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Shopping Around

Is the Course Catalog looking fatter than usual? The Crimson has done your work for you: Your guide to the 11 coolest classes offered this semester.

For example, Barnett says one section will take students outside to measure the speed of sound using the reflection of sound waves off of buildings.

And almost all lectures will include demonstrations with musical instruments. All of the teaching fellows are musicians, from a jazz pianist to a classical violinist to a member of a local rock band.

According to Heller, Professor Huth is "very good on the banjo."

"Finding physicists who are also musicians was a very high priority for this course," Huth says of the TFs.

--Imtiyaz H. Delawala

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Seeing Stars

Astronomy 2: "Celestial Navigation" is the oldest continually offered course at Harvard and its students use the same instruments that were in vogue when the course was first offered in 1897.

Students operate sextants outside of their dormitories, navigate their way back to Boston from a boat, decipher nautical almanacs, and learn to find their position from any point in the world.

As they use the historical scientific instruments, students also study the learning process. The class is offered jointly with the Graduate School of Education (GSE) and teaches the value of hands-on learning, providing students with several models to understand the universe, including an inflatable planetarium, plastic spheres, and a sun dance.

"It is one thing to be told that the earth revolves in such a way as to make the stars apparently revolve around Polaris from East to West over the course of a night," Kraig G. Salvesen '01 writes in an e-mail. "It is another thing to camp out with friends on the roof of the Smithsonian Center playing the guitar and actually watch it happen."

Philip M. Sadler, Wright lecturer on navigation in the astronomy department and assistant professor of education at GSE, has taught the course for about ten years. He estimates that two thirds of the 15 to 35 students the course usually draws are undergraduates, and the remaining third come from various graduate schools.

"Most people think of astronomy as something interesting to think about but that doesn't have real world applications, but navigation is a huge real world application of astronomy," he says.

His students from the past ten years have told him that the course has the greatest feeling of community because all of the activities are done in small groups.

"When the course description says lecturing is kept to a minimum, what it really means is that there are perhaps two or three lectures the entire semester," says former Astronomy 2 student Rebecca J. Levi '01.

Sadler agrees. "We go out on a boat and they have to find their way back to Boston, so they'd better know how to work together!"

--Erica R. Michelstein

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