PHYS 298: Black Holes in the Universe

 Section 001, Spring 2011



Lecture:  Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Location: Rita Hollings Science Center, room 126 

Time: MWF 2:00pm - 2:50pm



Instructor: Dr. George Chartas

Office: 129 RHSC

Office hours: MW : 4:00 - 5:00 pm  F : 11:00am - 12:00

Phone: (843) 953-3609



A preliminary outline of the course can be found at the SCHEDULE website. Some of this material is subject to change and this site will be constantly up-dated so please check it before each class.




Required materials:

The required textbook for the course is

GravityŐs Fatal Attraction, Black Holes in the Universe Second Edition by Mitchell Begelman and Martin Rees.


Recommended textbook for the course is Black Holes and Time Warps, EinsteinŐs Outrageous Legacy by Kip S. Thorne


Course Objectives:

Ever wonder what it would be like to cross the event horizon of a black hole, or whether time travel was possible?  Find out how you can travel in a round trip close to the speed of light to find out that your friend has aged when you return.  Will the Large Hadron Collider create mini black holes and is it safe?  Learn about how black holes drag space along as they rotate and do so with Ňno hairÓ.


This course will cover the strange predicted properties of black holes and describe observations of objects that we think harbor them. Here is a brief overview of the topics that will be covered. A more detailed description is presented on my schedule website:



-  Einstein's theory of special relativity (length contraction, time dilation)


-  EinsteinŐs theory of general relativity (equivalence principle, spacetime, predicting black holes)


-  Stellar Evolution and the fate of stars (Brown Dwarfs, White Dwarfs, Neutron stars, Black holes)


-  Detection of stellar mass black holes


-  Accretion onto black holes


-  Galaxies and their Nuclei


-  Dark Matter and how to detect it.


-  Quasars and Jets


-  Gamma Ray Bursts, The most powerful explosions in the Universe


-  The Black hole in the center of the Milky Way


-  Gravitational Waves

-  Feedback between black holes and their environments


-  Miniholes and the Hawking Effect

-  Inside Black Holes (Singularities)

-  Black Holes in the Laboratory?


I recommend that you review the material before it is presented in class. This will help you to better understand the concepts and enjoy the class. I expect your active participation in the class.














CREDIT: This is a three-credit course.


PREREQUISITES: This course is designed for non-science majors. Advanced mathematics is not required; only high-school level math will be used occasionally.

PRESENTATIONS:  Every student will be expected to contribute to a 15-minute presentation on a topic related to material covered in the course. You will work in groups of three to prepare and present the research talk.

The presentation may be in PowerPoint, keynote, overhead or blackboard. It should include a list of references and each student should present a portion of the talk.


There will be three dates near the end of the semester allocated to these research presentations.




Midterm Exams and Quizzes:

There will be 2 midterm exams over the semester. Several quizzes will be given during lectures. The quizzes will be based on material already presented in lectures. There will be a final exam that will cover most of the material presented in the lectures.






Your final grade will be calculated as follows:




Presentation and Participation







Your number grade will be converted into a letter grade as follows.





























Special Needs

If you have any special needs or disabilities that might require special arrangements to be made for any aspect of this course, please let me know at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of them.

Class Policies:

Cellular technology:  Please respect your classmates and keep your cellular devices off.


Violations of the College of Charleston Honor Code (including cheating or attempted cheating) will be referred to the Office of Student Affairs for adjudication. Examples of cheating include copying test or quiz answers, using cellular technology to communicate information during a test or quiz, copying homework answers verbatim from an external source.