Cosmology Course

The Whole Shebang :: An Introduction to Cosmology

NOTE :: Originally a Barnes U Noble University online course I completed Dec. 2001, immediately after the 9-11 tragedy.

Visit today’s: Barnes & – B&N Book Clubs


The Big Bang, anti-matter, black holes, white dwarves, quasars, wormholes, supernovas — this course will provide students with an understanding of these terms and other basics of cosmology, as well as with insights into our ever-changing discoveries about the origin, structure, and natural order of our universe. We’ll explore our current understanding of how the universe grew from an infancy that produced the cosmic microwave background to its current life-producing adolescence. The story would not be complete without a discussion of how the universe may end (or not end) in the far distant future. In order to understand our aging universe, we will delve into the physics of inflation, relativity, nucleo-genesis, and even the Standard Model of how all these forces fit together.


This course will be understandable to anyone with a general science vocabulary. Familiarity with high-school-level physics is a plus.


  • To gain a perspective on how our understanding of the Universe’s creation has evolved
  • To understand the observational basis for the Big Bang and its appendices, inflation and string theory
  • To review the great mysteries of dark matter and dark energy
  • To look into the strange realm of quantum physics and glimpse how it may lead us into a many-dimensional world of multiple universes.

Course Creator and Instructor

Pamela L. Gay is an observational astronomer and educational astronomy writer in Austin, Texas. Her research interests are variable stars and galaxies in clusters.

Course Materials:

image001 The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report

If you’ve ever wondered “what’s out there?” or “how did it all begin?” this is the book for you. The Whole Shebang describes, in detail, all known facets of the universe, including its structure, and various contemporary theories regarding how it came to be. From an objective point of view, it gives the pros and cons of each theory. Issues such as dark matter, and all areas of quantum physics are explored as well.

Additional Materials:

image002 The Universe in a Nutshell

One of our foremost astronomers takes a close look and the very latest data collected around the world, as well as its enormous implications for our universe.

image005 The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins

The revolutionary physicist Alan Guth takes us back to before the beginning of time itself to illustrate his groundbreaking theory of cosmic inflation. The ramifications of Guth’s concepts are still being worked out today, and his book gives us an inside look.

image007 Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe

While the forces that created and define the universe seem extaordinarily complex, Martin Rees boils them down to six elementary equations. In so doing, he brings our understanding to a more primal and instinctive level.

image009 The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
String theory is the latest step in the march toward the ultimate theory, one that can adequately explain the universe on the largest and smallest possible levels. Columbia University physicist Brian Greene is our guide on a fascinating journey.