PHYS 8803 W

Cosmology & Galaxies @ Georgia Tech

Prof. John Wise

Course Objectives

In this class, we will learn about the relevant physics that govern that cosmological processes and galaxy formation and evolution. We will focus on cosmology for the first third of the semester, and galaxy formation and evolution for the remainder of the term. We will apply physics ideas from the four major disciplines (classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and electromagnetism) to describe observed behavior in galaxies and their cosmological setting.

Overview of topics covered:

  1. Cosmology – Inflation, Big Bang Nucleosynthesis, Primordial Perturbations
  2. Structure Formation – Gravitational Collapse, Large-scale clustering, Gas dynamics and radiative cooling
  3. Galaxy Formation – Disk galaxies, Galaxy mergers, Elliptical galaxies, Active galaxies


Course: PHYS 8803W, Cosmology & Galaxies, Fall 2017, MWF 11:15-12:05pm, Howey S107, Slack channel

Instructor: Prof. John Wise, Office: Boggs 1-61, Email: jwise [ at ]

Teaching Assistant: None.

Office Hours: Tuesday 2-4pm or by appointment


Galaxy Formation and Evolution, Authors: Mo, van den Bosch, & White. ISBN: 0521857937 (author's website, Amazon)

course grades

The course grade will be entirely determined from your scores on the homework sets, projects, final paper, and class presentations. There will be no tests or final exams as this class is project-based.

Final letter grades: A = >89.5%, B = 79.5-89.4%, C = 69.5-79.4%, D = 59.5-69.4%, F = <59.4%. All decimal places smaller than tenths of a percentage point are truncated.

  • Three projects: 20% each
  • Seminal paper presentation: 15%
  • Term paper: 15%
  • Term paper presentation: 5%
  • Peer evaluation of term presentations: 5%


There will be three projects, each worth 20% of the final grade, during the semester. One will concern cosmology; one will concern large scale structure, and the other will be about galaxies. Projects are due in electronic form (upload them on T-square) at 6pm on the specified due date. Late assignments are not accepted unless previous arrangements have been made. Students are encouraged to work and discuss projects together, but the written work must be your own.

The three projects, composed of an analytical portion, a computational portion, and your interpretation of the results, will be due

  • Cosmology Project (due Wednesday, October 11)
  • Large Scale Structure Project (due Friday, November 3)
  • Galaxies Project (due Wednesday, November 29)

Project descriptions will be posted on T-square approximately one month before the due date.