Cluster 4: Waves: The Physics of Sound and the Astrophysics of Light

Cluster 4: Waves: The Physics of Sound and the Astrophysics of Light

Prerequisite: Students must have completed Chemistry and Trigonometry


Stephanie Bailey, PhD, Physics UCSC

Puragra (Raja) Guhathakurta, PhD, Astronomy, UCSC

Waves are prevalent in nature so understanding the physics of waves is important. It enables a description of many different types of physical phenomena. For example, the standing waves made by a plucked guitar string have striking similarities to electromagnetic waves that carry important information about the physics of objects in space: planets, stars, galaxies, dark matter, and dark energy. We will explore the physics of wave phenomena in these two seemingly different regimes and learn about the implications that such physics has on music and astrophysics. By operating telescopes and engaging in hands-on experiments, students will learn about mechanical waves which are responsible for music and electromagnetic waves that tell us about eclipsing binary stars, star clusters, and star formation and dark matter in galaxies. 

Transferable Skills: Tools for Success

It may or may not surprise you that being a university researcher requires a whole host of skills outside of the specific scientific knowledge required of your chosen discipline or specialty. It requires communication skills such as the ability to present your work in writing and orally. It requires competencies in the realm of information technology including the ability to find and judge (the validity of) information and use a variety of hardware and software tools (e.g. spreadsheets, databases, statistics software, other data manipulation tools). It requires all of those skills to effectively conduct research such as data collection, analysis and interpretation, critical thinking and problem solving as well as the ability to conduct laboratory and/or field work. And, of course, a baseline competency in English, science, mathematics and computers is critical. 

The governing mission of the UCSC COSMOS Transferable Skills course is to promote students’ future academic (and professional) success through the exploration and development of transferable skills: i.e. those competencies that students develop while in school which facilitate academic achievement, the eventual transition into the work-force and which are applicable in many other life situations.