FYS: Space, Time and the Cosmos

This is a page for a First Year Seminar which I taught for the first time in fall 2016. I am maintaining these pages as a useful collection of resources for interested students and members of the public, and adding material from time to time. I do expect to teach the FYS again sometime, but probably not in the 17-18 academic year.

For information on the UC Davis first year seminar program please look here: http://fys.ucdavis.edu/

REQUIRED TEXTBOOK: The required textbook for the course is The Fabric of the Cosmos. Here is a list of additional recommended (optional) books.


  1. I want to create an environment where students feel free to really open up and pursue their curiosity. I want them not to worry about grades or about who knows more or less than them.
  2. There are people from all walks of life who enjoy talking at length about deep questions about the cosmos. I want this seminar fundamentally to be a place where students can experience that joy, with the benefit of learning from an expert what science currently has to say about such questions.
  3. I want the seminar to be enjoyable for students who are non-science majors as well as science majors. I'll foster an environment where students of different backgrounds will enjoy collaborating together, even if they do not start out with good feelings about group work.
  4. Student responsibilities:
    1. Reading: I will select a suitable a popular level book, and assign one chapter of reading per week. As the course progresses I may (at the student's request) make alternative assignments to individuals or groups who wish to follow up on specific topics.
    2. Reflection/Participation: Students will have several options to document their reflections on the subject and to participate in class discussions. These will include journaling, participation in discussions online and in class. These will emphasize the student's personal explorations and discovery on the topics of the course, and are not expected to be technical in nature. No prior knowledge of the subject is expected. I will make a point of creating a welcoming environment where participation is fun for everyone, regardless of background.
  5. I imagine the course will have an active web component where various discussions can continue online, including those stimulated by alternate readings. I am hopeful that the new Canvas system will offer some interesting possibilities.

REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK: I have moved past the initial phase of feedback, and have selected the required textbook. But I am still very interested in hearing suggestions, and learning about additional books that people like. I am especially curious to know of books that have really captivated someone who was not so sure they liked science before they read it.

  • Please mail feedback to ajalbrecht@ucdavis.edu with "FYS feedback" in the subject.