AST 1911 -- Proposed New Course

Tue Feb 21 12:29:01 2017

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Approvals Received:
on 02-20-17
by Terry Thibeault
Approvals Pending: College/Dean  > Provost > Catalog
Effective Status: Active
Effective Term: 1179 - Fall 2017
Course: AST  1911
UMNTC - Twin Cities/Rochester
UMNTC - Twin Cities
Career: UGRD
College: TIOT - College of Science and Engineering
Department: 11092 - Astrophysics, MN Inst for
Course Title Short: Nothing
Course Title Long: Nothing
Max-Min Credits
for Course:
2.0 to 2.0 credit(s)
Is ‘nothing’ too wonderful to be true, as the great 18th century physicist Michael Faraday pondered?  Following the Bard, in this seminar we will make much ado about "nothing."  From the birth of the Universe
ex nihilo, to the philosophies that find meaning in nothing, to the tangled history of zero over the centuries, to our beginnings as seen by theologies when even nothing was not.  In our journey through the teeming vacuum, "nothing" is sacred, and will be both ventured and gained.  Caution is advised, however, in telling people that you've signed up for "nothing"!
Print in Catalog?: Yes
Grading Basis: A-F only
Topics Course: No
Honors Course: No
Online Course: No
Freshman Seminar: Yes
Is any portion of this course taught
outside of the United States?:
Community Engaged Learning (CEL) : None
Contact Hours:
2.0 hours per week
Course Typically Offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Component 1 : LEC (no final exam)
Progress Units:
Not allowed to bypass limits.
2.0 credit(s)
Financial Aid
Progress Units:
Not allowed to bypass limits.
2.0 credit(s)
Repetition of
Repetition not allowed.
for Catalog:
<no text provided>
No course equivalencies
Cross-listings: No cross-listings
Add Consent
No required consent
Drop Consent
No required consent
(course-based or
No prerequisites
Editor Comments: <no text provided>
Proposal Changes: To convert our previous Freshman Seminars to the typical process of scheduling and give each topic it's own catalog number.
History Information: <no text provided>
Sponsor Name:
Lawrence Rudnick
Sponsor E-mail Address:
Student Learning Outcomes
Student Learning Outcomes: * Student in the course:

- Can locate and critically evaluate information

Please explain briefly how this outcome will be addressed in the course. Give brief examples of class work related to the outcome.

Students are responsible for bringing in a "fascinating fact" each week to class, on any topic. They must be prepared to cite a reliable source for the information, and if challenged by either the instructor or fellow students, they need to do further research and post their results on our Moodle discussion pages. Students working in small groups also research and make a class presentation on an assigned topic related to the course. They must identify reliable resources for the information, and distinguish between findings that are secure and those which are speculative.

How will you assess the students' learning related to this outcome? Give brief examples of how class work related to the outcome will be evaluated.

Assessment of the fascinating facts is based on the ability of the student to identify and justify the reliability of their source. Assessment of the class presentations is done on the basis of accuracy and use of suitable resources, distinction between things which scientists consider established vs. those that are speculative, and the ability to present all of this clearly to the class.

Liberal Education
this course fulfills:
Other requirement
this course fulfills:
Criteria for
Core Courses:
Describe how the course meets the specific bullet points for the proposed core requirement. Give concrete and detailed examples for the course syllabus, detailed outline, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or method.

Core courses must meet the following requirements:

  • They explicitly help students understand what liberal education is, how the content and the substance of this course enhance a liberal education, and what this means for them as students and as citizens.
  • They employ teaching and learning strategies that engage students with doing the work of the field, not just reading about it.
  • They include small group experiences (such as discussion sections or labs) and use writing as appropriate to the discipline to help students learn and reflect on their learning.
  • They do not (except in rare and clearly justified cases) have prerequisites beyond the University's entrance requirements.
  • They are offered on a regular schedule.
  • They are taught by regular faculty or under exceptional circumstances by instructors on continuing appointments. Departments proposing instructors other than regular faculty must provide documentation of how such instructors will be trained and supervised to ensure consistency and continuity in courses.

<no text provided>
Criteria for
Theme Courses:
Describe how the course meets the specific bullet points for the proposed theme requirement. Give concrete and detailed examples for the course syllabus, detailed outline, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or methods.

Theme courses have the common goal of cultivating in students a number of habits of mind:
  • thinking ethically about important challenges facing our society and world;
  • reflecting on the shared sense of responsibility required to build and maintain community;
  • connecting knowledge and practice;
  • fostering a stronger sense of our roles as historical agents.

<no text provided>
LE Recertification-Reflection Statement:
(for LE courses being re-certified only)
<no text provided>
Statement of Certification: This course is certified for a Core, effective as of 
This course is certified for a Theme, effective as of 
Writing Intensive
Propose this course
as Writing Intensive
Question 1 (see CWB Requirement 1): How do writing assignments and writing instruction further the learning objectives of this course and how is writing integrated into the course? Note that the syllabus must reflect the critical role that writing plays in the course.

<no text provided>
Question 2 (see CWB Requirement 2): What types of writing (e.g., research papers, problem sets, presentations, technical documents, lab reports, essays, journaling etc.) will be assigned? Explain how these assignments meet the requirement that writing be a significant part of the course work, including details about multi-authored assignments, if any. Include the required length for each writing assignment and demonstrate how the 2,500 minimum word count (or its equivalent) for finished writing will be met.

<no text provided>
Question 3 (see CWB Requirement 3): How will students' final course grade depend on their writing performance? What percentage of the course grade will depend on the quality and level of the student's writing compared to the percentage of the grade that depends on the course content? Note that this information must also be on the syllabus.

<no text provided>
Question 4 (see CWB Requirement 4): Indicate which assignment(s) students will be required to revise and resubmit after feedback from the instructor. Indicate who will be providing the feedback. Include an example of the assignment instructions you are likely to use for this assignment or assignments.

<no text provided>
Question 5 (see CWB Requirement 5): What types of writing instruction will be experienced by students? How much class time will be devoted to explicit writing instruction and at what points in the semester? What types of writing support and resources will be provided to students?

<no text provided>
Question 6 (see CWB Requirement 6): If teaching assistants will participate in writing assessment and writing instruction, explain how will they be trained (e.g. in how to review, grade and respond to student writing) and how will they be supervised. If the course is taught in multiple sections with multiple faculty (e.g. a capstone directed studies course), explain how every faculty mentor will ensure that their students will receive a writing intensive experience.

<no text provided>
Statement of Certification: This course is certified as Writing Internsive effective  as of 
Course Syllabus
Course Syllabus:

For new courses and courses in which changes in content and/or description and/or credits are proposed, please provide a syllabus that includes the following information: course goals and description; format; structure of the course (proposed number of instructor contact hours per week, student workload effort per week, etc.); topics to be covered; scope and nature of assigned readings (text, authors, frequency, amount per week); required course assignments; nature of any student projects; and how students will be evaluated.

Please limit text to about 12 pages. Text copied and pasted from other sources will not retain formatting and special characters might not copy properly. The University "Syllabi Policy" can be found here

Any syllabus older than two years should be replaced with a current version when making ECAS updates.

Astro 1905 - Freshman Seminar - Fall, 2016
 Wed 3:35-5:30 Bruininks 119
Instructor - Lawrence Rudnick,  (Doc R.) 352 Fraser, x4-3396,
Office hours:  W  10:30-11:30 or by appointment, or take your changes and drop in


a) Become better acquainted with other students, a faculty member, and the U;

b) Learn about the intriguing ways that the concept of nothing is understood in science, literature, philosophy, etc.

c) Explore your own sense of what nothing means; and

d) Have fun

a) Attend all classes and participate actively in discussions
b) Post weekly web reflections on reactions to previous class
c) Do assigned readings and post thoughts and questions for discussion
d) Bring in "fascinating fact" each week on 3x5 card
e) Make one class presentation (group)
f) Write one final 500 word reflective essay


John D. Barrow, "The Book of Nothing"

Other material will be assigned on the web


All weekly assignments will be graded on a three-level basis:  Good(2) , Fair(1), Unsatisfactory (0)
An average grade of "satisfactory" will be equivalent to a B.
   Reading reflections and questions (web)   20%
   Class reflections (web) 20%
   Final essay    20%
   Class presentation     20%  (to be discussed later)
   Class participation over whole semester  20%, including 'fascinating facts'


Other reading assignments are posted on Moodle



Assigned reading prior to class

Week 1: Sept 7

Introductions, nothing in its many forms
(& 1=0)

{Chapter 1, The Book of Nothing]

Week 2: Sept 14

Creating nothing (the physical vacuum)

Chapters 0, 3

Week 3: Sept 21

Empty boxes and empty universes
Standing waves violin
Standing waves

Chapter 7, 6

Week 4: Sept 28

No class.  Get together with group members and work on project


Week 5: Oct 5

Tom Larson


Week 6: Oct 12
Dan Handeen        

Week 7: Oct 19

The Blank Slate

Leon Hsu

Week 8: Oct 26
        Nothing in Literature
Kit Gordon:

Week 9: Nov 2

Mapping Spectral Places

Christine Baeumler

Week 10: Nov 9
        Value of Nature
Steve Polasky

Week 11: Nov 16

Depression and other cheery thoughts
Student Counseling Center
Week 12: Nov 23
        Seeing Nothing
Phil Kragnes        

Week 13: Nov 30

Group presentations (guidelines)
 Non-existent phenomena:

Week 14: Dec 7

Group presentations
  Life in 2D:

Week 15: Dec  14

Group presentations
   Dark Matter/Energy:
   Are we alone?:




   Two entries each week, in separate "forums" on our MOODLE site

   CLASS REFLECTIONS are to be posted after class on Wednesday, and no later than 23:59:59 on Saturday evening.  They are  a reflection on the class just completed, approximately 100-150 words long, and should be thoughtful (and hopefully interesting).  They are not restricted to any particular content or format, as long as it is class related.  You are expected to read all of the other postings by class members, and can certainly comment on them in your own posting.

   READING REFLECT/QUESTIONS  After you have done the assigned readings, you will post a 100-150 word commentary on the readings, ending with two interesting questions that you would like to see discussed in class.  Must be posted no later than noon on Monday.  Separate out and number your two questions.
    I strongly recommend that you do NOT read other people's entries until you post yours.  Full credit will only be given for original contributions.  Your comments should be your own thoughts, reactions, not a summary of what you've read.

  FINAL ESSAY - Due December 16,  11:59:59 PM.  Approx. 500 words.  Your original reflections on the material covered in the course.  The essay should be 1) original (not a summary of what we covered, but thoughts based on the material),  2) interesting ( e.g., "a surprising insight came from connecting ...."  as opposed to "I really liked it when Prof. X. told us about...), and 3) well-written (this means that you must write/ revise, eliminating all spelling and grammar errors, have a coherence and flow to the essay, etc). I recommend that you go through your postings (and others') from the whole course to refresh your memories/ see new connections.  If you want to get comments from Doc R. on a first draft, email it to before Dec 9.

Special Needs:    Any special needs should be discussed with Doc R. before the 2nd week of class.   

Academic Standards:    You are responsible for being familiar with the academic standards policies of your college of enrollment.

Student Mental Health Services

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student&#65533;s ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Student Mental Health Website at
Strategic Objectives & Consultation
Name of Department Chair
Evan Skillman
Strategic Objectives -
Curricular Objectives:
How does adding this course improve the overall curricular objectives ofthe unit?

Strategic Objectives - Core
Does the unit consider this course to be part of its core curriculum?

Strategic Objectives -
Consultation with Other
Before submitting a new course proposal in ECAS, circulate the proposed syllabus to department chairs in relevant units and copy affiliated associate dean(s). Consultation prevents course overlap and informs other departments of new course offerings. If you determine that consultation with units in external college(s) is unnecessary, include a description of the steps taken to reach that conclusion (e.g., catalog key word search, conversation with collegiate curriculum committee, knowledge of current curriculum in related units, etc.). Include documentation of all consultation here, to be referenced during CCC review. If email correspondence is too long to fit in the space provided, paraphrase it here and send the full transcript to the CCC staff person. Please also send a Word or PDF version of the proposed syllabus to the CCC staff person.

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