June 18, 2005

Helfand, David Silver_nugget
[ASTR 1404] Beyond the Solar System

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

The reviewer below must have been in a different class than the rest of us. Firstly, attendance was almost always healthy. If you've seen Prof. Helfand lecture, that should be profoundly unsurprising. He speaks clearly and engagingly and stops frequently to solicit questions from the class. Ask questions! He likes it, and it helps in understanding the subject matter.

The class isn't particularly difficult, especially if you have a good science background (nothing too big -- AP sciences in high school are sufficient). That said, some of the units can be a bit abstract or counterintuitive at first. If you're uncomfortable with things like unit conversions and scientific notation, this is not the class for you. Nor should you take this class as a way to breeze through the Science Requirement. For those who are interested in astronomy and don't mind some basic numbers-work but are worried about odd concepts, this is where Prof. Helfand's openness comes in handy. You can ask questions in class, at regular review sessions, at office hours, at an appointment that you set up, or via e-mail, to which Prof. Helfand usually responds within 12 hours or so, even the night before a problem set is due.

If you go to the vast majority of classes and don't let your questions go unanswered, an A should be within reach. On top of that, the class is a lot of fun and Prof. Helfand helps greatly in making an innately interesting subject fascinating.


Five problem sets and five quizzes, with your lowest score on each dropped. There's also a midterm and a final. The class average on all four components is curved to 80.