MWF 9-10 · WEL 3.502 · Unique No. 47635

carina nebula

Carina Nebula (ESO)


John Scalo

RLM 15.318 · TBA · (512) 471-6446 · email

Courses - Fall '10  |  Course Website

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Final letter grades: Final grades are assigned on the basis of A=87-100, B=78-86.9, C=67-77.9, D=55-66.9, F<55. Final percentages will not be “rounded up.” For example, if you end up with a 77.8, you will receive a C. The university gives instructors the choice of using “plus and minus” grades. I find these confusing and subjective, with just as many “minuses” as “pluses,” so I will not be using them.

Just under the cutoff? If at the end of the semester you are just under the cutoff for a grade (by, say, one, or two, or 0.3, percentage points), whether you are just under a D, say, or an A, do not ask me to lower the cutoff--this is unfair to all concerned. Cutoffs will not be lowered to accommodate your individual score. Scores at the end of the semester are not rounded up, so, for example, a 77.7 will get you a C (plus).

Departmental policies: Please download and read the “Memo to Undergraduate Astronomy Students regarding Astronomy Courses” at if you did not receive it in class.

Special requests: The University of Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471- 6259, 471-6441 TTY.

If you have any other special request of any sort (excluding those not allowed, like lowering the grade cutoff), please put the request in writing, preferably by email, or call me on the phone. Please state clearly and explicitly your request and why it is reasonable. Include a phone number so that I can contact you about your request. Obviously (I hope) this procedure does not apply to minor requests such as “Could you stop twitching so much during your lectures?” Such requests or comments are useful and welcome . Any suggestions for improvement of the class as we proceed will be greatly appreciated--an email is usually the easiest way.

Attendance: 1. The exams are weighted toward the lecture material, as well as the textbook readings, and the “notes” that I will make available to you are only outlines or abstracts of my lectures, so attendance is beneficial, although perhaps not as much as more sleep. 2. Frequent absences will affect your earned points on pop quizzes (10% of grade).

Suggestions for success: Read ahead, in the textbook, before each lecture, even if it is merely to skim the relevant pages and look at the pictures. Besides preparing you for the lecture, it will prepare you for the pop quizzes. Bring a printout of the pdf outline of lectures to class, and take notes to include the additional material from lectures. You will find it difficult to do well on the exams if you only study the textbook and pdf outline. Most importantly, look at or think or talk about the course material as often as possible, even if it means 15 minutes every day--familiarity is remarkably important for understanding a subject conceptually. Finally, attempt to talk about the material, to yourself or someone else, or an inanimate object if necessary. My experience is that students who can explain the material in everyday language do well on my exams. The subset of students who think they have studied hard and understood the material and nevertheless do much more poorly than expected on exams are almost always those who cannot articulate the material themselves. The biggest single danger in this course, as in most courses, is to fall far enough behind, either through lack of reading or spotty attendance, that you cannot really understand the material being covered. A related danger is to study the material infrequently and irregularly (e.g. once per week). Subsequent chapters will almost certainly seem obscure, and the effect becomes seriously cumulative if you allow this state of affairs early in the semester, when we cover the most “physics-oriented” material that you will need throughout the rest of the book. I realize that all instructors probably say this about not falling behind, but it is one of the most important factors in controlling your success in most classes, and probably the most important factor in this one.

Dropping the course (see General Information, ch.4, for details of required approvals, and authoritative documentation of the dates given here).
Monday Aug 30, is the last day of the official add/drop period; after this you need approval of the department chair and usually the student’s dean. The 12th class day, Friday Sept 10, is the last day to add or drop courses and receive a refund. The 20th class day, Wed Sept22 is the last day to drop without a possible academic penalty. After the end of the 4th week of class, and until the deadline for dropping courses (Wed Oct 20), a student wishing to drop a course will get the forms from the Dean’s office and ask the instructor to complete a drop form that assigns a Q (ONLY if average grade is D or better) or an F. After Oct 20, students are only allowed to drop for urgent and substantial nonacademic reasons (e.g. extended health-related problems or family emergencies). For non-academic reasons, a written appeal must be presented in the Student Division of the Dean’s Office.

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