The anecdotes, analogies, and aphorisms that weave this text together have been accumulated over twenty-eight years of teaching Columbia undergraduates. Some, no doubt, should properly have an attribution, but their sources are lost to (my) memory; to their authors, I offer an apology and thankfulness. There are a number of books that have served as sources of examples and general inspiration that I can recall; these include Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos, Lady Luck by Warren Weaver, An Introduction to Error Analysis by John R. Taylor, and the beautiful series of books on the graphical representation of data by Edward Tufte.

Several colleagues have made major contributions of time and effort to the successful completion of this work. Foremost among them is College graduate Eve Armstrong who, for over a year, has diligently surfed the web finding data and graphs to include, helped write many of the links, and offered constant advice on what will, and will not, be of interest to Columbia undergraduates. Dr. Ryan Kelsey of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning managed to complete his Ed.D. in 2003 despite the enormous amounts of time he has spent supporting the development of this book and this course; a constant source of pedagogical advice and technical wizardry, Ryan and his colleagues at CCNMTL have truly been invaluable. Dr. Robin Herrnstein, one of the inaugural Columbia Science Fellows, injected energy when mine flagged, provided insightful suggestions for each chapter, and has graced the entire Frontiers enterprise with her wit, enthusiasm, and intellect. Many of my faculty colleagues have been most generous with their time in reading drafts of chapters and offering extensive comments and suggestions; notable among these have been Profs. Don Hood, Darcy Kelley, Dave Krantz, Jacqueline van Gorkom, and Jim Simpson. Prof. Marguerite Holloway of the Columbia School of Journalism has provided a most careful reading of the entire book and numerous suggestions for improving its clarity (only some of which have, to date, been included). Dr. Deborah Martinsen and Elina Yuffa of the College Core office provided essential assistance in the final proofreading and production of the book. Finally, for the closest critiques, closest encouragement, and closest friendship, I thank my spouse, Jada Rowland.

-Prof. David Helfand

Intellectual Property Rights

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Figure/Data Credits

Chapter 1
-Reference for the age of the Universe: Spergel, D. N., et al. “First-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Determination of Cosmological Parameters,” 2003, Astrophysical Journal Supplement, 148, 175
Chapter 3
-Figs. 1, 2 & 26: Glickman, E., et. al. “FIRST-2Mass Sources below the APM Detection Threshold: A Population of Highly Reddened Quasars”. 2004, Astrophysical Journal, 607, 60
-Fig. 3: Spectrum from Cosmic Background Explorer
-Figs. 5 & 29: Data from
-Fig. 7: Broecker, W. Fossil Fuel CO2 and the Angry Climate Beast. 2003, Eldigio Press
-Figs. 16-19: Maps made using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping software from Columbia University Electronic Data Services.
-Figs. 20 & 25: Kassim, N.E. et al. “Evidence for Thermal Absorption inside Cassiopeia A.” 1995, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 455, 59
-Fig. 21: Image from Hubble Space Telescope
-Figs. 22 & 23: Rudnick, L. "Cas A's Multiple Plasmas - Catching the Wave", in ASP Conf. Proceedings, Eds. E. M. Schlegel and S. D. Vrtilek, 2002, 262, 293
-Fig. 24: Image produced by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NCEP (National Centers for Environmental Prediction)
-Fig. 27: Markoff, S. et al. “Jet Models for Flaring in Sgr A*,” in “The central 300 parsecs of the Milky Way.” Eds. A. Cotera, H. Falcke, T. R. Geballe, S. Markoff, 2003, ANS, 324, No. S1, 445
-Fig. 28: Schödel, R. et al. “A star in a 15.2-year orbit around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way” 2002, Nature, 419, 694
-Fig. 33: Glickman, E. et al. private communication
Chapter 6
-Class of 2008 data obtained from Michael Susi, Associate Director, Undergraduate Admissions & Financial Aid, Columbia College
Chapter 7
-18O/16O figure from: Broecker, W. Fossil Fuel CO2 and the Angry Climate Beast. 2003, Eldigio Press

Online Development Team Credits

This online text was created in the Spring and Summer of 2003 and 2004 in a collaboration between Professor David Helfand and the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL).

Faculty Producer
David Helfand

Executive Producers
Frank Moretti
Maurice Matiz

Project Manager
Ryan Kelsey

Interface Design & Development
Zarina Mustapha

Technology Development and Programming
Anders Pearson

Eve Armstrong

A production of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning and Columbia University.

© Copyright 2004 the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning and Columbia University.