Syllabus Page 2



Darwin and Evolution : The existing theories, including Lamarck. Natural selection as the guiding (but not guided) force in evolution. The displacement of mankind as the centerpiece of creation. Evolutionary examples (from Darwin to Stephen Jay Gould.)

The storm this engendered (not yet over, textbooks in the Midwest)

The inevitable abuse of the idea (Social Darwinism)




Einstein and relativity : The strangest leap yet taken. The preceding common sense view of time and space, as defined by Newton. The experimental difficulties with the speed of light in the twentieth century( The Michelson-Morley experiment ) Einstein's unique vision, of a world in which time and space are not absolute.

What exactly are the principles of relativity (the speed of light as absolute, the relativity of distance and time between different observers, the disagreement on simultaneity)

Why we have the intuitive concepts that we all share

Concrete examples of relativity at work: Einstein's predictions ( the orbit of mercury, the slowing of astronaut's watches)

of time and space

Relativity paradoxes (and their resolution) learning to think weird: the twin paradox, the barn door paradox.

Space travel in a relativistic universe, current plans. The Implications for relativity of the previous idea of science as " organized common sense" The early reactions to relativity theory, and why it prevailed anyway ( specific predictions, logical and mathematical consistency ).

A hint about general relativity, and its implications to cosmology.




The birth of Quantum Mechanics: Einstein's solution to the photoelectric problem. The Bohr model of the atom. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

The fundamental role of chance at the atomic level, the philosophic position that denies causality. Schrodinger and probability. Einstein's disagreement, and the historic clash with Bohr( Playing dice with the universe)

The concrete success of quantum theory (transistors,, superconductivity)

Quantum paradoxes : Schrodinger's cat, The role of the observer in determining reality. The Einstein-Rosen experiment, and Wheeler's ( brilliant ? ridiculous ? solution to it. The philosophic implications about objectivity and subjectivity.

The use of Quantum mechanical ideas to justify ancient mysticism

The world view of quantum mechanics as compared to all previous scientific world views.

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