PhySci 137

Spring 2009 Course Syllabus

Instructor:   Laurence E. Heglar, PhD.
Time:  Tuesday & Thursdays, 16:30-17:45
Location:   Room: GRE
Office Hours (Student Services Office, 1st floor):   T-Th 14:00 - 15:00
Phone:   676.406.071
This syllabus is online at

Text:Hjorth, L.S., Eichler, B.A., Khan, A.S., Morello, J.A. (2008). Technology and Society: Issues for the 21st Century and Beyond.
Bronowski, J. (1992). The Ascent of Man. London; Warner Books. (This book is provided as a photocopy and is available for purchase from the instructor).

Purchase of all text materials is required.

Course Description:

This course aims to consider, from a historical perspective, the activity of science and its effects on society as a whole. The objective is to explore humans as inquiring animals and the methods and perspectives we have used to adapt to, and understand, our environment. The history of humanity, focussing on scientific and technological achievements, will form the basis of the course. As related topics, we will discuss the interrelationships between:


Grading will be based on the following scheme:
    Midterm exam:   40%
    Final exam:         40%
    Science Report:  20%

The miterm and final exams will consist of a mix of objective and short answer essay questions.

Science Report

At the beginning of the semester each student will be assigned an area of science in which they are interested, and will be expected to keep up to date on current events in this area. Students will be asked to give a brief oral report during midterm week (not graded). At the end of the couse students will be required to turn in to the instructor copies of the articles they read, and a brief 4-5-page summary of recent issues in their chosen field. This "project" will be worth 20% of the final grade.
The focus for the report should be to summarize what scientists DON'T know in a given field. What are, in other words, the frontiers of knowledge? What questions are scientists currently trying to answer?
A marking scheme for this report will be provided in class.
A reference page of science links on the internet is available at


The University requires that student's attend class regularly, and I will take attendance during every class period.


Science & Society

Jan. 27 Introduction: The Meaning of Science as a Human Activity
Jan. 29 Man: The Inquiring Animal Bronowski, Ch. 1
Gould -- A Matter of Degree
Jared DiamondThe Great Leap Forward (.pdf file)
Feb. 3 Man: The Inquiring Animal Bronowski, Ch. 1
Becoming Human Documentary
Origins of Humankind Website
The Great Leap Forward - Jared Diamond
Notes on Human Evolution
Feb. 5 Human Evolution and Adaptation - Tools Gould -- Piltdown Revisited
Piltdown Man Web Site
Feb. 10 Human Settlements and Agriculture Bronowski, Ch. 2
Harris -- The Origins of Agriculture
Feb. 12 The World Food Shortage Harris -- Mother Cow
Bass -- The Voice of the Ear
Feb. 17 The Construction of the Human Environment Bronowski, Ch. 3
Pirsig -- Reading from Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Feb. 19 The Hidden Structure: Chemistry Bronowski, Ch. 4
Feb. 24 The Music of the Spheres: Mathematics Bronowski, Ch. 5
Russell -- The Rise of Science
Feb. 26 The Scientific Revolution: Copernicus & Galileo Bronowski, Ch. 6
Boyle -- Historical Background
Nicolas Copernicus: "De Revolutionibus"
The Galileo Project
March 3 The Scientific Revolution: Isaac Newton Bronowski, Ch. 7
March 5 The Scientific Revolution: Albert Einstein Bronowski, Ch. 7
March 10 The Industrial Revolution: Energy Bronowski, Ch. 8
Boyle --Energy
March 12 Midcourse Science Reports A short, non-graded report by all students about their topic area.
March 17 Energy Crisis Harris -- The Industrial Bubble
Harris -- The Hydraulic Trap
March 19 Midterm Exam
March 24 The Biological Revolution
Darwin's theory of evolution
Bronowski, Ch. 9
Gould -- Darwin's Delay
Evolution for Teachers
March 26 The Biological Revolution: Evolutionists vs. Creationists Video
Gould: Evolution as Fact and Theory
March 31 Video Discussion
April 2 Modern Physics Bronowski, Ch.10
April 6-13 Easter Break
April 14 Modern Physics: Knowledge or Certainty Bronowski, Ch. 11
April 16 Sociology of Science Boyle, C., Wheale, P.(1984) -- Philosophy and Sociology of Science.
April 21 Genetics Bronowski, Ch. 12
April 23 Genetic Engineering Gould -- Racist Arguments and I.Q.
April 28 Modern Medicine & Health: Euthanasia Wheale -- Health and Medicine
Humphrey -- Final Exit
April 30 Reprise: Science and Society Bronowski, Ch. 13
May 5 Science and Control Boyle, Science & Technology as Means of Control
May 7 Review
May 9-15 Final Exams