ASTR W10 Astronomy of the Southwest. Because of the high elevation and dark, clear skies of the American Southwest, astronomy there is recognized as a natural resource and developed accordingly. Add to this the geological features that exhibit the history of the crust of our own planet, and the Southwest provides unique opportunities for the study of astronomy. This course pursues these topics both using Calvin's own observatory in Rehoboth, New Mexico, and through a series of site visits throughout Arizona and New Mexico. The region is also home to a number of distinctive Native American peoples. The course includes a cross-cultural engagement component involving interactions with members of the Navajo, Zuni, and other tribes. Visits will also be made to sites of interest to Native American astronomy, such as Chaco Canyon, Grand Canyon and Kitt Peak National Observatory. Each student prepares a presentation on one of the destinations to be presented to the group while on site. Additionally, each student does an observing project. The student learning objectives are to understand modern techniques of astronomy, the major processes that affect the development of the Earth’s crust, and the distinctive cultures of some of the Native American peoples of the region. Students are evaluated on a presentation, the making of a web page and participation in discussions. This course will fulfill the CCE requirement. Course dates: January 3 - 23. Fee: $1975. L. Molnar. Off campus.
PHYS W10 Is there Science in Science Fiction? Science fiction provides a vehicle to explore questions about ourselves within our personal and social contexts. In part, this course will critically examine the possible and impossible in selected works of science fiction literature and film based on what is currently understood in science. Students will learn to distinguish where solid science is properly used in constructing plausible story lines, where speculative science is employed, and where established principles of science are flagrantly violated. However, beyond matters of science, profound moral, philosophical and religious questions often arise in contexts more extreme and alien than an “ordinary” plot could plausibly explore. In addition to the science per se, participants will discuss and keep a journal/blog about the human themes being explored in a work. Looking at science fiction from different generations will show how it often reflects the fears and preoccupations of the era when it was created. All physical, biological and social sciences will be topics of discussion. Participants will try to discern the world view of the author or director. The course is for students in any major who enjoy imagining alternate realities and can enrich the discussions from their varied disciplines. Daily reading, writing, and discussion will be required. Reading works of science fiction and viewing of films and film clips with discussion and clarification of scientific ideas will be a significant part of the course. Evaluation will be based on daily writing, class participation and a final project in the form of a critical movie or book review posted to the class. S. Steenwyk. 8:30 a.m. to noon.
PHYS W80/IDIS W81 Biophysics. Biophysics is a growing discipline in which the tools of physics are used to elucidate biological systems. The course covers a broad spectrum of topics, including why ants can easily lift many times their own weight, how bees fly, why the cells of an elephant are the same size as those of a chipmunk, and why cats have a higher survival rate when dropped from taller heights. An additional feature of the course is that no calculators are used. All results are achieved by estimation, with a focus on learning the art of approximation. The class is highly participatory and the hope is that students will make the application of physical reasoning to biophysical systems their own so they can draw on this skill in the future. In addition to the above items, there is also a section devoted to the construction of simple biophysical simulations using the open source software package Sage, though no previous experience is required. Evaluation is based on homework, tests, paper, and labs. This course may fulfill an elective in the Biology major. Prerequisites: The course is designed to be accessible to any student with at least a semester of algebra based college physics or a year of algebra based high school physics. P. Harper. 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.