ISP205: Visions of the Universe Section 2
Fall 2013

Michigan State University




Course Website will contain links to course information and announcements


Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11:30 am - 12:20 pm in BPS 1410 (Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building)
First day of class: Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Instructor Information

Hendrik Schatz

Office: W211,

Cyclotron Building

Phone: 517-333-6397 (for emergencies) (preferred contact mode)

Office hours: Tuesday 4pm -5pm
I am also happy to meet after each lecture
or by appointment (send me an e-mail and we can setup a time)

How to get to my office:
Enter the cyclotron building through the main entrance on South Shaw Lane and tell the receptionist that you would like to see Hendrik Schatz for ISP205 office hours.

Course Objective

The purpose of this course is to learn about the universe: planets, stars, and galaxies, and our place in it. In the process, you will gain a broader understanding of how ideas are developed and tested in science..

Physics Learning Center in BPS 1248

The Strosacker Physics Learning Center (PLC) is a place where students can work together on resolving difficulties in understanding the course material. In addition, teaching assistants are present during certain hours that can help student groups who are stuck. The PLC is open when the BPS building is open and you are welcome to use it.

In addition there are certain hours where ISP205 teaching aides will be present. The times will be announced in class and posted on the course website.

Textbook, Mastering Astronomy, and iClicker

Textbook with Mastering Astronomy subscription (required): The Essential Cosmic Perspective (6th Edition), by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, Voit. You have three options for buying this book: (a) purchased new, it comes bundled with the required Mastering Astronomy subscription, an online system for homework and studying; (b) purchased used (you must also buy a separate access code for Mastering Astronomy online); (c) as an eText, together with Mastering Astronomy. The Mastering Astronomy course ID, to be entered on the website, will be e-mailed to you during the first week of classes and will be announced in class.

Approximate prices: New book with Mastering Astronomy ($154); Mastering Astronomy license ($60); eText with Mastering Astronomy ($94). The eText and access to Mastering Astronomy are
temporary licenses that last for one year.

iClicker (required): You must also have an iClicker for answering clicker questions in class. These will form part of your grade. The original iClicker or iClicker2 are both acceptable (the questions in class will only be multiple choice). Bring your clicker to every class. You must have your own clicker; you may never share it with another student.

In order to receive points, your iClicker must be registered in the iClicker database at with your MSU Net ID in e-mail form (

Note the following points:

Coursework and Grading:

Your final grade will be determined by the following:

Midterm Exams (40%)

There will be three midterm exams (dates will be announced on course website) consisting of multiple choice questions. The lowest of your three midterm scores will be dropped, and the remaining two exams are each worth 20% of your total grade. If you have any excused conflicts with these exam dates, such as a religious holiday or extracurricular activity, you must notify your instuctor as early as possible to arrange for an alternate exam. There are no make up exams for other reasons: illness, unexpected travel, etc. If you should miss an exam, it will count as the lowest score and will be the one dropped. Exams will cover material in the lectures, homework, and reading: it is all fair game.

Final Exam (30%)

The final exam will be on Thursday, Dec 12, from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. Half of the final exam will cover cumulatively the material through the first three midterms. The other half will cover the material since the last midterm. The final exam may not be dropped. You will not be able to take the final exam early to satisfy travel plans: tell your family now.

Homework (20%)

There are two types of homework. Short reading review questions must be submitted before class when assigned. Longer, more challenging homework questions will be assigned for each chapter. Both are completed using Mastering Astronomy. The homework will be posted online well in advance of the due date. Late reading assignments will receive zero credit. Late homework will be accepted, but with a 10% per day penalty, up to Late homework can be completed up to the final exam. Make sure you submit your homework well ahead of the deadline to avoid penalties - computer problems or any other circumstances that prevent last minute submissions will not be accepted as excuses.

Participation (10%)

Your participation grade is based on two factors: your answers to in-class clicker questions, and your work on hand-in group activities. The number of clicker questions in each lecture will vary. Clicker grades are determined for each lecture. Your lowest 7 clicker grades will be dropped. This accounts for any days that you are ill, your clicker is broken/missing batteries, or other issues. Students with a large number of excused missed class (for example, due to sports) will only get extra dropped grades if they are excused for more than 7 classes. Please do not ask for clicker credit for days that you forget your clicker|this is what the free days are for. You can only get participation credit in the course section you are registered in.

Extra Credit (extra 3%)

Each student may complete one extra credit assignment, worth up to 3% of their grade. Possible projects and other information will be provided.



Grade Scale

The final grade in the course will be assigned on the following guaranteed scale:

Grade > 90% --- 4.0

82% < Grade < 90% --- 3.5

74% < Grade < 82% --- 3.0

66% < Grade < 74% --- 2.5

58% < Grade < 66% --- 2.0

50% < Grade < 58% --- 1.5

42% < Grade < 50% --- 1.0

Grade < 42% --- 0.0


No grades will be curved, but these boundaries may move downward (I will only make this decision after the final; do not ask me before then). Note that rounding does not change your grade level.
For example, 89.6% is a 3.5, not a 4.0.

Extra Help

Do not hesitate to come to oce hours, make an appointment, or send an email if you have questions. If you have any concerns its best to address them as early as possible.

Academic Honesty

This course is governed by MSU rules on proper academic conduct. All work must be your own. What this means specifically for this course:

Any violation of these rules can result in an undroppable zero on the exam or assignment in question and referral to your dean.

Class Conduct

I expect all students to conduct themselves with civility in the classroom and to not disturb the learning environment for other students. Students who repeatedly disrupt the class will receive a zero for participation.


Any student with accommodations approved through RCPD should bring their VISA forms to me as early as possible in the semester. In addition, students who need extra
time on exams should request proctoring at RCPD at the start of the semester to avoid issues later.