Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]

For the Week of 12/3/08

Assignment 13

Those who have given presentations need to get me a one page thing I can post on the web.  Just extract one juicy tid bit… If you have a picture that is interesting… just throw it in a .doc and point out some details and how those details relate to your topic.  Nothing too complicated and definitely don’t give me anything boring.  I want these asap.



Modern Theories

   Einstein Crush;email.jpg

-----------Everybody finish the Bown book [A Most Damnable Invention…] over break-----------

The chapter on Haber is really fascinating.



Read and/or listen to Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation: Eisehnower-Farwell-audio & text.  [You could also choose to download an MP3 here.]  There are video clips of this speech available on the web, but most have been edited and the unedited ones I ran into are of horrible quality. It is interesting to note that this was a TV broadcast. This is perhaps the most famous presidential farewell address ever. The documentary, “Why We Fight,” is based on this speech.  It’s a pretty good movie for anyone interested in the nexus between industry, technology, politics, and war.

                From approximately this point onward, you had to get good makeup to make a good speech.  See this short news story on the Nixon-Kennedy debate, in which Tricky Dick, becomes Sticky Dick: Kennedy-Nixon-SweatFest.



Nixon- Wiping sweat from his upper lip.


This is a rather interesting radio segment on denial. 

This is interesting in relation to why people deny Darwinian-style evolution, or deny global warming, or deny the holocaust, or deny “having sexual relations with that woman [Ms. Lewinsky].”

radio link


Coincidentally, a story on Copernicus was aired on the same program:

radio link 2

[Both links are to “The World,” a BBC, PRI, and WGGH production.]

Because I didn’t quite get to everything I wanted, this time you have a choice between two assignments: either a Darwin oriented assignment or History of Modern Physics assignment.  It’s your call.

Assignment Option A – Darwiniana

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published 145 years ago this week. It was published Nov. 24, 1859.


There are lots of short little readings here.  I suggest you take notes as you go, so that you can keep track of who is saying what. This will make your essay that much easier to put together.  [Most of you will be writing this essay, since most of you owe me some homework.]


Read Chatper 16, “Life Itself” in McClellan and Dorn (Chapter 15 in older editions).


Read Owen’s short article on a global evolution survey: Owen_EvolutionSUS.htm.


Read this really short article by Belluz: Belluz-Human_Evolution_Is_Over.htm. Think about the Leigh reading from last week on Malthus as you read it. What do you think about this argument?  What is meant by “Leading Geneticist”?  Feel free to write a letter to the editor [me] on this article and your larger understanding of the issues it engages.


Read either …

…this opinion piece by Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel: Diamond_Worst_Human_Mistake-84KB.pdf,


…these two reviews of Clark’s Farewell to Alms, a Malthusian exploration of human economic history: Wade-Cohen_rev_Clark-Industrial-Rev-Theory-509KB.pdf,


Usually in a class such as this we would read some Darwin and talk Galapagoan finches.  I am hoping that you all have studied Darwinian theory enough to have the basics down and the textbook covers that to some extent.  [Remember: variation, environmental selection, and tons and tons of time.]  Instead I want to look at two slightly different things.  The first is the more unpleasant side of Darwin in his relation to non-whites, and then a brief look at Wallace, the other guy who came up with Darwinian theory, but didn’t get nearly as much credit (nobody calls it Wallacian Theory).


Read this short essay on Darwin and the question of how to ethically or morally judge people from the past: Newsome_Darwin_Descent_Racism-DRAFT-96KB.pdf.  (You need not read all the misc. after the bibliography.)  Do you agree or disagree with this clown?


Look over and read a couple of pages from this chapter from Darwin’s Descent of Man (Part II, Ch. 21). The quotation from my paper is from this, at the very end. Feel free to read other parts as well.  (I have posted .pdf from the1871 ed.): Darwin_Descent_Ch21a-4.6MB.pdf


Read this short piece by Wallace, the forgotten Darwinist: Wallace_HowToCivilizeSavages.htm.  Notice how it compares to the passages from Darwin. 


Read: Judson, on Wallace: Judson-Wallace_Should_Hang.htm. You don’t have to read all the comments that follow the actual article.


Write: There is a lot of good compare and contrast material here.  Write something that incorporates several of these readings. 

Assignment Option B – Modern Physics


:earliest.jpg         ::::::Downloads:Einstein-AtomBomb-TimeJuly1,1946.jpg

Baby Albert, born 1879 (died 1955)                             The July 1, 1946 issue of TIME.


1905 was Einstein’s huge breakthrough year: 4 [5 if you include his dissertation] very important papers were published…

1) “On a Heuristic Point of View concerning the Production and Transformation of Light.” [Photoelectric effect - What does it mean that something is red hot?]

2) “On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat.” [On Brownian Motion - What makes all all those tiny particles dance?]

3) “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” [Special Relativity- nonaccelerated time frames - The effects of speed on measurement.]

4) “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon Its Energy Content?” [Mass-Energy equivalence: E=mc2]  [Not always included as one of his 1905 barnburners.]


If you want to read any of these papers translated into English, click here.


Keep in mind, that even though paper #1 and paper #4 have something to do with quantum concepts, Einstein had almost nothing to do with the atomic bomb, no matter what TIME magazine wants you to believe. There is much made of his letters encouraging and later discouraging the atomic program, but closer scrutiny suggests that his views did not really affect policy very much if at all.  Einstein didn’t even have security clearance in the Manhattan Project, the project he is said to have fathered.  He was seen as too much of a lefty pacifist to get clearance.  Being German probably didn’t help much either.  Similarly, be suspicious of anyone claiming to understand where Einstein stood on God or god.  He is all over the map. Anyway, why do we care what he thinks on religious topics?  Do we ask the pope to explain Schrodinger’s equation? And yet… it is interesting. Nullius in verba my ass.

Read chapter 18, “The New Aristotelians,” in McClellan and Dorn. (Chapter 17 in older editions.)  


Read Gamow: pp. 1-5 and then choose from chapters 1, 2, or 3.  Those of you who do not have much quantum mechanics under your belt, I’d go with chapter 1.  But if chapter 1 seems too easy and familiar, go to chapter 2 and if that is familiar, go to chapter 3.  Feel free to read all three if you want.  Don’t read chapter 3 if you really don’t understand chapters 1 and 2, it won’t make much sense.



Read these two accounts of how Einstein’s general theory of relativity was used to explian the problem with the orbit of Mercury and other stuff:





Optional: This is a fascinating essay on how philosophy played a role in Bohr’s physics and vice versa:

            Holton; 99-139: Holton_Thematic-Complementarity_Bohr-7.6MB.pdf.


Write:  As you read over this material, think of the consequences of this new science and technology.  Are scientists ethically responsible for the consequences of their theories?  Think about Nobel, Haber, [Hahn if you know of him], Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Teller, and Openheimer in terms of the relationships between science, technology, and war.  Add in the anti-Semiticism of the Nazis and some of these relationships are really quite twisted.



Back to Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]


Me –

Newsie Stuff

Wade-Regenerating a Mammoth for $10 Million

Scientists are once again in the news for toying around with the idea of regenerating perhistoric animals.  The ones in this artlcle seem to have a sense of perspective.


Here are the citations for the above works:


Anonymous. "Classics of Science: Mystery of Mercury's Orbit." The Science News-Letter 15, no. 420 (1929): 267-268.


Belluz, Julia. "Leading Geneticist Steve Jones Says Human Evolution Is Over." The Times Online - UK Edition, October, 7, 2008 2008.


Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. 2 vols. vols. London,: J. Murray, 1871.


Diamond, Jared. "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race." Discover, May 1987 1987, pp. 64-66.


Dyson, Frank. "Verification of the Theory of Relativity." The Scientific Monthly 20, no. 3 (1925): 288-291.


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Newsome, Daniel. "Darwin’s Descent of Man and Anachronistic Values." Draft Essay, 2003.


Eisenhower: see the site and make up a citation.


Gamow, George. Thirty Years That Shook Physics : The Story of Quantum Theory. New York: Dover Publications, 1985.


Holton, Gerald James. Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought; Kepler to Einstein. revised ed. Cambridge, Mass.,: Harvard University Press, 1973.


Judson, Olivia. "Wallace Should Hang." New York Times, January 8, 2008.


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Wade, Nicholas. "Dusty Archives, a Theory of Affluence." New York Times, August, 7, 2007.


Wallace, Alfred Russel. "How to Civilize Savages." Reader, June 1865 1865, 107-114.

Here is what appears to be an incredible site for Darwin with most of his publications and manuscripts all available for free:   The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online

Questions to consider: How does the random mutation of DNA differ from the swerve of Lucretius?


Here is a short article on a fossil find in Germany written up by the Royal Society: link to article.  I wonder what gap in the fossil record this fills?

Interesting power generation tech. under development. 

This may be of some interest to Susan, as it is sort of playing on the dense fluid version of an airfoil.

An interesting image of fish surfing on vortices is described.



Here is a short documentary on this research: video from U. of M.

[Print story from U. of M.]


Here is a link to the company working on this… with a few videos showing how it works:


My question is how this lateral motion will be converted into electricity?

Review materials…

I have no useful review materials for this page.  I looked over my notes and some of my notes on the readings are actually longer than the readings themselves.  I didn’t think you would appreciate looking at these.  You’ll do better to just know these materials from your own perspective as much of this is more about ethics and philosophy than the science or tech itself.  This material will definitely inspire several essay questions, so be prepared to write something. I suggest you think about how to argue not only your own personal perspective on some of these issues, but also how to argue another side that you might not agree with. 

Posted: 12/6/08 9:22 AM