C1403-C1404 Earth, Moon, and Planets; Beyond the Solar System

Jan 2021

To echo everyone else, give this man a gold nugget! He is the most interesting person I've ever met and actually cares about his students. Classes are super interesting and he really challenges students to develop critical thinking skills and scientific habits of mind. His classes are simultaneously very accessible to non-science majors, but also very challenging. The challenge, however, doesn't come from needing to be super strong in math or whatever, but to just *think*. Definitely take his class if you have any latent interest in astronomy and planet science and don't like being lectured to by a prof reading off slides.

Dec 2017

Professor Helfand is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met in my entire life. His lectures are incredible and he makes the subject as entertaining as possible. However, do not take this class if you're looking for an easy A. He assigns weekly problem sets that are much more difficult than they need to be. My engineering friends were all shocked at how complex his questions were for an introductory science course. His midterm and final were also graded pretty harshly, many people getting 30% or below despite the exam being seemingly easy. Overall, if you want to learn and meet an amazing human being, take this class. However, be prepared to work extremely hard and also take a slight gpa hit for it.

May 2015

I came into this class with a lot of doubts. I was taking it to fulfill my quantitative requirement at Barnard, and was very worried about the amount of mathematics and physics was going to be in the class. To my relief, there was barely any of either, and I absolutely adored the class. Professor Agueros knows exactly what he is talking about, and his lectures are interesting and engaging. He encourages questions and comments, and always replies to the best of his ability. He also makes people write questions on slips of paper before they leave class everyday, and starts the following class by reviewing the previous lecture and answering some of the questions he got. Professor Agueros is very approachable and happy to help, and just wants his students to come away from the class with a basic knowledge of astronomy. He grades harshly but fairly, and arranges for some cool lessons (such as a visit to the rare manuscripts portion of Butler to see first editions of Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton). The work load is not that bad, with seven homework assignments over the course of the semester, and a midterm as well as a final. I would recommend this class to people who are bad at math and trying to fulfill their quantitative requirement, as well as anybody who was every interested in the solar system when they were kids. I very much enjoyed myself.

Dec 2014

This class was amazing. The professor has a way of breaking down complicated concepts, which not only makes you feel smart for understanding but gives you confidence to attempt to understand others. Who knew I would be able to calculate orbital periods of planets after the end of this course? Certainly not I! Seriously though, the class gave me a good working basic knowledge about the Earth, Moon and Planets which comes in handy every day. Every time I watch a science fiction movie about the solar system, this comes to mind. Articles about satellites and the discovery of Earth like planets, which are always on the news are no longer intelligible. The professor is also very approachable in the class but also office hours. I recommend this class to all. You won't regret taking it. (I am not a science major, took this as part of my Core)

Jun 2014

Professor Crotts is quite possible the worst professor in the history of Columbia. He will "lecture" on one thing, make you buy a hundred dollar book on another, and test you on something complete different. His class is useless. He goes on long tangents that has nothing to do with the lecture or anything relevant at all. He teaches science in class but has math everywhere else. Please avoid this class if at all possible.

Dec 2011

I remember the incident incident referred to in the May 16, 2011 review, and that is not what happened at all. The student asked a question, and the professor asked to come back to it. When he did a few minutes later, the student had fallen asleep. That particular student fell asleep often. The reviewer seems to have been unconscious too to have been so unaware of what was happening. . . . . . . . . .

Dec 2010

I came into this class just looking for an easy A/a way to get out of the science requirement. I shouldn't have taken this class. Though it certainly isn't the toughest course in the world, it's NOT easy. The first couple of quizzes were impossibly difficult; they asked you to apply concepts that we went over in class. BUT some of the concepts were just briefly mentioned in class. Also, the way you were supposed to apply the concepts was impossibly hard. I ended up getting an A in the class, but that was only because I studied REALLY hard for the quizzes/midterm/final after i realized how difficult he was making them. That said, he definitely eased up on the quizzes. By the end, the testing reflected the extent to which you read the book/paid attention in lecture. The four assignments were REALLY stupid. We had to write poetry analyses of poems about stars. SERIOUSLY! And he actually went through and graded our analyses. We also had to write a 6-8 page research paper. They were easy but time-consuming and pointless. And h he actually grades them (even though there were probably sixty people in the class... I always thought his level of dedication to the class was almost odd, though it was refreshing in some ways). The positive aspect of the class is that it's not SUPER difficult (like bio, chem, ect.) yet you still learn a bit. He's genuinely interested in conveying the material well and by the end I think he succeeded in that way. I think it was his first time teaching the class and he was definitely looking to improve, so I imagine that the class will be run better next time. Take it for the science requirement if you don't mind putting in a bit of work and if you don't want to be too bored in a complete joke of a science class (the way that I hear oceanography is).

Apr 2003

I took both semesters of David Helfand's class to complete the sequence-science requirement, and I am very glad I did. He is knowledgable, entertaining, knows how to deliver an awesome lecture. He thoroughly cares about the class, and he has offered to repeat whole lectures on weekends for when a lot of kids can't make it (like in the case of war protests and religious holidays). Fast, funny, intelligent: you couldn't ask for more in a professor. A tip: I tried to do the problem sets by myself the first semester, that was a big mistake. Don't be timid, find a group to team up with; it makes everything easier and faster.

Apr 2003

This class is a joke. I genuinely wanted to learn astronomy, but am dissapointed to learn that we only got through half of the second semester material. If you want an A and a class you never have to go to (he's recently started giving the same lecture twice in a row) this is the class for you. I was dissapointed.

Apr 2001

Without getting into too much detail, this man is the best teacher I have had at CU. Every lecture is funny, interesting, engaging, and, best of all, he really knows his stuff. These classes are popular options for non-science oriented people interested in fulfilling core requirements, but if you have ever had any interest in astronomy than these classes, taught by Prof Patterson, will be worth every second of them.

Jan 2000

Helfand is a funny, dynamic professor who cares about his subject and will make you care about it too. He's involved in major research, but doesn't seem troubled by teaching an intro course. Helfand goes fast, and his problem sets are very challenging. Exams are tough, but curved, although it is entirely possible to do poorly in the course. Nonetheless, not an all-around hard course, and a great way to complete the hated science requirement.