HPS 0410 Einstein for Everyone Fall 2018

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Monday / Wednesday 11:00 am - 11:50 am, 324 Cathedral of Learning (John D. Norton)

(Register for one.)
Wednesday 2:00 pm - 2:50 pm, 337 Cathedral of Learning (Gal Ben Porath)
Thursday 10:00 am - 10:50 am, 300 Old Engineering Hall (Gal Ben Porath)
Friday 12:00  pm - 12:50 pm, G19A Cathedral of Learning (Gal Ben Porath)
John D. Norton, 412-624-5878, jdnorton@pitt.edu
Room 1109B CL. Office hours: Monday 12:00 pm - 12:50 pm, Wednesday 12:00 pm - 12:50 pm.

Gal Ben Porath, GAB80@pitt.edu
Room 1126B CL. Office hours: Thursday: 11:00 am - 11:50 am, Friday: 1 pm - 1:50 pm.
Course website
Course materials will be posted at the course website
Click here http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/HPS_0410
We will communicate grades through the Blackboard website at
These websites will be the primary means of obtaining course material. To take this course, you must have access the internet.
Special relativity: The two postulates and their strange consequences: rods and clocks run amuck. The light barrier. Relativity of simultaneity: the confusion of when and where and the puzzles it solves. Spacetime: time as the fourth dimension. Origins of special relativity: how did Einstein do it?. Puzzles and paradoxes. The most famous equation: E=mc2. The philosophical dividend.
General relativity: Straightening out Euclid. Acceleration provides the clue: gravitation is just spacetime bent. General relativity passes the tests. Applications of general relativity: Goedel universes and the like: could we take a journey into the past? Cosmology: the biggest picture possible; a beginning and end for time? Black holes: when the geometry of spacetime collapses.
Quantum theory: The puzzle of black body radiation: light comes in lumps. The Bohr atom: where electrons jump. The perversity of matter in the small: both particle and wave. The uncertainty principle. The failure of determinism. The puzzle of Schrödinger's cat: neither alive nor dead.
General Education Requirement
This course satisfies the "course in philosophical thinking or ethics" requirement among the General Education Requirements in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. (Commencing Fall, 2018.)


Short tests
There will be 6 short in-class tests, roughly one each two weeks. (Schedule) The grade is the best 5 of 6.
An assignment is due each week in the recitation. The assignment grade is the best 11 of 14.
Term paper
The term paper is by electronic submission to your recitation instructor on the day of the final lecture, Wednesday April 19.
Short Test
The short tests will examine material covered roughly in the preceding two weeks. They will be held in the first 15 minutes of class and consist of a series of 3-4 related questions requiring a few sentences each as answers.
Policy on Missed Tests and Late Assignments
   No make up tests will be offered. Since the test grade is the best 5 of 6, one missed test is automatically forgiven. It is strongly recommended that this one forgiven test be used only when illness or emergencies preclude class attendance.
   Assignments are due each week at the start of the recitation. Late assignments are not accepted. Since the assignment grade is the best 11 of 14, three missed assignments are automatically forgiven. It is strongly recommended that these forgiven assignments be used only when illness or emergencies preclude class attendance.
(An exception is made for students who add the course after the start of term. Assignments due prior to the date on which the class was added may be submitted at the next scheduled recitation.)
   For added flexibility, a universal makeup assignment is offered to all students. The makeup assignment is a second term paper conforming to the term paper guidelines, but only 500 words in length, due on the day of the last lecture, Wednesday December 5.
The primary text for the class is available on this website as the online text Einstein for Everyone.
Supplementary readings are:
J. Schwartz and M. McGuinness, Einstein for Beginners. New York: Pantheon.
J. P. McEvoy and O. Zarate, Introducing Stephen Hawking. Totem.
J. P. McEvoy, Introducing Quantum Theory. Totem.
Special Needs
If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 140 William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890, drsrecep@pitt.edu, or 412-228-5347 for P3 ASL users,as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course. For more information, see http://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/drs/
The Undergraduate Dean of Arts and Sciences has requested instructors to alert all students to University of Pittsburgh Policy 09-10-01, "E-mail Communications Policy."