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TITLE A Short History of the Universe: The Big Bang Theory and the Formation of the Universe

LEVEL I - Introductory Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION In the last few decades there has been much attention in the natural history of the Universe. This has focused particularly on how the Earth came into being and how just the right environment was produced for humans to evolve and survive. This unit will explore these issues starting from the beginning of the Universe and moving on up to the formation of the Universe we see today.

Initially the unit will introduce the main stages of development of the Universe as it expanded and eventually cooled to its current state, including a detailed description of how this happened. A layman picture of Einstein’s theory of gravity will also be introduced. Through this picture the evolution of the Universe will be explained and also backed up with supporting observational evidence. This part of the unit will end with a detailed discussion on the probability of Earth-like planets forming such that they have the right conditions for life.

The overall aims and intentions of the Unit is to introduce students to the stages of the development of the Universe, familiarize students with Einstein’s theory of gravity, and explore the probability of Earth-like planets forming with the right conditions for life.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Explain the big bang mechanism and how it took place;
- Identify clearly the underlying physical model of Einstein’s theory of gravity;
- Describe the main stages of the evolution of the Universe;
- Describe how planets are formed and what it takes to produce the conditions for an Earth-like planet;
- Analyse how the Earth developed in the past 4.5 billion years;
- Describe why finding exoplanets is important and to what extent they are distributed over the Galaxy;
- Explain how stars and planets form.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Interpret solutions to Einstein’s theory of gravity in a physical manner;
- Explain how the Universe evolved;
- Describe the formation of the various stellar objects in the Universe;
- Explain the main epochs of the big bang.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Hawking, S., A Brief History of Time, Bantam Dell Publishing Group, 1988
- Weinberg, S., The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe, Basic Books, 1993
- Hawking, S., The Universe in a Nutshell, Bantam Spectra. 2001


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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