I just received the SOLE (Student On-Line Evaluation) results for my cosmology course. Overall, I was pleased: averaging between “good” and “very good” for “the structure and organisation of the lectures”, “the approachability of” and “the interest and enthusiasm generated by” the lecturer, as well as for “the support materials” (my lecture notes), although only “good” for “the explanation of concepts given by the lecture”, with an evenly-dispersed smattering of “poor” and “very good” — you can’t please all of the people all of the time. That last, of course, is the crux of any course, and especially one with as many seemingly weird concepts as cosmology (the big bang itself, inflation, baryogenesis, …). So perhaps a bit of confusion is to be expected. Still, must try harder.

The specific written comments were mostly positive (it’s clear the students really liked those typed-up lecture notes), but I remain puzzled by comments like this: “Sometimes 2-3 mins of explanation (which is generally good) is reduced to one or two words on the board which are difficult to understand when going over notes later.” Indeed — I expect the student to take his or her own notes on those “2-3 mins of explanation”, if they were useful and interesting. But many of the comments were quite helpful, about the pace of the lectures, the prerequisites for the course, and, especially, the order in which I use the six sliding blackboards in the classroom.

So, thanks to the students for the feedback (and good luck on the exam…).

One response to “O SOLE Mio”

  1. David Brown avatar
    David Brown

    “… as many seemingly weird concepts as cosmology (the big bang itself …” What bothers me about the concept of the big bang is the question: Where did the first Planck time interval come from? I don’t like answers based on a bizarre quantum vacuum fluctuation — but this might be ignorance on my part. Einstein objected to quantum incompleteness and quantum semi-causality. I like Fredkin’s ideas of “hidden determinism” with an “alternate-universe engine”. Fredkin seems never to really gone beyond the philosophical stage. What simple new physical ideas might be the basis for the work of Fredkin and Wolfram?
    What are the most powerful criticisms of the 3 following ideas?
    (A) The maximum physical wavelength is the Planck length multiplied by the Fredkin-Wolfram constant.
    (B) For a physical change in energy-density, ∆(volume) X ∆(energy-density) is an integral multiple of the minimum positive energy.
    (C) For a physical change in power, ∆(time) X ∆(power) is an integral multiple of the minimum positive energy.
    The experimentalist might object that A, B, C are not testable. If A, B, C are true then paradigm-breaking photons might explain the GZK paradox — if not, then some other dramatic physical manifestation might occur. Is this thinking totally on the wrong track?