The Origin and Evolution of the Universe (ASTO0101)

Fall - October 17–December 20, 2020
Days & Time:
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Jose Zorrilla

One year of high-school physics and calculus are strongly recommended. Experience with Python programming is useful for some of the in-class exercises, but not necessary.

Course Description

The origin and evolution of the Universe is one of the greatest (and oldest) questions ever asked. In a little over a century, cosmology has matured as a discipline due to improvements in our understanding of fundamental physics and technological advances allowing us to map the Universe in unprecedented detail and perform complex calculations. This course is an introductory review of the standard cosmological model, a quantitative description of the universe that explains with only six numbers a wide range of observed phenomena, from the chemical composition of the Universe, to the abundance and distribution of galaxies.

The course includes in-class interactive exercises to illustrate how simple mathematical models can shed light on seemingly complex systems. We will discuss how the ideas on which the standard model rests won over alternative ideas, and how scientists are still working to solve some outstanding puzzles, such as the unknown nature of dark matter and dark energy. The course includes asynchronous work, which students are expected to complete between class sessions.

ASTO0101 | Call Number: 22342 | View this listing on the Directory of Courses


Jose Zorrilla

Jose Zorrilla received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Columbia University and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University. Jose’s research lies at the intersection of cosmology and data science. In particular he investigates how to use computer simulations and statistical methods, including neural networks, to learn about fundamental physics from telescopic surveys of galaxies. As photons travel from far away galaxies to our telescopes, their trajectories are slightly bent by the presence of intervening matter. This results in minute distortions of the galaxies’ apparent shapes that encode a wealth of information about the overall properties of the Universe and its evolution. Jose has taught various courses in cosmology to high school students.

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Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.