Review Comment

[ASTR 1754] Introduction to Astronomy II

May 21, 2014

Kay, Laura
[ASTR 1753] Introduction to Astronomy I and [ASTR 1754] Introduction to Astronomy II

Professor Kay is a pretty good teacher. I mean, she's not exactly overly enthusiastic, and it's not like I looked forward to going to lectures every week. Most concepts were pretty self explanatory and plenty of people took this class and just turned in problem sets, sat for quizzes and exams. Which is fine and she knows this. I always sat in the front but it's something to look at how few people show up most days. I think the day before Spring Break, it was something like 30 people showed up (over 100 are registered for the class). Which is fine, I don't judge. If you're looking for that kind of class, definitely take this one.

That being said, if you do show up for lecture, I don't think you'll regret it. She DOES post PowerPoints online but she uses much more detailed ones in class. She usually shows cute space clips in class, too, though their usefulness varies. If you have to skip a lecture, I wouldn't sweat it (I did) though I felt that lectures helped me digest information better and made the book unnecessary. She only makes casual reference to the book, and I only used it a few times.

As for math, this class is pretty much plug and chug or really simple algebra problems. You may have to do some unit conversion (like parsecs to light years, or days to years) but it's literally nothing to worry about if you took FroSci or even high school chemistry. As long as you know what each formula needs you can get the problems done. There are also ratios, though they are much more common in Life in the Universe than Cosmology. Rest of the class is concepts that you can simply memorize. Nothing too difficult and she lets you use a notes sheet for the exams, and all quizzes are open note.

Quizzes and exams were something else, though. Often questions were vague as to what they wanted. I remember one particular quiz. I incredibly messed up a relativity question, which I got almost full points on. The next question was a very simple one which I got literally no credit for because I did not mention very specific things (which were not at all indicated in the very open ended question). She always tells us to ask if a question needs calculation -- but the doubt usually comes from how much detail (or what details) she wants. Odds are you'll do fine -- most of them are decently written. But odds are you WILL kick yourself over not including a detail you knew.

Since the class is mostly Barnard students P/F the course, the curve is generous. Average is about a 65%, curved up to a B/B+. If you have any aptitude for math, then you'll likely do really well without much effort.

This class was not remarkable by any means of the word. That does not mean it was terrible, however. She is a nice person: she makes some witty comments once in a while, brings by candy for exams and little aliens for quizzes. She even once gave out a United Airlines club pass (whatever they're called). That being said, her lecture style is pretty bland. Not great but not terrible. If you have any interest in astronomy, 1753-4 are great classes to take. It's really just a standard lecture course that you'd find in any college, which is really all we can ask for.

Workload:

Bi-weekly problem sets (six of them). Office hours for these are great. If you know LaTeX, you should totally use it to write these. One dropped.

Four quizzes, which I think are given usually the week after a problem set. Typically one math-y question, one concepts/memorization question. One dropped.

Two exams -- midterm and final. Each are standard fare. One side of one page of notes for midterm, double sided for final. Can be computer typed.

Extra credit assignment, report about an exhibit at the AMNH or a book.

May 18, 2004

Kay, Laura
[ASTR 1754] Introduction to Astronomy II

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Kay is a very kind woman who is very dedicated to astronomy. The class was interesting because there were a few dorks who would shout out stupid things which they assumed would be funny, but nevertheless, the overall class experience wasn't bad. The quizzes weren't too easy but they weren't hard. The homework sets are very long though. The midterm was easy but the final was harder. Not a bad way at all to fill the science requirement.

Workload:

6 Problem Sets, 5 Quizzes (Lowest of each dropped), Midterm, Final.

January 25, 2004

Kay, Laura
[ASTR 1753] Introduction to Astronomy I and [ASTR 1754] Introduction to Astronomy II

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This is a really decent class; consider it the "intro for humanities students" version of intro astro. I went into this class to satisfy my sci req., but found that the subject really grabbed me, and now hope to pursue some more astro classes.

Prof. Kay is great. She is bright and laid-back, and really enjoys teaching the subject matter. She's really into sci-fi stuff so plan to watch some hilarious old sci-fi movie clips, and find tabloids and cartoons on her class website.

Attendance, except for quizzes and exams of course, is not really necessary. Her lectures are posted on Courseworks, so you can just look at those or print them out ahead of time so you don't have to write anything during class. That said, you'll probably want to go anyways just to go, but dont feel bad if you miss a week or two.

All in all, take this class. It's fairly painless, interesting, and a solid introduction to astro. (there's a big curve gradewise, too). In terms of prep., need basic high school algebra, and it helps to have exposure to high school chem and physics.

A few notes:
1. You can def take this class out of sequence, (ie II before I), and in fact, I'd recommend it because once you've got II done, I is a breeze.
2. Nobody really knows whether to take Patterson's class or Kay's; I've heard people say conflicting things-- they are pretty equivalent though in terms of being intro for non-science people. Main difference is that Patterson's semester 1 is Earth, Moon, Planets, while Kay's is Life in the Universe. Second semester classes are parallel.
3. Lab (if you take it) is more in-depth/difficult than lecture and doesnt parallel the lecture, but its decent, too. 4. Labs are fine if you have to take them; there is no outside work, and there are no real graded assignments-- mostly its participation. That said, participation is key-- this is sometimes tough since all labs meet at night so youll be tired-- they meet at night so can use telescopes on the roof.

Workload:

bi-weekly psets (5-6, not hard, but they take a while), open-note quizzes (4-5), midterm and final (more writing than math on these), one embarassingly easy 2 page paper on museum trip. grades: drops lowest hwk and quiz grades, plus big curve on midterm and final-- very fair. If you do the work you should get an A, and I think it's probably nearly impossible to get below a B . . . and def impossible to not get a P.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHYB / ASTR PHYB ASTR BC1754: Introduction to Astronomy II Jacqueline Van 2005 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
PHYB / ASTR PHYB ASTR BC1754: Introduction to Astronomy II Laura Kay 2004 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1