Joe P hasn’t gotten a review in quite some time, so allow me to keep things updated. Sweetest professor I had during my four years. Just a really, really kind-hearted guy. And he does his job quite well. I’m scientifically illiterate (I took the class to fulfill a Core requirement) but I walked out of the class with a solid understanding of some fairly complex topics. On the course itself: if you invest yourself in the course, you’ll come out of it with a different perspective on life, the universe (and our place in it), time/space, even spirituality. Cosmology is a trip — and Patterson is one fantastic trip leader. Take this course, even just to fulfill a requirement. You won’t regret it.
The greatest thing about Patterson is that he is super enthusiastic about astronomy. You can tell he loves the subject, just from the fact that writes and performs songs about astronomy in class, or from his useful and entertaining lecture notes. The only problem with this course is that it isn't structured too well. Patterson will claim to send out problems sets today which won't be available until a week later. Sometimes, his lectures can be confusing as he jumps from one concept to another. The class did seem quite disorganized as a whole. It would probably help to read a little ahead so you can understand what he says in lecture. Thankfully, though, he sends out lecture notes (although they are not exhaustive - you still have to go to class!) and shares cool news and events in astronomy. Once, he had a miniature party/get-together at his house, which was nice. As for mathematical background, you really only need to know Algebra. Be comfortable working with units and manipulating formulae (not too difficult).
If you are not a science major, do NOT take this class. They say that high school level math and science is all required to do well-- NOT TRUE. I thoroughly enjoyed science/math courses in high school and always did fairly well. This class was so difficult. If you've taken an introductory astronomy class before that would definitely help. If not, the professor requires you to get an intro astro book to familiarize yourself with concepts and terminology. I did not understand a word either of the professors said during their lectures. I was so overwhelmed, I didn't even know where to start if I wanted to ask a question. There is a trip to Arizona for some observing that I was excited about, but when I saw most of the class didn't sign up for it (it's optional), I decided not to go either. The coursework is very minimal. He doesn't really care about grades-- barely talks about them until the end of the semester. I just stopped coming to the lectures because they were a waste of my time. I did the bare minimum work at the end of the semester and got a C.
I pretty much agree with the last two reviews. About the easy A matter, I wanted to add that I don't think it's hard to get a good grade in the class. Probably about the same as any other class. Even though the raw scores for the midterm seem low at the time, the raw scores don't mean anything on their own, because the final grade for the semester is curved up to a standard distribution. I think a good number of people got in the A-/A range for their final grade. Probably my favorite professor so far. Good class.
I loved this class (I hate to begin with such a biased comment, but I guess I should show my hand). It's been several months since the class concluded, and I believe I can safely say that this course will forever remain as one of my most memorable and fulfilling classes at Columbia. Of course, no class is perfect, and I know there were moments of frustration for some students; I intend to cover both the pros and cons of the class in this review so that you know what to expect. Basically, I share the opinion of the previous reviewer (Dec 10, 2009) but I feel that a three year absence of reviews is too long and that this page probably needs something more current to attest to the brilliance of this course. The Pros: My high regard for this course has everything to do with Professor Patterson. He has real character and enthusiasm that infuse every class. He's a teacher who values true *teaching* above all else, as opposed to simple rote learning or pointless parroting of information. What he's interested in is encouraging creative thinking, facilitating a deep understanding of concepts that are essential to our current worldview, and making the whole class enjoyable (if that sounds intimidating I don't mean it that way! It's relaxed, fun, and goes at an easy pace). He values class discussion and participation, and his lectures lead the class through the most interesting developments in astronomy -- from Babylon and Ancient Greece, through to the Scientific Revolution, and into Twentieth Century physics. He has a great sense of humor and he values genuine learning, endeavoring to impart an appreciation and understanding of the wonders of the Universe to his students. I think the perspective of the class -- charting the development of our worldview from the beginning of history until the present day -- is invaluable. Such an important perspective to be aware of, in my opinion. To learn how our understanding of the Universe has evolved is fascinating and provides valuable context for understanding our current views of the cosmos and of science. This isn't just a class about the planets and stars etc. It's not that at all. It's about seeing the Universe, first, from the perspective of the Ancient Greeks: how they learned that the Earth was round, why they rejected the idea of a heliocentric solar system (they had compelling scientific reasons), how Plato and Ptolemy and everyone in between contributed to the solar system model that endured all the way through to the 16th Century. You learn to observe the constellations and the movements of the planets, Sun, and Moon with a real understanding of the patterns. But this is only the tip of the iceberg: very quickly in the semester you move onto the Scientific Revolution. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo are all brought to life through Professor Patterson's accounts and stories of the personalities, exchanges, and conundrums that shaped the revolution in our understanding of the Universe. It's awesome. Then it's Newton and learning how his understanding of gravity developed and how that further revolutionized science. And it continues in this vein right up until the present-day mysteries we are dealing with right now. I could go on but I've probably already said too much. The point is, you get both a fascinating tour of the history of human understanding of the Universe, and fascinating insights into applying the science that was learned and developed along the way. It's a great balance between the history of science and the application of science. And the professor loves teaching, he loves learning, and he's relaxed, cool, and funny. By the way, I should mention that I'm in no way a "science" person. Although I've always had a fascination with the night sky and some interest in the movements up there, and although I'm somewhat comfortable with math, I'm not someone who gets into science for the sake of science. I had zero knowledge of Physics before taking this course. I took this course to fulfill one of the science requirements after its title caught my attention; I was hesitant after reading some of the earlier reviews on this page which made it sound very difficult, but, as you can tell, I'm grateful and counting myself lucky that I went ahead and took the course. The Cons: As I said, the professor cares about teaching and learning. He's not that much of a "rules" guy. Of course, this would typically be considered a good thing -- and, indeed, I consider it so. But I think some people were a little frustrated at times by the occasionally casual approach to returning assignments and providing answers for those assignments -- things like that. It's nothing serious, I think it's just that it's not the most rigidly organized course: assignment hand-in dates are sometimes pushed back later, he doesn't make a huge deal out of preparation for the mid-term and final (they count for a large proportion of the grade, and he'll do a review of the material in the class beforehand, but he's just not that into obsessing over work and grades and all thatâ€”he doesnâ€™t expect students to start studying for the midterm until itâ€™s a couple of days away, so he waits to do the review until that time), and things are run with a slightly more relaxed feeling than some of the other classes at Columbia. The organization of my particular semester was also somewhat hindered by the TA, who wasnâ€™t that reliable. But, again, once you just relax into the flow of the class, that stuff is all great and I believe the emphasis is where it should be. I'm just mentioning it because I think it's at the root of some of the complaints in other reviews, i.e., that we Columbia students get into a habit of wanting everything mapped out for us ("can you give me some study questions?", "can you give us a past exam so we know how to study?", "can you tell me everything you want me to write so that I can just repeat it back to you and get an A?") but he's simply not like that. He's interested in genuine understanding and in encouraging that. His exams and coursework are a mixture of interesting and slightly challenging questions; easy questions that you already know; and, literally, poetry and humor (the last part is not part of your grade). Having said that, the midterm and exam donâ€™t really contain any surprises in terms of contentâ€”he only tests on material youâ€™ve been taught. It seems the biggest reservation other reviewers have about the class is the place of mathematics in the course. It's hard to define exactly what is meant by needing to understand high school algebra for this course, but it IS basically just that: If you are comfortable with standard algebra and formulae (and nothing particularly difficult) you'll be fine with the math. You'll have to use some intimidating-looking formulas, but there's a very limited number of formulas used. You'll have to occasionally move around some numbers with exponents, but you'll get used to it. It's a great way to build intuitive understanding of mathematics. It really is just algebra: you have some formulae, and you'll have to insert some numbers and work out an answer. The part of your thinking that will be utilized most in this process is the intuitive aspect, but even that's not as intimidating as it sounds, because even if you don't understand what you're doing, you'll still know which formula to use and you'll just plug in the numbers. It teaches you a lot, and it's not particularly difficult. Having said that, if you really dislike mathematics and/or do not feel comfortable with algebra, then this probably isn't the course for you. Itâ€™s important to be aware of this and not take the course because it would be frustrating if you were just NOT comfortable with standard algebra. It doesn't dominate the course, but it is there as a constant thread. You donâ€™t need to know any physics for this course. Youâ€™ll learn some basic physics, which I found really valuable, but all you need to take this course is a degree of comfort with basic algebra (thereâ€™s certainly no calculus or statistics or anything like that). Finally, I've seen complaints in the earlier reviews about the problem sets. Admittedly, I found the first one a little heavy -- I enjoyed it, but found that it ended up taking some time. However, it's not INTENDED to be this way. I came to see that the problem sets are meant to be somewhat relaxed: you don't need to be that precise or thorough in your answers -- just get the main point across and that's all thatâ€™s required really. I wrote way too much and was way too thorough. He says himself that the problem sets aren't meant to be too much work and, of course, he's always available and happy to talk to you one-on-one in his office (not just in office hours, but any time -- he just values teaching and connecting with the students). The problem sets will challenge you to think and apply concepts in novel ways, which is great, but theyâ€™re not meant to be a burden; so as long you bear this in mind in your approach, they wonâ€™t be a burden. I ended up doing a lot of reading of the textbook (which was pretty helpful) and asking the professor a number of questions, too, simply because I found the material so interesting. But that's probably not necessary to do well in the course. In the end, it's really not a heavy workload at all -- there's not that much to do (4 or 5 problem sets, midterm, exam) and it's pretty relaxed and enjoyable during class. As a friend put it, the class was the least work of his courses that semester in terms of workload, but the most work in terms of thinking, i.e., you end up spending some time getting your head around the concepts and really expanding the way you think about it all. It's not really an easy A (he grades to a curve, but if you really want to get a good grade, then you will), and it's probably not the easiest way to fulfill a science requirement. But it is awesome. All in all, probably an average amount of work required for this course. A valuable and unique course. Very cool professor. Fascinating content. Loved it. It made the crappy, soulless classes that I was taking that semester much more bearable.
***In the interest of presenting an un-biased review, this review was written before the final grade received*** Quick-Statement: Extremely interesting material presented by a truly engaged, if not a bit quirky (but what Astronomer isn't) professor...assuming you are reasonably proficient in high school math and basic physics. The GOOD: This is the first science course I've taken at Columbia, and I took it because the subject matter was very interesting to me. He made it abundantly clear on the first day of class that the course would ultimately be far more quantitative than qualitative, which was fine. The implementation of quantitative methods actually ENABLES you to understand the abstractions he makes - which can be very convenient in the highly-likely event that most of this material seems foreign. The lectures are actually pretty interesting - and he has myriad handouts which explain everything you will need to know for the EXAMS (and most things you'll need for the problem sets). He actively engages the students, and even gives out fun trinkets such as meteorites & Kit Kats for good questions/answers. The workload is extremely manageable, and he is a very fair grader. Supposedly, he has a generous curve - I won't know until I get my final grade back. Finally, he is almost ALWAYS in his office, and is unbelievably helpful with problem sets and lingering questions. He holds observing sessions and the like - and going to them can help you put into practice some of the things you learn. The BAD: Not a whole heck of a lot. The readings are not particularly necessary - I could have saved a lot of money if I didn't buy the books. But I bought 'em and read 'em anyway, and found that while not at all NECESSARY, the material accents what we learn in class. Affirmations: As previous reviews have stated, this is probably NOT the best way to fulfill an "easy" science requirement. There is a great deal of math, and some pretty intense implementations of both theories of relativity, Newtonian mechanics, and very large numbers. Final words: If you have even a passing interest in astronomy, or you have ever looked up in the sky and wondered why things are the way they are, and you are relatively comfortable with math, this course is for you. Plus, there's truly great material: I'm a film major, and I am chock-full of screenplay ideas after taking this course. Refutations: A common complaint I have read is that the problem sets are unnecessarily challenging and that the lectures do not provide all the answers. This is ***kind of*** true. That said, the handouts provide formulae for basically ALL of the answers. Granted, you have to search for a while, but they're usually there. FURTHERMORE, Dr. Patterson makes it clear that he condones using Google and other online sources to arrive at your answers. You can't ask for much more than that...c'mon guys. This is Columbia.
This was really not a pleasant class. I fell asleep in lectures multiple times, even though Professor Patterson is clearly knowledgeable. I took this course for the science credit, and I feel like I could've chosen a different way to get the science requirement that would've been more enjoyable. Patterson's lectures, problem sets, and exams all cover different material. This is really problematic. The problem sets in particular are extremely difficult and take a long time to do, mostly because I didn't have any of the information I needed to answer the questions even though I went to every lecture. I have taken some physics, and I still didn't know how to start the problem sets. They are very heavy on the math. Patterson is always willing to help with these problem sets, but it's frustrating to need every one explained. He hands out notes most classes, which do sometimes relate to the questions on the exam. All in all, I would not whole-heartedly recommend this course. The material is interesting, but Patterson does not communicate it effectively. If you have a strong physics background, this is a good class for you, but otherwise, be prepared to work your butt off.
The worst professor I have ever had in my life. He doesn't lecture well, he doesn't give appropriate assignments, he doesn't tell you how to go about passing the course unless people badger him multiple times, he doesn't even give a clear statement of what is required for the class. His syllabus is fluid, meaning if he doesn't have time to cover something, he'll cut assignments at the end or change the final. He never really talks about the textbook, so you have to figure out where you are regarding that on your own. He gives out a huge pad of notes, often in his own handwriting and with little context (just a bunch of drawings and equations), so you have to attend lecture or you won't even know how to use what equation when. He gives incredibly difficult problems sets, which are almost like brain-teasers because they don't relate strictly to the lecture, and you have to fuss with them a lot to figure out how to complete them (unless you have a very strong physics/science background). Not a good course to take your first semester of first year, because not only is a lecture class weird to deal with after high school, but his unorthodox methods are incredibly confusing and leave you wondering if you missed something. All that said, it's hard to say if he's an easy or hard grader, because I ended up with a B+, but had gotten a C on the midterm, and B's on the problem sets. The percentage of the final exam on the final grade determines your grade more than anything. The exams don't relate to the problem sets at all, as the problem sets are designed to show how well you do math, and the tests are designed to show how much you payed attention, read the book, and/or took notes.
The previous review is spot on. Avoid taking this class with Patterson! From reading other reviews, I assumed it would be challenging yet doable Â… I was quite wrong. The problem sets were really difficult and time-consuming. The exams were mostly multiple choice with some medium-length response questions, and are nothing like the problem sets, so itÂ’s not like you can practice or anything. When asked for some sample problems he gave us a ton of practice questions from the textbook and said Â“These are much easier than the exam questions will be.Â” He wasnÂ’t kidding- the practice exam was really simple, and the midterm looked nothing like it. Well Â… thanks a lot Â… but whatÂ’s the freaking point then? He was also extremely vague and unhelpful when asked what to know for the exams, making it stressful to study. Yes he hands out notes but they barely help with problem sets, and even less for exams. So what does help you prepare for tests? Lecture? The Textbook? Nope. Even though he can be Â“funny,Â” he mostly just rambles on Â… clarity is not his thing, and he tends to spend lots of time on things we donÂ‘t need to know for exams or homework. He spends lots and lots of time on formula derivation, so one would think that understanding the formulas and being able to apply them will be important, right? Wrong! The book is decent as far as textbooks go but does not really help for problem sets and exams. Before the final, he made a big deal out of extrasolar planets, saying many times that even though we had not covered that material in class we should read the chapter in the book wellÂ… so of course I read the chapter very carefully, and am able to answer the ONE multiple choice question on the exam on extrasolar planetsÂ… Past reviewers who have said not to worry, even if youÂ’re lost this class is easy on the gpa Â… are quite simply, wrong. Yes there is a curve but there are people who manage to do well, thanks to previous physics background and perhaps previous knowledge of astronomy. I was really excited to take this class at first, but now I regret it. Take it with a different professor, Patterson is not worth the aggravation.
Professor Patterson is a nice guy with a cute sense of humor, but he doesn't lecture well at all in terms of clearly communicating information. The objectives of the lessons aren't clear, and it's difficult to distinguish what is actually taking notes over. He gives out handouts for most of the topics, but these are sparse at best and don't really reflect what you need to know for the exams. The lectures aren't useful, and he doesn't clearly define what he wants you to learn from the book. The subject matter isn't inherently difficult, but the presentation of it on the exams is often unclear and convoluted. Bottom line -- he's a really nice guy, but not the person that you can really learn anything relevant from.
DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS IF YOU VALUE YOUR GPA!!! Everyone says that this is a total blowoff, easy A kind of class. NOT true at all. Patterson is a nice guy but he doesn't teach at all. His lectures are nothing but meaningless babble, with a few songs here and there. His problem sets are hard and have little to do with the notes or book. Also his midterm and finals have almost nothing to do with the book and have absolutely nothing to do with the problem sets. Basically, nothing is related to anything and he rambles instead of teaching the material. This is NOT an easy course and one could find a much better way to fulfill their science requirement.
I definitely agree with the previous reviewer Â– take this class with someone else! During lectures, he alternates between rambling about whoknowswhat, muttering under his breath, and laughing at himself. Did he do any teaching? Not really. The problem sets were really difficult, and they count for 30% of the grade. We were pretty much on our own. It's been a really aggravating experience taking this class, it's just not worth the mediocre grade.
Yeah, Professor Patterson is the friendly, father-figure sort of guy. He is very easy-going and approachable, and at first I liked him a lot. As of now, however, I am thoroughly disappointed with the turnout with this class. Although it's mostly true, he thinks that everyone in the class is only there for the science requirement, and therefore treats the class as a joke. It's a huge waste of time. I rarely skip classes in general, but this one I find myself making excuses to not go. His problem sets are stupid, and I feel as if I haven't learned anything beyond the phases of the moon. I discourage anyone from taking this awful lecture class. Even the candy doesn't make it worth it (and that's saying something).
oh boy. i'd have to advise you not to take this class with this professer. patterson comes off sounding like he is going to be the easiest teacher ever, but the class isnt really that easy because you dont really learn anything from him so its hard to do anything on the problem sets, midterm, and final, even if they aren't all that hard. they only require a little bit of knowledge, but he doesnt give you any. the hour-fifteen lecure consists of him rambling about small, simiple things for way too long, him getting sidetracked, him making dumb jokes and laughing to himself, and him slowly working out equations on the board, doing all the math in his head (estimating very roughly). he doesnt teach you much in these lectures, but then you have to perform on the problem sets, midterm and final based only on these lectures, because nothing with this class follows the book. if you are goign to take this with him, seriously dont even buy the book. i'd say dont go to the lectues either, but you have to go and try to get some small amount of info from them so u can go off of that for the problem sets, midterm and final. ugh.
Prof. Patterson is very down-to-earth and helpful. He is willing to help you with all the problem sets. And he loves to get to know his students but you have to go to office hours and introduce yourself! If he knows your name and you've spent even just a few minutes in his office from time to time, you'll get participation points. The course is not as hard as it seems, but if you think you're getting away from math and science for fulfilling your requirement, you're wrong. The problem sets are hard but are only 1/3 of the grade and usually he drops your lowest grade off. He trails off on tangents in lecture with silly anecdotes, but he gives notes to you. Don't waste your time taking overly descriptive notes. Read the summaries at the end of the chapters, go to office hours, go to lecture most of the time and you'll be fine! Overall he's such a sweet man and funny professor, definitely recommended.
He's the nicest guy you'll meet. His class is an absolute blast (he sings, reads original poetry, and spends a lot of time showing slides of his own photos). Considering how much fun it is, you actually do learn stuff too. Most of the actual material you pick up while doing the problem sets (if you go to him during office hours he helps you through them step-by-step) and everything is graded pretty fairly. I had some physics background, which helped, but it really wasn't necessary. He holds nighttime viewing sessions (optional but fun) and gives everybody the chance to do a big extra credit project. Overall, easy on the GPA, a source of some cool info, and a lot fun.
if the world were ending and i had to pick a handful of people to help rebuild civilization, he would definitely be one of them. his brain is that valuable.
All I have to say is Joseph Patterson is my favorite teacher in this entire university. He is the nicest and funniest guy in the entire school. Throughout the course I had no clue what the hell he was talking about but he was always there to help me. He is amazing and I suggest that everyone should take this class regardless of your interest (or lack there of) in astronomy.
Patterson is a good teacher though obviously disenchanted with the present structure of the science sequence. He basically somnambulates through lectures and is intrinsically amusing. The subject matter is interesting, but one never knows whether to take notes during the parts of the lecture when he dicusses pictures on the over-head projections. This class has a fantastic curve, so leave your grade anxiety at the door.
Non-math and non-science students, be wary. This class will go completely over your head. This is not such a tragedy, though - you can still pass this class quite well. Prof Patterson's lectures are difficult to follow and often sleep-inducing. Yet, he does give out all of his lecture notes and the textbook is very helpful if you can stand to read it. Also, his help sessions for problem sets and exams are amazing. He is a nice man and does not want people to fail. So, even if you feel lost in class, DO NOT WORRY. The exams and problem sets, though they seem daunting at first, are very fair. Find a study/problem set partner to work things out with and you will be fine. Also, do not be afraid to go to office hours - he loves students who come see him and ask him questions. Although this was not the best class I've taken, it was not a complete loss, because I did get to bond with a lot of people as we struggled through the problem sets together. Prof Patterson is not a good lecturer, but his quirky sense of humour and friendliness are a definite plus.
The most irreverant and amusing Professor I've had, class is quite a breeze as he is extremely entertaining. His teaching is however more obscure, and his problem sets are even more obscure. That said, with some work, one can do well enough (I forgot every bit of math b4 this class), even at the mathematical problem sets. Its not an easy A in any case - while the curve is generous, only about 25% get As as evident in the transcripts.
This class was a joy. I loved going, and thought prof patterson did a tremendous job simplifying and breaking down topics that are really complex, without talking down to you. Its true, the problem sets are a little bit a of a stretch, and he doesn't always refer to what they cover directly in lecture. But the midterm was totally reasonable, very fair with a good curve. I think prof patterson is adorable, he makes me laugh outloud in class, and he even gives the people prizes (candy, random trinkets) for answering his questions. He's enthusiastic, smart, and laid back. And hey, the subject matter is really cool. It will definitely give you material to wow people at cocktail parties. I think its a great choice to fulfill the science requirement...esp the single one, cause you dont need to have taken the previous class in the sequence to understand this one.
Prof. Patterson is great. For me, the most challenging aspect of this class was the math, which was limited in any case. It's generally not a difficult class and it's heavily curved, which makes up for the sometimes challenging problem sets. I really enjoyed going to class just to hear Patterson's hilarious stories and jokes and make sure not to miss his singing, which was amusing and great fun. He's a super professor and always available outside of class. Take this class!
This class is sort of a mixed bag. Patterson himself is a great lecturer (although his self-composed songs were a ridiculous waste of time), ensuring that you won't fall asleep in class. The beginning of class to midterm is reserved for basic astronomy (what can be seen when) and physics, both of which should be easily mastered by even an english major like myself. The second part of the semester is reserved for particulars. All of it very interesting, although not very hard. If your looking to fulfill a science requirement easily, take this really interesting class. Otherwise challenge yourself a bit more.
Patterson is a very fun lecturer. He mixes his class with poetry, stories, slides, songs, props, and so forth. Notes are negligable as he passes out handouts that are nearly replicas of what he writes/draws on the board. Don't be fooled by the entertainment of the class though. When it comes to problem sets, midterm, and the final, you will see things that have never been presented in class save for a quick peek that is easy to overlook. When the pass/fail date came around, a good portion of the class excercised this option. Unless you have a feverish interest in astronomy and are willing to take every detail into account, do not take this class.
If you're looking for an easy and fun way to fulfill your science requirement, then this class is definately for you. Joe P definately leads an interesting class, mixing the regular lecture with frequent humor and experiments. He makes astronomy fun and exciting, and it's a really low-key class. Sometimes he's kind of vague, though, and he'll go off on tangents about his amateur photography or sing a song he composed about entropy - so he can get off topic, but it's still fun. The problem sets can be kind of difficult and some questions look bizarre and deceptively simple when in reality he's asking you to do more thinking than is apparent. He doesn't really flesh out what he expects. But overall, a good, interesting class. And make sure to participate in some way - even though it's a large lecture, he still wants to get to know people through office hours, etc.
professor patterson is wonderful and brilliant. i loved taking this class and i usually don't enjoy science classes. he's really smart and has obviously had an interesting life and he tries to make the lectures really interesting. he writes songs and sings them in front of the class and tells jokes that are usually really funny. he's got a lot of office hours so make good use of them and ask questions in class because he loves answering them and sometimes he'll give you candy
Professor Patterson is a really nice guy. You really can't have him and not like him. He has this really dry sense of humor, the only kind of humor I can take in a professor- he doesn't laugh at his own jokes, and he often makes the class laugh. For example, the other day he said "You can actually smell ozone. pause. It smells pretty good, in fact, you can get kind of high on it ... But don't try this at home! He is always available and loves it when you come talk to him, and he is extremely helpful and friendly. As for the class, don't make the mistake I did and think it is just going to be an easy class where you talk about the earth, the moon, and the planets... Believe me, there's more. To be honest, there isn't THAT much math, but to me any math is too much math, so I griped about it alot. The problem sets can be pretty annoying, and you may find it difficult to actually attend class, especially when you are always really tired and he constantly turns off the lights to show slides of constellations. Astronomy-wise it's pretty cool, and he arranges for viewings and whatnot. I took this as a non-science major trying to easily satisfy the requirement, and I have to say it's a little more effort than I wanted to put forth. But maybe this is as easy as it gets! Anyways, bottom line: Professor Patterson is great, it isn't his fault people are lazy and hate math, and it's an okay class considering we are forced to take science.
As someone who doesn't like science but is still good at it, I would not reccomend this class to anyone who didn't have a very strong interest in astro. Nothing about the class is truly difficult, but the lectures were horrifically boring, the problem sets long and often tricky, and the TAs unhelpful. The material that was going to be on a test was always a surprise, and they were never straight forward. Patterson is clearly excited about his subject, but I didn't see him engaging the class as much as the other reviewers claimed, nor does he have a realistic expectation of what the class should know after his lectures. Even though I studied hard, did all the reading and, by superhuman efforts, stayed awake in all the lectures, I still had to bail out with a last minute pass/fail.
If you have a slight interest in science, Prof. Patterson has the ability to turn it into a passion. Many classmates attempted an astrophysics major after taking his class (but most realized that these classes get very hard, very quickly). He'll come into class and tell you about when he was struck by lightning, or in a coma thinking he could end the world, or singing songs about the collapse of stars. He keeps class entertaining. The workload is very easy if you have a strong physics background; however, if you don't, it might be a bit of a stretch to say you can get by with no participation. Grading is very fair (strong curves) and most leave the class appreciative of astronomy.
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.
I have to agree with the other reviewer except for the workload. Class attendance is important because he discusses things that are not in the book but provides handouts that are helpful.
As a history major with a minor interest in science, this was the absolutely perfect way to fulfill the requirement. Professor Patterson was among the best instructors I've had at CU. He's funny and he made me like the subject a lot more than I thought I would. He also wears astonomically themed neckties, and invited students over to his house for a read through of Brecht's "Galileo." A lot on the history of Astronomy and not too much physics, thank god. Definitely worth taking.