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Module details

MA123-4-FY: Life, the Universe & Everything: The Principles of Modern Science

Year: 2014/15
Department: Mathematical Sciences
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes

Supervisor: Dr Andrew Harrison, email: harry@essex.ac.uk  
Teaching Staff: Dr Andrew Harrison, email: harry@essex.ac.uk  
Contact details: Miss Claire Watts, Departmental Administrator, Tel. 01206 873040, email cmwatts (Non essex users should add @essex.ac.uk to create the full email address) 

Module is taught during the following terms

Module Description

The course gives a wide-ranging introduction to many of the very important ideas in contemporary science. Although the course will be given by experts from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, there are no mathematical prerequisites to the course. The course is aimed at students from all backgrounds who wish to learn more about things like Evolution, Quantum Theory, Relativity and other key ideas.

Syllabus Topics covered will include cosmology, the nature of space and time and reality at very small and very large scales, life in the Universe, evolution, DNA, genes and the human genome;

On completion of the course students should: have developed a broad knowledge of the important principles that underpin modern science with a more detailed appreciation of some of these ideas.

Learning and Teaching Methods

The course consists of 40 lectures, with two lectures being given each week throughout the Autumn and Spring Terms. These will be supplemented by fortnightly classes. In the summer term 3 revision lectures are given.


50 per cent Coursework Mark, 50 per cent Exam Mark

Information about coursework deadlines can be found in the "Coursework Information" section of the Current Students, Useful Information Maths web pages: Coursework and Test Information

Exam Duration and Period

2:00 hour exam during Summer Examination period.

Other information

Each term students will submit an essay (2x15%) and sit one multiple-choice test (2x10%), giving a 50% coursework total. The remaining 50% is for the examination, based on a choice of essays.

Available independently to Socrates/IP students spending all relevant terms at Essex.


  • Main Text:
  • J. Gribbin. Science, A History, Penguin
  • Supplementary Reading:
  • L. Lederman and C. Hill, Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe, Prometheus
  • R. Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford University Press
  • B. Rosenblum and F. Kuttner, Quantum Enigma, Oxford University Press
  • B. Schumm, Deep Down Things, The Johns Hopkins University Press
  • M. Kumar, Quantum, Icon Books
  • S. Singh, Big Bang, Harper Perennial
  • S. Carroll, The Particle at the End of the Universe: The Hunt for the Higgs, Oneworld Publications
  • R. Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Touchstone Book
  • J. Coyne, Why Evolution is True, Oxford
  • A. M. Leroi, Mutants, Harper Perennial
  • D. Fairbanks, Relics of Eden, Prometheus Books
  • R. Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, Transworld Publishers
  • S. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Quercus
  • S. Carroll, The Making of the Fittest, Norton
  • N. Shubin, Your Inner Fish, Allen Lane
  • N. Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, Profile Books
  • R. Dawkins, The Ancestors Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life, Pheonix
  • B. Bryson, A Short History of Everything, Black Swan
  • N. Lane, Power, Sex, Suicide, Oxford

Further information

Should you have any queries about the Module Directory pages, please contact the Course Record Team, Systems Administration Office, Academic Section; email: crt (non Essex users should add @essex.ac.uk)