There are 2 term papers required for this course. The topics are not
overly technical, are designed to hone your physics expository skills,
and are actually interesting to learn about. The papers' mechanical
requirements are simple:
Describe what the ancient Greeks knew about astronomy that is consistent with modern observation. By "ancient Greeks," I mean those people who lived 2,000 years or so ago in the vicinity of modern Greece. You need not to be overly concerned with precise dates and nationalities. Describe how these ancients knew the shape and approximate size of the Earth, how they determined the approximate distance between Earth and Moon, and between Earth and Sun. To appreciate their observations, compare ancient observations with modern values. Other interesting tidbits relevant to the topic will increase the appeal of your paper.
How does a sun dial work? Clearly explain the details, including the relevance of the latitude of the working location of the dial. Since a dial tells time, i.e., gives you a number, your explanation should be quantitative, and not merely descriptive. You may consider building one and seeing how well it works. Be sure to include the data in your paper! Are vertical and horizontal dials constructed in the same way? Additionally, or alternatively to constructing a dial, you might want to explain how the real direction of "north" is determined. (It has nothing to do, by the way, with compass needles and magnets, or even with the star Polaris.) Why stop there? You could even describe how local noon is determined and then compare your observations with your watch. Even though Texas is in the Central time zone, is it actually the case that noon occurs at exactly the same time, as determined by your watch, throughout the Lone Star state? What is this business about "daylight saving" time?
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