Learning Critical Thinking Through Astronomy, Week 15

Because of Thanksgiving, this week was a short week, only two days (Monday and Tuesday). However, because of a bizarre institutional policy (described here) Tuesday ran on a Friday schedule. Therefore, my MW evening astronomy section only met once, the TuTh section didn’t meet at all, and the MWF section met on two consecutive days. It’s very difficult to ensure continutity with these shenanigans at this holiday-ridden time of year. I don’t mind holidays, but sometimes they’re an unnecessary and incompetently accommodated pain in the butt.

Anyway, we continued the buildup to our huge mystery: Why do the dates of earliest/latest sunrise/sunset not coincide with the solstices as we reasoned they should? This buildup contains so much that is directly relevant to students’ lives (ours too for that matter). Many students don’t know how time is measured (I’m speaking prior to atomic clocks of course) and how the measurement of time is classically related to astronomical observation. Many more don’t know why we have time zones or what a.m. and p.m. even mean. None know that they’ve lived their entire lives according to a fictitious celestial object, the Mean Sun, that can’t be seen and doesn’t cause sticks to cast shadows yet is what every mechanical clock ever invented is designed to track. I’ve gone faster through this material so far than I have in the past and becuase of that, I’ve done more lecturing than I usually do and I don’t like that. My goal is that all of this material will eventually take the form of activities, namely the Activity04xx series, but I just haven’t committed anything but rough drafts to paper yet. I’m still experimenting with different ways to introduce these ideas.

Next week, everything will come together with an introduction to the analemma (note especially this section,  this section and this section) and from there, we can solve our huge mystery using graphical methods.

Comments and feedback are welcome as usual!


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