Climbing the Distance Ladder to the Big Bang: How Astronomers Survey the Universe – Dragan Huterer FULL
The furthest objects that astronomers can observe are so distant that their light set out when the Universe was only 800 million years old, and has been traveling to us for about 13 billion years-most of the age of the Universe. Even the Sun’s neighborhood – the local part of our Galaxy, where astronomers have successfully searched for planets around other stars – extends to hundreds of light years. How do we measure the distance to such remote objects? Certainly not in a single step! Astronomers construct the so-called “Distance Ladder,” finding the distance to nearby objects, thus enabling those bodies to be understood and used as probes of yet more distant regions. The first steps in the ladder uses radar ranging to get the distance to the nearby planets and the Sun; and ‘triangulation’ to get the distances to the nearest stars. Those in turn are used to obtain distances to other stars in our Milky Way Galaxy, stars in other galaxies, and out to the furthest reaches of what is observable. This class will explore the steps in this ladder, using lectures, discussions, field trips, demonstrations, and computer laboratory exercises. Students will learn basic computer programming for a project to model the effects of gravity, and they will get hands-on experience of using a small radio telescope to map the the rotation speed of the Milky Way and measure the influence of its dark matter. We will cover concepts involving space, time, and matter that go far beyond the distance ladder, and involve some of the most fascinating mysteries in cosmology and astrophysics: What is it like inside a black hole? What is the Dark Matter? What is the Dark Energy that makes the Universe expand faster and faster? Is there other life in the Universe?
Dissecting Life: Human Anatomy and Physiology – Glenn Fox FULL
Dissecting Life will lead students through the complexities and wonder of the human body. Lecture sessions will cover human anatomy and physiology in detail. Students will gain an understanding of biology, biochemistry, histology, and use these as a foundation to study human form and function. Laboratory sessions will consist of first-hand dissections of a variety of exemplar organisms: lamprey, sharks, cats, etc. Students may also tour the University of Michigan Medical School’s Plastination and Gross Anatomy Laboratories where they may observe human dissections.
Explorations of a Field Biologist – Sheila Schueller FULL
There are so many different kinds of living organisms in this world, and every organism interacts with its physical environment and with other organisms. Understanding this mass of interactions and how humans are affecting them is a mind-boggling endeavor! We cannot do this unless we at times set aside our computers and beakers, and instead, get out of the lab and classroom and into the field, which is what we will do in THIS course. Through our explorations of grasslands, forests, and wetlands of southeastern Michigan, you will learn many natural history facts (from identifying a turkey vulture to learning how mushrooms relate to tree health). You will also practice all the steps of doing science in the field, including making careful observations, testing a hypothesis, sampling and measuring, and analyzing and presenting results. We will address question such as: How do field mice decide where to eat? Are aquatic insects affected by water chemistry? Does flower shape matter to bees? How do lakes turn into forests? Learning how to observe nature with patience and an inquisitive mind, and then testing your ideas about what you observe will allow you, long after this class, to discover many more things about nature, even your own back yard. Most days will be all-day field trips, including hands-on experience in restoration ecology. Towards the end of the course you will design, carry out, and present your own research project.
Forensic Physics – Ramon Torres-Isea FULL
A fiber is found at a crime scene. Can we identify what type of fiber it is and can we match it to a suspect’s fiber sample, for example from a piece of clothing? Likewise, someone claims to have valuable ancient Roman coins, a newly-found old master painting, or a Viking map of America predating Columbus’ voyage. Are they authentic or fakes? How can we determine that using some physics-based techniques? (These are real examples the Viking map proved to be a forgery). Also for example, how is a laser-based molecular-probing technique used to stop criminals from trading billions of dollars of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and endangering thousands of lives? These are a few among many examples of experimental physics methods applied to several areas of Forensics. In this session, students will be introduced to these methods and have opportunities to make measurements using molecular, atomic and nuclear forensic techniques. In addition, applications to medical imaging and diagnostics will be introduced. Students will be working at our Intermediate and Advanced Physics Laboratories with the underlying physics for each method presented in detail, followed by demonstrations and laboratory activities, which include the identification of an “unknown” sample. Various crime scenes will challenge students to select and apply one or more of the methods and use their Forensic Physics skills to conduct investigations.
Graph Theory – Doug Shaw FULL
Ignore your previous knowledge of algebra, geometry, and even arithmetic! Start fresh with a simple concept: Take a collection of points, called vertices, and connect some of them with lines called edges. It doesn’t matter where you draw the vertices or how you draw the lines – all that matters is that two vertices are either related, or not. We call that a “graph” and you’ve taken the first step on the Graph Theory road! Graphs turn up in physics, biology, computer science, communications networks, linguistics, chemistry, sociology, mathematics- you name it! In this course we will discuss properties that graphs may or may not have, hunt for types of graphs that may or may not exist, learn about the silliest theorem in mathematics, and the most depressing theorem in mathematics, learn how to come up with good algorithms, model reality, and construct some mathematical proofs. We will go over fundamental results in the field, and also some results that were only proved in the last year or so! And, of course, we will present plenty of currently unsolved problems for you solve and publish when you get home!
Hex and the 4 Cs – Stephen DeBacker FULL
After a very long night of homework, you finally finish your math assignment. While double-checking your work, you realize that you have done problems from page 221, not page 212 as your teacher requested. In disgust, you rip the paper out of your notebook, wad it up, and toss it back down on your notebook. Too frustrated to begin your assignment anew, your mind begins to wander. You wonder: Is there a point in the wadded up paper that lies exactly above the location from which it started? After you pour your parent’s morning cup of Joe, the coffee comes to rest while you sleepily (because of the whole homework thing) search in the fridge for the cream. After adding and stirring the cream into the cup, you watch the pretty patterns made by the swirling coffee and cream as the contents come to rest. You wonder: Is there a point in the coffee that lies at the same point both before and after the cream was stirred in? We shall use mathematics to model and answer the above questions. Initially, the above questions will motivate our study of four fundamental concepts in mathematics, all of which begin with the letter C: continuity (what sorts of wadding/stirring are allowed), completeness (what if our paper/coffee has “gaps”), compactness, and connectedness. Interestingly, these are also the concepts one needs in order to rigorously understand why Calculus works. Our modeling will lead us to the Brouwer fixed-point theorem; a very nice topological result. To show that the Brouwer fixed-point theorem is true, we shall also learn about the game of Hex. The game of Hex is an easy to describe board game for two players (Google “Hex game” to find a description). The game has many interesting features. For example: one of the two players must win, the first player to move should (theoretically) win, and nobody knows a strategy to guarantee that the first player wins. We will explore the mathematics required to understand why every game of Hex has a winner. Finally, we shall stitch all of the above together by showing that the fact that there are no ties in Hex implies that there is a point in your parent’s cup of Joe which lies at the same point both before and after the cream was stirred in.
Human Identification: Forensic Anthropology Methods – Maire Malone FULL
Forensic anthropology methods are used to aid in human identification with skeletal remains. Applications of forensic anthropology lie in the criminal justice system and mass disaster response. In this course, we will address questions such as: What are important differences between male and female skeletons? Utilizing skeletal remains, how would you tell the difference between a 20-year old and an 80-year old? How do you distinguish between blunt force and sharp force trauma on the skull? In this hands-on, laboratory-based course, you will be become familiar with human osteology (the study of bones] and bone biology. Through our exploration of forensic and biological anthropology methods, you will learn how to develop a biological profile [estimates of age at death, sex, ancestry and stature], assess manner of death, estimate postmortem interval, investigate skeletal trauma and pathology, and provide evidence for a positive identification from skeletal remains. Additionally, we will explore various forensic recovery techniques as they apply to an outdoor complex, including various mapping techniques. Towards the end of the course, you will work in small groups in a mock recovery of human remains and analyze the case utilizing the forensic anthropological methods learned throughout the course.
Life, Death and Change: Landscapes and Human Impact – David Michener FULL
You’ll never see the same world quite the same way after this course – which is important if you want to make a difference with your life. All environmental studies presume a landscape- yet what seems to be a simple landscape is often far from uniform or stable. A great deal of information critical to anyone entering the “green” sciences can be detected for analysis- including factors that may fundamentally control species diversity, habitat richness, and animal (let alone human) behavior. Resolving human from non-human agency is an engaging and important challenge, too -one scientists and “green professionals” grapple with repeatedly. This outdoor class immerses students in real-world landscapes, ranging from the nearly-pristine to the highly humanized, to solve problems which may initially appear impossible to address. You can! Your critical thinking skills are essential rather than prior biological course and field work. Come prepared to look, measure, analyze, discus and learn how the interaction of plants, soils, climate and time (and humans) influences landscape development. Develop basic skills in plant recognition and identification – skills that you can transfer to other terrestrial communities. Address questions about the current vegetation, its stability over time and its future prospects. Gain practical insights into the realities of biological conservation as we address how we can manage species and landscapes for future generations. By the end you’ll have a conceptual skill set that helps you assess how stable and disturbed are the “natural” areas near your home and prepares you to put instructors on the spot in college classes to come.
Mathematics and Music Theory – Lon Mitchell FULL
Mathematicians can create complex and beautiful theorems from relatively basic assumptions, while Music Theorists often try to identify basic patterns and rules in complex and beautiful music. In this course, we will explore some of the recent attempts to meet in the middle, connecting mathematical patterns and structures to music from the ancient to the modern. In Mathematics, we will explore topics such as group theory, graph theory, geometry, and metric spaces, encountering some of the most important structures in the modern discipline. Fundamental results of these areas will be discussed, and students will construct and explore examples and related patterns. In Music Theory, we will take existing music by composers such as Bach and Beethoven and use mathematical structures to provide a possible explanation of what they were thinking as they composed. In addition, we will investigate the techniques of modern composers such as Arnold Schoenberg who advocated composition based on prescribed axioms. Students will be given the chance to write music using these different techniques. Although we will use the modern (Western) twelve-tone scale as a reference, our explorations will take us into discussions of tuning, temperament, and the physics of sound. We will investigate mathematical theories of what makes the best scale, how some of those scales occur in the music of other cultures, and how modern composers have engineered exotic scales to suit their aesthetics. Software allowing students to experiment with creating their own musical systems will be provided. Prospective students should have a good command of (high-school) algebra and experience with reading music in some form.
The Physics of Magic and the Magic of Physics – Georg Raithel FULL
Rabbits that vanish; objects that float in air defying gravity; a tiger that disappears and then reappears elsewhere; mind reading, telepathy and x-ray vision; objects that penetrate solid glass; steel rings that pass through each other: these are some of the amazing tricks of magic and magicians. Yet even more amazing phenomena are found in nature and the world of physics and physicists: matter than can vanish and reappear as energy and vice-versa; subatomic particles that can penetrate steel; realistic 3-D holographic illusions; objects that change their dimensions and clocks that speed up or slow down as they move (relativity); collapsed stars that trap their own light (black holes); x-rays and lasers; fluids that flow uphill (liquid helium); materials without electrical resistance (superconductors.) In this class students will first study the underlying physics of some classical magic tricks and learn to perform several of these (and create new ones.) The “magic” of corresponding (and real) physical phenomena will then be introduced and studied with hands-on, minds-on experiments. Finally, we will visit a number of research laboratories where students can meet some of the “magicians” of physics – physics students and faculty – and observe experiments at the forefront of physics research.