Columbia University astronomer David Helfand gives a brisk and bracing introduction to the cosmos in Frontiers of Science – Astronomy (website, iTunes), a series of three lectures on astrophysics, and you don’t need to remember any of your high school math to get started on this journey to the stars. Along the way you’ll get acquainted with magnetic forces, superheated plasmas, gravitation and the evolution of galaxies. Helfand makes a great guide, spicing his lectures with vivid demonstrations like his use of liquid nitrogen that makes a long stemmed rose shatter like glass, demonstrating how cold temperature can radically change the behavior of matter.
Helfand’s short course is part of the Frontiers of Science curriculum, originally developed for Columbia undergraduates, but now available for free on the web. The Frontiers of Science website is a beautifully designed resource for students and teachers, including lectures, student activities, problem sets and instructor guides for five subject areas: astronomy, biodiversity, earth science, general science and neuroscience. It even includes an interactive E-textbook called Scientific Habits of Mind developed by Helfand and the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning.
Helfand is the most animated and entertaining of the lecturers in the on-line videos but they all do a serviceable job. On-line science learners should rejoice.
Nice going Columbia!
*Image credit: Wikipedia. Public domain.