Introduction to Astronomy I

May 2014

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.

Dec 2012

DO NOT TAKE THIS MAN!!! The comments below are wayy too forgiving. The avg. grade in this class was a 60. Yes he curved, but he was not specific on how he was going to curve, so he kept you wondering throughout the semester. As one student put it, he's like a TA gone wild! His exams, quizzes and homework assignments are ALL written in abstract form and they are ALL trick questions. Some of the questions didn't even have the right answer as an option. My GPA is a 3.9. I am not a lazy student looking to rip on some professor because he gave me a bad grade. This guy is just impossible and will give you an unbearable workload that will stress you out BIG TIME! He is a Harvard graduate and he definitely lets you know it! He comes off all cool and easygoing and then 1/2 way through the semester he has you crying. Don't fall for it. Stay away. Take Bio or something. This astronomy course is not easy, fun, or fulfilling.

Sep 2007

Take her class. It's the easiest class for a science or math requirement. She posts all her lectures. We watch movies. The quizes and tests were slightly harder than i expected but there was always a great curve. I must agree her personality is confusing, very nice in class, but when I tried to go to office hours for help two different times she seemed annoyed. So ask questions in class she's more helpful then. She doesn't go over the math enough in my opinion, she kind of assumes we get it a little faster than we do. Overall take the class it's not bad and almost always interesting.

Apr 2005

If you expect a science class at Columbia or Barnard to be easy, you're in for a surprise. This class is not easy. But it's not orgo. She covers a lot of material but all of her lectures are on powerpoint. It really is up to you whether or not to go. I suggest that you go simply because she is a funny funny teacher and she's a good teacher. Even if you aren't particularly interested in the evolution of the earth and the solar system, the lectures do become interesting. If you aren't amazed at the fact that you are essentially composed of spewed out matter of exploded stars, then maybe you should take bio instead if you need to fulfill a requirement. Take it this way, I thought I was completely incompetent in science and I came out of that class wishing I had more of a scientific and mathematical background. There are five problem sets and five quizzes. Quizzes are open notes but sometimes that doesn't matter because quizzes are a reflection of what you learned from the homeworks anyway, which she reviews in class. *hint hint* lowest quiz score and hw score are dropped and there is an extra credit assignment if you want to pick up your grade. Do you need to read the book? Not really, she gives thorough notes although you can get some bonus points for adding in more detail in your exams, some which are open-ended explanatory questions.

Apr 2005

Don't take this class!!!! Prof. Kay's lectures, exams, and quizzes are unrelated to the textbook. The problems on the quizzes don't really test your knowledge of what is taught at her lectures. Her lectures are interesting enough, but do not help when it comes time to prove your knowledge on her exams. There is a curve on the exams as well as extra credit, but overall they don't help much. This course was much harder than it ought to have been. Also, towards the end of the semester we spent more time listening to guest speakers and watching films about misc. things. The films were interesting enough, but the setting of the lecture hall puts you to sleep. If you need to fulfill the science requirement with an easy science course, take Earth, Moon, and Planets instead of this class.

Jan 2005

I took this class to fulfill my science req, and because i was genuinely very interested in the subject matter. While Kay is a nice person, her lectures were very dull and dumbed-down. We learned generalities, and then were shown random formulas. While the overwhelming majority of the material taught was conceptual, we were rarely if ever tested on it. The tests and problem sets consisted entirely of number-crunching math problems based on the formulas. However, I found this approach highly frustrating because many problems were not of the intuitive, straightforward, "plug and chug" variety, and thus extremely difficult to do because they had never been explained or introduced in class (or in the textbok for that matter, which contains no math) Frankly, i felt like the lectures, the textbooks, and the problem sets and quizzes dealt with 3 completely different and unrelated areas. Professor Kay is also just a *little* obssessed with aliens, and while learning what factors might make a planet habitable is very interesting, having questions such as "If aliens landed on the white house lawn on inauguration day, what would happen" is useless and pretty lame. (though i must say....that question did garantee a large giveaway of points on the final). Fortunately, the curve is generous, and though i basically stopped going to class (they were pointless, and both stupid and stupifying) after the midterm in october, i ended up doing very well.

Dec 2004

I signed up for this class expecting it to be very easy with little work. Though there is not much work if you do it along the way, there are graded homework sets and quizzes throughout the semester. They are pretty hard but although I thought that I was struggling throughout the course and semsester, I actually ended up with a good grade. So if you do a good job on the homeworks and study hard for the mid term and final, with the curve even if you do not do a lot of work, you can do well. The classes are not that interesting but Profesor Kay is really nice. She posts her lecture notes in advance so you can print them out and follow along during class. A lot of people never show up to class but wind up with a good grade.

Jan 2004

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.

Jan 2004

This was one of the most interesting classes I've taken. Professor Kay is a great lecturer. I'm not a "science person," but the class was easy to follow and she explained the concepts very well. The math that's required can be challenging, but it's definitely manageable. Prof. Kay uses power point for the lectures, which makes it easy to take notes. Since she posts the lecture on Courseworks the day before class, you can print it out and add your own notes as necessary. The reading from the text book is helpful for the midterm and final, but since much of it is covered in the lecture, it's probably possible to skim some parts. The course is graded on a curve, and she's a fair to lenient grader. If you attend the lectures, keep your notes in order, and do most of the reading, you'll be fine. (The lab course seemed more confusing, however, so I only took the lecture class.)

Jan 2004

She is GREAT! That's all I want to say. Take this class with her if you are interested in Astronmy or just want to satisfy your SCI requirement. GREAT CLASS!

May 2003

This class is really an enormously frustrating struggle if you're not skilled at math. The general concepts aren't too hard to grasp and demonstrate on exams, but the math is where it gets tricky - and there's a lot of it. Professor Kay really doesn't explain any of the math problems that you'll have to do on homeworks, quizzes, and exams, so you'll have to be able to pick it up yourself. Don't depend on being able to ask her questions either, she tended to be very cold and unhelpful in her office hours. But, even the math-a-phobics manage to survive - there's a big curve and an easy extra credit paper.

Dec 2002

Despite the below, this was pretty much a joke class, and an alltogether easy way to get through the science requirement. If you took any physics in high school, along with some small amount of chemistry, you'll have no problem with the annoying little problem sets and quizes. I have no complaints about her teaching style or lessons, she's pretty on the ball and open to student input when scheduling tests and other due dates. All and all, go for it.