances in the history of astronomy from Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference to Hubble’s measurement of the distance of galaxies and modern estimates of the size of the visible universe. Make clear in all cases what theoretical as well as what technical advances made the measurements possible.

Callum Cymbalski

6. Discuss the significance of Minkowski’s introduction of the concept of spacetime. What advantages did Einstein eventually come to see in the spacetime approach?

 —Maria Pesevski, Josh Taylor

7. Discuss the career of the Big Bang Theory, from its inception by LeMaître to its current form. Explain how it came to be accepted as defeating the Steady State theory of Hoyle and others, as well as making clear the primary evidence for the theory.

Kevin Craig, Kevin Bale, and Amardeep Singh

8. Discuss the idea of Black Holes. Explain why they were surmised to exist, what the evidence for them is, and what their significance is for cosmology.

Chris Huynh, Christian Baker, and Shaheed Abraham-Doman; Colin Lewis, Scott Culbert and Jeremie Choquette

9.  Geometry of Spacetime:  Observations of the cosmic background radiation by WMAP and most recently, Planck observatories, show that the geometry of spacetime is flat to rather high precision. Review the main pieces of data that justify this result. The theoretical picture that explains this was introduced by Alan Guth.  His model was that "inflation" which occurred at the earliest moments after the Big Bang.  Explain this theory, how it can be used to understand the observed flatness of the universe. What kinds of observations could be used to further test the correctness of the inflationary universe?  What are the assumptions that are most difficult to test? 

10.  Evaporation of Black holes:  Hawking's famous result is that black holes can evaporate.  Give an explanation of this physical result by reviewing the basic theory.  Can it be experimentally tested?  (give results).  Some understanding about this effect was given by William Unruh who considered emission from accelerated objects. Present some of the latest results in the development of these ideas.

Lucas Querengesser, Fraser Evans and Ben Davis-Purcell; Adam Borenstein, Gregory Di Sanza and Kate Sinclair

11.  Discuss the very long term evolution of our current cosmological model - i.e. one in which the universe is being driven by accelerated expansion due to dark energy.  What would such a universe "look like" (i.e. think of making astronomical observations) in the far future.  Discuss also the value of Lambda as we presently measure it.  What are the errors? Is there any model that can account for the value that we measure?

Chris Ondersin and Taylor Hay; David McDonough, Daniel Heggie and Clark Eom

12.  What picture of spacetime is being developed in the modern era of string theory and brane cosmology (nothing here is definite yet!)?  We will have lectures about this by Cliff Burgess - so please do not repeat the content of those lectures. Please focus on what possible structures for spacetime that such models present, and on what those might imply for experimental tests.

© Richard TW Arthur, 2012