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Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe

Seven Ideas that Shook the UniversePhysics 11030, better known as Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe, is the most popular course at Kent for satisfying the Kent Core Requirement in the Basic Sciences. In Fall 2006 - Spring 2007, more than 3,600 Kent State students took Seven Ideas, not counting the various additional sections offered during the summer terms.

LATE 1990s: In a campus-wide survey reported in the Daily Kent Stater, the top three "most interesting courses" were Human Sexuality, Seven Ideas and another physics offering: Frontiers in Astronomy.

MAY 2003: In the "Best of Kent" survey conducted by the Daily Kent Stater, and reported in the last issue for Academic Year 02/03, Seven Ideas actually beat Human Sexuality for the title of "Best Elective Class". An offering from the Geography Department about wine came in third. Among college-age students, how is it possible that physics came out ahead of both sex and alcohol? If you are a KSU student, then sign-up for the class to find out!

DECEMBER 2006: In a survey of members of the Kent Alumni Association, Seven Ideas was overwhelmingly voted the "most memorable class at Kent State". Seven Ideas garnered 56% of the vote, thus eclipsing all other choices put together.

SEPTEMBER 2009: In a study of intro-level physics enrollments across all 700+ physics departments in the US, Kent State comes out as #1 on the basis of two different ways to compare the popularity of introductory physics courses at different universities. Our top ranking owes a great deal to the exceptional reputation of Seven Ideas among students at Kent.

The textbook Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe is authored by KSU Profs. Nathan Spielberg (now retired) and Bryon Anderson (also now retired). It has been translated into Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Please note that the cover of the current edition (3rd) of the textbook is different from the one reproduced here (2nd edition).

What are these seven ideas?
  • Copernican Astronomy
  • Newtonian Mechanics & Causality
  • The Energy Concept
  • Entropy & Probability
  • Electromagnetism & Einstein's Relativity
  • Quantum Theory and the End of Causality
  • Conservation Principles and Symmetries

The course, which is non-mathematical, puts each of these ideas into its historical and philosophical context, and explains how it came about. It presents historical facts and connections to literature and philosophy, and assesses each idea's impact on the way we think about time, space and matter.