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I took Astronomy 5 (not physics) with Hansen in Fall 2015. I highly recommend the course, as it is a relatively easy and extremely interesting GE.
Weekly homework assignments do a convenient service to you by keeping you up to date on the course material, as so long as you put reasonable effort into them, you'll do an effective job of getting the material to "stick" for the tests. Nice that this 30% HW grade contributes to that. The key is to put your all into every homework assignment - getting 100% of the questions right every week is essential to securing a solid A in the class. When in doubt on a question, don't leave it up to the grader to see where you're coming from like I did. Ask your TA on those before you turn it in to make sure you're getting the controversial/questionable ones right. Missing a couple questions on HW here and there turns out to have as much effect as missing a test question, so that's a crucial mistake to avoid.
Prof Hansen's lectures are very dry and very boring - the subject material is exciting, thought-provoking, and engaging, but I found the professor to be quite the mumbler. There really isn't much point in going to lecture, as the PowerPoint slides are really the only useful tool that will come from the lecture (and those are available online). It is clear that Hansen is very intelligent and fond of Astronomy, but his lecturing is just too dry to be worthwhile.
Weekly homework assignments are worth 30%, one midterm worth 30%, and the final is worth 40%.
I studied the night before the midterm pretty hard and as a result found it to be pretty doable. With some luck and time spent poring over that 57 question Multiple Choice test, I ended up with a 98 on it. The average score was about 85, however.
The final was noticeably more difficult, as after what I felt to be also a very strong amount of studying I ended up with a solid B. The average was an 80 and the high grade was a 92, so this one was definitely tougher.
To do well on the exams, go over both lecture notes and the textbook. Start with lecture notes and get the gist of the concepts, then find all of those concepts in the book and read a little bit about them and why they're important. Many of the textbook's details will prove to be pretty important on the tests.
There doesn't appear to be any curving in the class, so it frankly doesn't seem quite as easy as is suggested by those who call it a blue backpack class. The homework is a nice buffer for your grade, but you better be getting nearly all of it right, as well a getting at the very least an A- on the tests if you want to nab a solid A. I did end up with a solid A in the class but I doubt I made the cutoff by much, even with high scores on the homework and midterm.
Overall, this is an excellent class to take. My favorite part was the interesting material, since the idea of Life in the Universe is really fun to explore and it results in a class that is less dependent on quantitative concepts. Be prepared to put some reasonable effort in if you want an A, but there's no doubt that it's definitely within reach.
i took this class in fall 06 and i can say it was worth it. Although his lectures can be VERY boring, the material is quite interesting. The class itself is not very hard. His homework can be tedious but at least all of the answers are in the book. Also, his exams are free response with a few multiple choice questions. If you go to lecture and skim the book while doing ur homework you will get an A.
Prof Hansen\355s lectures can be boring, because he lectures straight out of the book, but he does cuss in class once in a while. His hw assignments were very easy and practical; you could learn something occasionally from it when you apply physics and math to astronomy for the problems. The midterm and final were straight-forward and easy, they were mostly conceptual questions, with maybe 1 or 2 calculations to conduct. Whenever he was in his office he was always down to chat or help me out. He is awesome, period.
Mixed feelings about him:
Lectures are very interesting, go at a good pace, and are always comprenensible. His midterm was pretty tough, for two reasons: one of which was the TA's fault, however. Problem was that he was not very clear about what he was going to test us on. So we get the test, and there is a problem about gravitational redshift on it. A problem which required the redshift formula, which I don't think anyone thought we needed to memorize.
Anyway, he was very lenient about it all and actually let our final count for 70% of the grade instead of the midterm for 30 and the final for 40 if it ended up helping us out.
For the final he was very clear what we were expected to know, so no problems there. It was actually one of the easiest tests I've taken.
Homeworks were always interesting, usually relevant, and usually challenging enough to get you thinking, but easy enough to be doable, though I can think of two problems that were just ridiculous.
It also bothered me that he never gave out a syllabus. He just wrote "Syllabus: follow the book" on the board the first day of class. Said nothing about what part of the book or what the homeworks would be like, or when exams would be, or when he had office hours. (though he was in his office very often)
Interestingly, I never bought the book, borrowed it from a friend twice, and never had any problems from that. Same was the case with Astro 81: the book is entirely optional.
I took Astronomy 5 w/ Hansen and I really enjoyed this class. Hansen's a nice guy and is available to answer your questions. There are weekly homework assignments that aren't too bad if you start on them early rather than waiting till the last minute. The midterm is no problem if you pay attention in class and read the book. The only small issue I had was the final was REALLY long (15 pages!) and is worth 40% of your grade. But if you study well, its not that bad. Getting a A on it is possible (I did).
This class overall was great. There was less of a focus on math, and a lot more focus on concepts that make the class interesting. This class covers everything from evolution to geology to conceptual engineering. Professor Hansen was very clear in what he was teaching and was very helpful for all questions asked in class. The exams were extremely fair and we were given 24 hours to complete them. They were a bit long, but I prefer to have an extensive test that allows me to show what I know, than a small test especially when I have 24 hours to complete it. Overall both the midterm and final only took about 2 hours to complete.
Easiest class ever. Just do the Kudu hw, go to lecture, and discussion and you'll get an A+. If you skip discussion don't do any of the homework reading so long as you paid a lot of attention in lecture you'd still probably get an A (or even an A+)