Seminars for the Spring Term 2012
FRS 102 Global Warming: Risks, Policies, Politics, and Human Values SA
Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 Freshman Seminar Sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School
The seminar explores the global warming problem from four perspectives needed to create a framework for a solution. Once we have covered the basic science of the climate system at an introductory level, we examine the texture of life in a warmer world from the point of view of people living in widely different circumstances. Then we consider the relative merits of a full range of concepts and policies aimed at limiting the warming and assuring effective adjustment to it, including emissions mitigation (via implementation of, for example, renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, nuclear energy, bio-fuels, higher efficiency, and evolving lifestyles), human adaptation including migration, and geo-engineering aimed at offsetting the warming. Using past responses to a variety of other environmental problems to establish the policy context, we will contrast societal planning and the theoretical capacity to adapt with the ways humans actually come to grips with both gradual environmental change and disasters in the real world. Then we will explore the distinction between policy concepts in the ideal, and the obstacles to their implementation in the contentious world of politics. A key question addressed throughout is the relative importance of science, value judgments, and ethical considerations in developing solutions for the problem of global warming. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 106 Sound, Music, and... Physics STN
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
This is a seminar for students who love music and want to learn more about how it is made. The traditional way to teach the physics of music is to start with basic physics—vibration, waves, Fourier analysis, resonating and radiating systems, etc.—followed by applications to musical instruments, acoustics, scales, recording, and reproduction. In other words, theory first and applications later. The trouble with this approach is that it really only suits scientifically minded students. Another approach is to develop the physical concepts and the musical applications together, and this is the approach taken in this seminar. Although it will make for a somewhat unusual ordering of the material, it is more accessible to non-scientists and better explains the interplay of music and physics.
Musical scales and consonance will be discussed first because it requires only very simple scientific observations. Brass instruments will also be discussed early because a lot about them can be understood with relatively little physical knowledge. On the other hand, woodwind instruments, acoustics, human ear and voice, etc., are subjects that require considerably more physics for their comprehension, and hence must wait until the end.
The seminar will be organized around weekly discussions of various musical and physical topics, and will include class demonstrations as well as student laboratory experimentation. It is designed to be readily accessible to all students, especially those planning to major in the humanities or music. No prior knowledge of physics is necessary. A background in music (e.g., playing an instrument) is helpful. Students playing an instrument will be invited to bring their own instruments for individual projects. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 108 How Not to Go to Africa: Alternative Voices on the (East) African Narrative LA
Professor Whitney J. Oates ’25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
In “How to Write about Africa,” Binyavanga Wainaina sums up the default view with which Africa is portrayed, especially through a Western-oriented critique, as: “Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar,’ ‘Masai,’ ‘Zulu,’ ‘Zambezi,’ ‘Congo,’ ‘Nile,’ ‘Big,’ ‘Sky,’ ‘Shadow,’ ‘Drum,’ ‘Sun,’ or ‘Bygone.’ Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas,’ ‘Timeless,’ ‘Primordial,’ and ‘Tribal.’ Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans...”
As provocative as it is, this voice captures the “default narrative” that continues to define what Africa means to a Western mediated reality. Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” still defines the North/South socio-cultural relationship. Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” theory still informs the discourse on the failure of the post-colonial state, bedeviled by corruption and deadly tribal clashes. This narrative also views African “native cultures” as a barrier to modern development, and is used to explain the intransigence of the HIV/AIDS tragedy when contextualized to African cultural practices, and so on.
This course does not dismiss this narrative; it provokes students to explore why the narrative remains not only popular in the discourse of Africa’s past and present dispensation, but also why students themselves are likely to be shaped by its implications, especially if they are interested in dealing with Africa in the course of their studies and future careers. Selected readings on East Africa are used to explore burgeoning counter-narratives. Alternative voices are redefining how indigenous and locally inspired efforts are dealing with the myriad challenges in African cities and villages. This generates many challenging questions: Why are community theatre-based outreaches proving to be a more effective tool for fighting against the spread of HIV/AIDS than well-equipped hospitals and voluntary counseling and testing clinics? Why is the American-influenced hip-hop revolution in East Africa a tool for youth empowerment rather than a gangster art form? Will an African technological revolution wait for Africans to afford computers when they are already doing M-Pesa (mobile banking) from their cell-phones? Why does the post-colonial state tend to succeed especially after it resurrects from deadly political crises, such as Rwanda and Uganda (before it collapses again)? (Monday, Wednesday 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM)
FRS 110 Light, Camera, Action STN
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
How much of the world do we really see? In this seminar we will explore the capabilities and limits of our visual system while learning how to manipulate light to see a very different world.
The seminar will be organized around weekly discussions and a hands-on laboratory. Discussions will offer students the opportunity, through class presentation and small-group activities, to explore the optics of everyday experiences and challenge students to think about the idea of “seeing is believing.” Examples of discussion topics include: 3-D movies, airport security scanners, invisibility, the beauty of peacock feathers, when not to wear polarized sunglasses, and what the world would look like if we had X-ray vision. The labs are designed to give students practical experience using many of the methods of modern research including building with lenses, charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras, microscopes, and image-analysis software. Throughout the course, students will compare measurements of their own visual system to the tools of modern optics. Students will keep a journal of procedures, observations, and results of all laboratory experiments. The final two-week lab will integrate various course concepts into a short imaging project to be presented to the class.
This seminar is appropriate for science and non-science majors and has no science or math prerequisite. Students will learn about modern research microscopes, how to build simple optical instruments, and how to carry out basic image processing using ImageJ. There will be two field trips where students explore light and the visual experience through art and theater. (Tuesday, Thursday 1:30 - 2:50 PM)
FRS 112 Behind the Scenes: Inside the Princeton University Art Museum LA
Class of 1975 Freshman Seminar
Would you like to see a Toulouse-Lautrec up close and without its frame, or hold an ancient Chinese vessel in your hands? Participants in this seminar will go behind the scenes of a major university art museum with an encyclopedic collection of more than 68,000 objects from ancient to contemporary art. Sessions will focus on discussions of connoisseurship and the role of the museum in the 21st century. Students also will study all aspects of exhibition planning, from scholarship and education to loans and installations, through the major exhibition Princeton and the Gothic Revival: 1870–1930. Course readings will introduce students to some of the most compelling practical, theoretical, and ethical issues confronting museums.
A team of curators, the director, and other members of the professional staff of the Princeton University Art Museum will lead the seminar sessions, which focus on particular topics. Students are expected to discuss critically issues in acquisitions, conservation, education, and interpretation based on readings and outside projects. There also will be a trip to New York City to visit museums, art galleries, and collections. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 114 The Everglades Today and Tomorrow: Global Change and the Impact of Human Activities on the Biosphere STL
Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
“The Everglades are a test. If we pass the test, we get to keep planet Earth.”—Marjorie Stoneman Douglas
Our lives, and those of our children, will be affected by the impact of human activities on the planet in ways that we are just beginning to understand. The Everglades, a unique “River of Grass” in South Florida, has long been emblematic of our complicated relationship with the environment. Only a fraction of the original Everglades ecosystem remains, as urban and agricultural activities in South Florida have encroached on existing wetlands, competing for the available water and compromising water quality. Yet the people of South Florida are dependent upon the fragile ecosystem, which provides water storage and filters out contaminants. In this seminar, we will use the Everglades as a case study for exploring this struggle between disturbance and dependence—a struggle that plays out in habitats across the globe.
In the first half of the semester we will link seminar discussions and laboratory instruction to introduce the chemical and biological concepts underlying the global cycles of nutrients and contaminants in the context of global change. In addition, you will design a research project for a seven-day excursion to the Everglades during spring break. During the trip, you will gain direct knowledge of the geology, chemistry, and biology of the system. You will also collect samples for the research projects designed prior to our trip. During the second half of the semester, you will analyze the samples collected on the trip and synthesize this new information into our existing knowledge of the Everglades.
From this course you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role that humans are playing in the sustainability of the Everglades. You will also learn to do field work and address questions that are highly relevant to ongoing research and to the restoration effort. You will explore the varied habitats of the Everglades on foot and by canoe as you seek to understand how human alterations of global nutrient cycles are affecting the sustainability of the planet. Students must plan on devoting their spring break to the class trip and must be able to swim. This seminar is intended for both science and non-science majors, but some background in chemistry is recommended. All costs of the field trip are covered by the University. (Monday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 116 Life on Mars—Or Maybe Not SA
Michael Lemonick and Edwin Turner
William H. Burchfield 1902 Freshman Seminar
A few years ago, the headlines screamed with the news that scientists had discovered evidence of fossilized bacteria in a rock that had come from Mars. Over the next several months, independent researchers examined the claims carefully and concluded that the evidence was poor at best—but that negative assessment, which remains the consensus among experts, was barely reported at all, with the result that most people still think the question of life on other planets has already been settled. More recently, the New York Times carried a headline declaring that “Cloning May Lead to Healthy Pork.” But a careful reading of the story made it clear that “may not” would probably have made for a more accurate, though obviously a less enticing, headline. And virtually everyone is familiar with the endless news stories that declare a particular vitamin or food or physical activity to be good for the health, inevitably followed a few years later by a story saying that the very same food or activity is in fact bad for you.
Most people learn most of what they know about science through the popular media. Yet as these examples make clear, media reports, even in respected national publications, are frequently confusing, incomplete, or even just plain wrong. Even when they’re accurate, moreover, they convey an idea of science that Albert Einstein himself skewered half a century ago. From such episodes, he wrote, “the reader gets the [mistaken] impression that every five minutes there is a revolution in science, somewhat like the coups d’etat in some of the smaller unstable republics.”
So how reliable is science news? In this seminar, we’ll investigate this question from the perspectives of both science and the media, led by one instructor from each camp. We’ll analyze several major news stories that have dominated the media at various times over the past few years—life on Mars, intelligent design, possible cancer cures, the “discovery” that some stars appear to be older than the universe, global warming, and more. We’ll also address science news as it arises, as it inevitably will during the semester.
In each case, we’ll work to understand the actual science that led to these reports. Then we’ll look in detail at the forces at play in shaping media coverage, and how they tend to distort the science. Garbling and oversimplification by reporters is one factor, but this, as we’ll see, is only part of the story. Other factors include the competition for funding among scientists, the politics that lead universities and government agencies to hype their successes, the competition between scientific journals—all flavored with plenty of ego on all sides.
Students will not only come to understand why you can’t always trust what you read in the newspaper, but will also come to appreciate the satisfactions and pitfalls of communicating science, not only though readings and class discussion, but also by means of visits by and with science journalists, scientists, and public information officers. They will also get a taste of what science reporters are up against by producing several pieces of science journalism themselves, which will be critiqued by both instructors. Although we’ll focus primarily on the print media, we will also consider the treatment of science by the broadcast media. In the end, students will never be able to see the news in quite the same way. (Monday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 118 Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: Cultural Beliefs about Gender Difference SA Tey Meadow
What would happen if you awoke tomorrow morning and realized you were a member of the other sex? What about life as you now know it would suddenly change? For starters, you would probably change your appearance. You might dress differently, wear your hair differently, adorn yourself with different kinds of jewelry. You might alter the way you speak or act in public. You would almost certainly change some of the places you go, like public restrooms and locker rooms. You might also change who you hang out with, identify with; you might even change who you date. Our social world is organized by different rules for men and women. And we expect that men and women will have different identities, needs, desires and ways of relating to one another. Indeed, we are told by one popular self-help book that men and women are so different, they may as well be from different planets!
In this course, we will examine the way ideas of male/female difference are actively created, discussed, and debated in our social world. We will survey current scientific, psychological, and political theories of gender difference, where they come from, and how they are mobilized in the public realm. We then turn our attention to the ways gender distinctions are delineated by science, and how cultural ideas of gender difference influence scientific understandings of the body and the brain. We will discuss the way gender socialization shapes the experiences and self-perceptions of individuals, starting in the womb and continuing into adulthood. Finally, we will examine the law and medicine of gender, by focusing on occasions that force scientists, doctors, and judges to determine whether individual people should be classified as male or female. Course readings will range from foundational theoretical texts by Michel Foucault, Gayle Rubin, and Adrienne Rich, to scientific studies from Charles Darwin to the contemporary work of Simon LeVay. We will also read examples from popular texts that levy critiques of cultural and scientific ideas of gender difference, including selections from Ann Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body, Rebecca Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm, Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and Dean Spade’s Critical Trans Politics. (Wednesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 122 Architects in Quest of the Ideal City LA
The visionary city has preoccupied architects throughout history and no less in our own time—from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City to Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse to Paolo Soleri’s community of tomorrow, Arcosanti. The growth of cities has been the one unchanging factor in the march (if not “progress”) of civilization throughout the world. As people become more alert to environmental and ecological damage, these mega-cities appear to generate more problems than solutions, and, in fact, the new urban settlements now being built might no longer rightly be called cities.
This seminar will examine the architectural and urban principles behind several of the most famous models for the ideal city proposed over the past thousand years. By the second half of the semester, we should be able to draw up guidelines for a model city appropriate to our times. The participants will be asked to confront questions such as: Can images of an ideal city still serve as a regulative model and inspiration? Can a city be regulated without being regimented? How much does communal living or urban environment depend upon good spatial planning, “inspired design,” and how much upon enlightened personalities? What are the best ways to create enclosures and privacy, even as population density increases? With the advent of cyberspace and Internet communities, and the possible dispersal and isolation of the workforce in individual homes, will the urban community of the future any longer require a concentration of people in the workspace, or are we face-to-face only with interface?
The course requires no prior training in the spatial or building arts. Each of the 12 weekly seminars will engage a major city project or conceptual problem, and by the final weeks of the course, students will be able to discuss, in a spatially literate way, the prerequisites for sensibly organized and responsive urban settlement. (Monday 7:30 - 10:20 PM)
FRS 124 Choreography for the American Musical, from the Black Crook to Bill T. Jones LA
This course examines the history and development of American musical theater dance through lecture/discussion and a studio component. The study begins in 1866 with The Black Crook, and traces the genre’s evolution through a variety of theatrical venues including: spectacle, vaudeville, musicals, and revues. A primary focus of the course is the period referred to as “The Golden Age” of the American musical (1943–64). During this period a talented group of American choreographers, led by Agnes de Mille, emerged from newly formed ballet and modern dance companies. They brought their talents to the commercial theater and discovered a new venue for dance expression. How they changed the function of dance in musicals and exposed commercial audiences to cultural trends and social commentary through the language of dance is a focus of the course. Class time will be divided between examination and analysis of the genre from the late 19th century to the present day and musical theater dance classes.
The dance portion of the course begins with a warm-up based on the techniques of Katherine Dunham and Jack Cole; center floor will focus on musical theatre vocabularies including: cakewalk, charleston, lindy, precision line techniques, Latin forms, and dances from the classic canon of musical theatre choreography including works by Agnes de Mille, Bob Fosse, and Jerome Robbins. (Monday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 126 Designing Life: The Ethics of Creation and Its Control EM
Dean Eva Gossman Freshman Seminar in Human Values
In this seminar we will examine, and wrestle with, the following questions: Is genetic enhancement permissible? Is genetic selection permissible? Is genetic selection of desirable traits permissible? Is genetic selection of disabilities, such as deafness, permissible? Is selection against disability permissible?
Can creating someone harm her? Perhaps creating someone whose life is utterly miserable harms her. But can creating someone whose life is worth living harm her? How could it be that someone should create a non-disabled rather than a disabled child, if she has both options?
Is stem-cell research permissible? Do human embryos have moral status? If they do, do they have the same moral status as adult persons? If stem-cell research does not require the destruction of the embryo, is it permissible?
Is abortion permissible? If we assume the fetus has the moral status of an adult person, does it follow that abortion is permissible?
Is procreation permissible? Is all human life so bad (worse than we realize) that it is wrong to have children? http://www.princeton.edu/~eharman/HarmanFrSem6.pdf
(Thursday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 128 From Castle Garden to Angel Island: The Creation of U.S. Immigration Policy, 1882–1965 HA
Deirdre M. Moloney
The United States is often mythologized as a “nation of immigrants.” In fact, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population has now returned to its peak level. But how have immigrants actually been received and perceived by those in American society? What factors influenced government officials’ decisions about whom to admit and to extend citizenship rights to? This course places the role of the U.S. federal government in regulating immigration in a broader historical context. We will examine how immigration and related federal policies created and reinforced racial disparities, as well as religious traditions and gender norms, beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act, continuing with the passage of National Origins legislation and the 1924 creation of the U.S. border patrol, and ending with the 1965 Hart-Celler Act.
The course will highlight how labor and economic conditions, international relations, and ideologies influenced the implementation of immigration and refugee policies and how those policies shifted in response to broader social changes. We will discuss the changing nature and composition of immigration over the course of the past century and how earlier policies, attitudes, and assumptions about immigration continue to influence current political debates. We will learn how immigrants established vibrant communities and influenced U.S. institutions and cultural practices. This discussion-based course addresses global immigration from the Caribbean, Middle East, Africa, Central America, Asia, and Europe through historical texts, primary and digital sources, as well as novels about the immigration experience. During the semester, we will travel to New York City to explore sites of immigration and neighborhood enclaves and institutions. (Monday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
Paul L. Miller ’41 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
FRS 132 Reconciliation: The Politics of Forgiveness in a Global Age EM
Peter T. Joseph ’72 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Human rights laws emerged in the post-WW II context in response to appeals for a global order that would strive to maintain international peace and security. In order to accomplish this goal, one of the major shifts in the world order was to permit the international community to intervene in violent albeit domestic conflicts that “shocked the conscience of man.” This marked a change in the legal order that had previously required “cross-border aggression” as the test for intervention.
The inability of the Nuremberg precedent to address justice in the aftermath of other violent conflicts led to a recognition of the need for tailored solutions. Just what those solutions should consist of, however, has become the weighty project of the United Nations, hundreds of international and domestic nongovernmental organizations, politicians, scholars and academics, religious leaders, and community elders, among others.
Drawing on the history of post-WW II conflict, this course will analyze the international mechanisms for reconciliation alongside of philosophical and moral considerations. In doing so, we will bring together occidental moral philosophies in which the secular human rights system is rooted in local knowledge and value systems also being employed in the aftermath of such conflict. Students will thereby survey faith-based epistemologies underlying internal reconciliation processes.
Students will explore case studies including the Nuremberg trials, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the International Criminal Court.
In addition, this course will consider the local remedies proposed in different communities, such as the Gacaca courts in Rwanda and the Loya Jurga in Afghanistan. Underlying each of these mechanisms is a series of religious, legal, and philosophical commitments that are specific to and important for the local communities, drawing from their own histories and traditions. In understanding the logic of such processes, our study will include readings of moral philosophy and religious texts expounding on the importance of forgiveness, mercy, and or reconciliation for the realization of justice among various communities throughout the world.
Local practices and multiple expressions of justice, then, might just be “universalizable” through a common belief in the humanity of the “other,” a value, according to Hannah Arendt, upon which forgiveness (and thus reconciliation) ultimately rests.
This course has three aims. The first aim is to study the types of conflicts that engender global responses and why, a sort of politics of truth and reconciliation. Second, we will explore some of the types of arbitrative mechanisms that have emerged and how they are tailor-made to respond to the exigencies of each conflict situation and its aftermath. Finally, as part of the study of the local logic of reconciliation, we will study some of the underlying religious and philosophical traditions that undergird the remedies we consider, evaluating why something made sense in one community, but perhaps not in another. The focus will be on analyzing the context through which reconciliation is brought about. (Wednesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 134 Can You Hear Me Now? The Arab Spring and the Evolving Obama Doctrine SA
L. Richardson Preyer ’41 Freshman Seminar in Public Service Sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School
In his May 19, 2011, speech, President Obama said, in speaking of the political upheavals in the Middle East over the previous several months, “a new generation has emerged and their voices tell us change cannot be denied.”
While the Arab Spring of 2011 will take years to play out, the political topography of the Middle East has fundamentally shifted. Within weeks two of the most authoritarian leaders—Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt—were gone. As of this writing, Qaddhafi of Libya and Asad of Syria responded to challengers with the full force of their militaries, Bahrain had called in its Gulf neighbors to stabilize a deteriorating situation, and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tenure was in serious doubt. Even those states that weathered the storm intact—primarily the monarchies of Morocco, Jordan, and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council—recognize that the political contract with their people is under review and subject to revision.
Why has this region that has, by conventional wisdom, ducked previous waves of democratization, been hit by a tsunami? Twitter is too simple an answer. With a year’s hindsight, this seminar will examine the roots of the Arab Spring, the role of new—and not so new—media in creating a new Arab public and prospects for the establishment of democratic governance. As part of this examination, we will consider what is meant by “democracy” or “democratic governance?” Is it a set of structural elements—parliaments, constitutions, elections—or something deeper, a set of norms and values? Are those norms and values a Western imposition or universal? How might they manifest themselves in different cultural traditions? What was the role of demographics and economics in creating the flashpoint of January 2011 and how should the answer to that inform our policies going forward? Why did the so-called “republics” fracture so quickly and sometimes so violently, while most of the monarchies barely wobbled? We will also examine the role of outside forces and outside players, primarily the United States, to support and encourage the difficult period of transition. Is there an Obama Doctrine comparable to but distinct from the Bush Doctrine, grounded in the Cairo speech of 2009 and the president’s speech of May 2011? Is the U.S. government structured, staffed, and funded to carry through with the promises made?
To begin to answer these questions will require an examination of the histories and cultural and social dynamics of key states in the region, a review of the nature of “democracy,” and the limits and opportunities of outside players to respond to and shape events abroad. Familiarity with the region is not, however, a prerequisite for the seminar. A willingness and ability to think creatively, however, is. (Monday 7:30 - 10:20 PM)
FRS 136 Dante’s Inferno: A Guide to Hell (and Back) LA
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
What do Machiavelli, T. S. Eliot, and Hannibal the Cannibal have in common? They were all passionate readers of the Divine Comedy. Captured by the compelling force of Dante’s imagined world, actual readers of his masterpiece and their Hollywood counterparts have been led to look at reality with new and penetrating eyes. Their reading of the poem was the beginning of a journey: whether in their politics, their poetry, or the peculiar aestheticism of cinematic cannibalism, the poem taught them how to read. In this course, we will use Dante’s Divine Comedy as an invitation and a starting point to become better readers of literary texts.
A three-part poetic report of a visionary journey through the realm of the dead, the Divine Comedy takes its readers on a ride through a gruesome hell, in which impenitent sinners are eternally chastised by the most imaginative torments; the more serene airs of purgatory, where souls of the repented purify and ready themselves for paradise; and a final vertiginous, poetically exhilarating, ascent through the heavens toward the direct beatific vision of God. Along the way, Dante—both author and protagonist—encounters souls from all ages of mankind and from the most diverse walks of life: from the most ancient ones, like Adam (in heaven), to the most recently deceased, like the last popes from Dante’s own day (surprisingly confined to hell). These meetings not only punctuate and propel the poem’s plot, but they also present its readers with larger cultural questions. Where should we draw the line between advancing religious convictions and struggling for power in politics? How should we choose from among competing philosophies of life? What is the nature of art? And more fundamentally, how do we read a poetic text? By presenting us with these questions, the poem will challenge and enrich our perception and understanding of religious, ethical, and aesthetical issues.
The seminar will consist of a collaborative, close-reading of the Inferno and it will expand into the analysis of selected cantos of Purgatorio and Paradiso. Short introductory lectures will alternate with student-led class discussions, film screenings, and presentations on Dante’s reception in modern poetry and art. We will use bilingual editions, which will allow us to access the text easily, while providing us opportunities to observe nuances of meaning or style preserved in the original language. We will also take advantage of the wide array of resources available to Dante students at Princeton. The remarkable collection of illustrated editions of the Divine Comedy hosted by Firestone Library, as well as the incredible wealth of information contained in the Web-based Princeton Dante Project, will help to familiarize us with the culture of Dante’s time and the scholarly activity that has surrounded the poem over the last seven centuries.
In addition to having become acquainted with Dante’s poem, at the end of the seminar we will have acquired a wealth of techniques of interpretation that will prepare us, if not to play the latest Inferno videogame, at least to perceive and decode meaning in other literary texts. A great reader of classical and biblical poetry himself, Dante will be our first guide in this interpretive journey and help us develop and train our sensibilities for other poetry beyond his own. (Wednesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 138 Freud on the Psychology of Ordinary Mental Life EC
When we laugh at an incredibly funny joke, what, exactly, are we laughing at, and why is it laughing that we do? How do we come to be engrossed in a novel? Given that the characters are nothing to us—they are neither relatives nor friends, and they are not real—why do we care what happens to them? How does it come about that perfectly rational people sometimes succumb to moments of magical thinking, and which aspects of our psychological makeup might explain both the pervasiveness and tenacity of religion in human society?
Although he is best known for his elucidation of the unusual in human mental life, Sigmund Freud also attempted to illuminate ordinary human experiences and values, such as people’s susceptibility to humor, their capacity to become engrossed in fiction, and their susceptibility to superstition and religion. His insights into the everyday and his sense of where the productive questions lay reveal an incisiveness of argument that defies both earlier and subsequent thought on his topics. The seminar will consider Freud’s accounts of ordinary mental phenomena as well as his method of inquiry, with the aims of coming to understand some of his seminal thought, learning a powerful method of critical inquiry, and honing fresh ideas about the nature of ordinary mental life and human values.
Readings include original works by Freud and a few brief selections by other authors whose work provides useful material for comparison. The seminar is organized to allow for maximal play of students’ own ideas and their development of Freud’s technique of identifying and unpacking anomalies as a method for investigating human mental life. (Tuesday, Thursday 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM)
FRS 140 Life in a Nuclear-Armed World SA
Class of 1975 Freshman Seminar
On August 6, 1945, on hearing the news that America’s new atom bomb had destroyed its first target, the Japanese city of Hiroshima, President Harry Truman declared, “This is the greatest thing in history.”
Six decades later, in April 2009, President Barack Obama declared that, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act...So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” This course will look at what it has meant to live with the bomb in America through the Cold War, the spread of nuclear weapons to other states and the fear of nuclear terrorism, and what the future may hold.
Along with the growth of nuclear arsenals, recurring nuclear crises, proliferation, and an ever present threat of nuclear war, the course will look at the impact of nuclear weapons on everyday life. We will explore the implications of the argument made by the American novelist E. L. Doctorow that, “We have had the bomb on our minds since 1945. It was first our weaponry and then our diplomacy, and now it’s our economy. How can we suppose that something so monstrously powerful would not, after years, compose our identity?”
This course will try to unpack some of the meanings of the nuclear age, using scholarly and popular writings as well as movies and documentary films about “the bomb.” It will look at the design, development, production, and maintenance of a nuclear arsenal, and the associated economic, political, and environmental costs, as well as the lives of people in communities who lived and worked as part of the nuclear complex. We shall look also at the struggles of the anti-nuclear movement in its efforts to restrain decision makers, end arms races, and to ban the bomb. (Wednesday 7:30 - 10:20 PM)
FRS 144 Things Come to Life: Explorations in Modern and Contemporary Art LA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
Anthropologists, psychologists, and philosophers have long been curious about what happens (and what it might mean) when human beings look upon certain inert things as living and conscious—or, as some would say, as “possessed of a soul.” This seminar will attend in particular to the ways in which things (seem to) come to life in art, and the ways in which works of art come to be regarded as (virtually) animate objects.
Histories of art, literature, and cinema are rich with examples of persons imagining (and experiencing) works of art brought to life—from Pygmalion and his ivory sculpture animated by Cupid’s kiss in Book X of Ovid’s Metamorphoses to the bunnies made of sugar dancing inside a panoramic Easter egg held in Snoopy’s paw before a department store display in It’s the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown. Referring to the mute beagle as drawn by Charles Schultz as a “person” and to the animated cartoon in which “he” appears as a “work of art” only begins to hint at the interest (and the complexities, as well as the pleasures) of the kinds of figuration and interpretation that are the subject of this seminar.
Beginning with an inquiry into concepts of animism in 19th- and 20th-century anthropology, political economy, sociology, psychology, and critical theory, and considering the relations of those concepts to practices in the visual arts and literature in that same period, this seminar will lay the groundwork for in-depth, in-person engagement with a contemporary art exhibition that we will visit together in Berlin, Germany. Titled “Animism” and organized by an international team of European curators, that exhibition sets “two key processes in aesthetics—animation and conservation, movement and stasis—against the backdrop of the anthropological term ‘animism’ and its historical implications.”
Course readings will include selections from classic 19th- and 20th-century works: in anthropology and sociology (Tylor, Spencer, Lévi-Strauss, Durkheim, Simmel); in psychology and psychoanalysis (Freud, Piaget, Winnicott); in political economy and critical theory (Marx, Adorno, Horkheimer); and in philosophy (Bergson, Heidegger, Cavell). Equally important will be our readings of literary texts by writers including Rilke, Breton, Aragon, and DeLillo, and our viewing of films by Richter, Chaplin, Marker, and Resnais.
We will consider how modern art was shaped in the early 20th century by European artists’ explorations of artifacts made by children, the mentally ill, and artists and artisans in non-Western cultures. We will also investigate how engagements with new technologies, social formations, and media in Western modernity informed the aesthetic theories and formal procedures of modern art. Movements and artists to be studied include: Dada, Surrealism, De Chirico, Klee, Kandinsky, Picasso, as well as a wide range of contemporary artists.
As a group, we will travel to Berlin over Spring Break to view the “Animism” exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. While in Berlin, we will also attend lectures and symposia connected to the exhibition, and meet with curators to discuss their aims in organizing this ambitious, multimedia, international exhibition. Since English will be the main language of the exhibition’s public events, no knowledge of languages other than English will be needed to succeed in this course. We will also take advantage of our time in Berlin to make “behind-the-scenes” visits to contemporary art galleries, museums, archives, and other cultural institutions. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 146 Reading Plato’s Republic EM
Professor Amy Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Plato’s Republic is arguably the greatest work of moral and political theory ever written. Beginning with the question of whether it can be advantageous to the individual to act unjustly, it opens a discussion of the ideal city, the nature of truth and reality, and the relationship between ethics and politics that have informed Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and secular Western thought to this day. To understand the Republic, readers need to understand the remarkable city in which it was written and the presuppositions that it challenged: democratic Athens, a city whose commitment to equal civic judgment had charted first its imperial ascendancy and then its downfall without (so Plato charged) being able to offer a coherent account of the civic or individual good. Readers likewise need to understand this dialogue in the context of its author’s writing more generally, which can be argued to have been itself a political act: an act of transforming the ethos of the Athenians who read it and so making the city more hospitable to a philosophical understanding from within. And they need to understand the figure of Socrates, the teacher of Plato who was condemned to death by democratic Athens, and whose fictionalized presence guides the unfolding of the dialogue. This seminar will introduce students to each of these contexts and characters while allowing them to read and engage with this great work in depth.
The goals of the seminar are threefold: first, to engage with Plato and the Republic in the contexts of both Athenian thought and practice, and modern political theory; second, to foster an intellectual community among the students as, in effect, practicing political theorists themselves; and third, to hone, clarify, and sharpen students’ skills as writers. (Monday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 148 Atomic-bombing and Firebombing Cities in World War II: Morality, Science, and Race HA
This seminar will consider the cultural, scientific, geopolitical, and military developments that led to the massive aerial bombardment of cities in World War II—including the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We address a troubling question of modern times: How was it that nations came to accept the bombing of civilian populations as an unproblematic part of war?
In addition to the atomic bombings, we will consider the broader ethical and historical questions of bombing cities that predated the A-bombs. Beginning with aerial bombardment in World War I, we will read about Japanese and German bombing of civilians in the 1930s; the German “blitz” of London and other British cities; German deployment of long-range missiles (V-1, V-2); and the Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities. Readings will be supplemented by several thought-provoking films.
Seminar discussions will focus on an array of ethical, historical, and political questions. Was Japan singled out for atomic bombs because of American racism? Did the scientists who devised the atomic bomb consider moral questions, and do they bear responsibility? Was aerial bombardment effective in bringing about the defeat of Japan and Germany? Did the A-bombs in particular end the war with Japan? Although Americans today condemn acts of terrorism—notably the September 11, 2001, attack on New York City—how do we judge the Allies’ self-conscious adoption of “terror” to demoralize German and Japanese civilians in World War II? Can the bombing of cities—then or now—be justified if the cause is just? (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 150 Backstage Dramas: Survival Strategies in the American Theater LA
Professor Whitney J. Oates ’25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
Is the play really the thing? In an entertainment environment dominated by film, television, the Internet, and all manner of downloadable diversions, does the theater matter? Historically, the American theater has had its work cut out for it. No sooner had the United States, in the century following independence, begun to develop a distinctly American theatrical identity than the invention of film permanently altered the cultural landscape. By the mid-20th century, the American theater—especially its musical theater—had found its footing on Broadway, but beginning in the 1960s, artists and audiences leery of Broadway’s commercial focus began to look elsewhere for sustenance, fueling the establishment of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway companies and repertory theaters in cities around the country. Fifty years on, many of those “alternative” venues have, in turn, become part of the theatrical mainstream, subject to increasing commercial pressures and concerned about dwindling audiences. Where do we go from here? This is a course for students who are interested in theater but wonder about its place in our culture. We’ll examine the aesthetics of the theater experience, address some of the practical, theoretical, and “vision” issues surrounding how theater is made, marketed, and valued; learn about the differences between commercial and nonprofit theater; research current thinking about what is and isn’t working in the field; and engage in conversation about new ways of creating theater. We’ll tie a portion of our investigation to the current season at McCarter Theatre Center, a professional theater company in Princeton, giving us an inside perspective on the operations of a major nonprofit theater, and travel to New York to sample and discuss other theater models (i.e., commercial and/or experimental venues). (Monday, Wednesday 3:00 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 152 Liberalism and Religion EM
Sponsored by the University Center for Human Values
Some liberals see religion as opposed to liberalism, while others regard religious commitment as an important foundation for liberal values. Conversely, some religious believers argue that liberalism leads to relativism and secularism that undermine religion, while others believe that religious values provide the surest foundation for liberalism. This seminar will examine the ambiguous relationship between liberal political thought and Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, beginning with a study of the political and religious ideas of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hyek, and John Rawls. This is followed by an examination of the politically relevant texts of the sacred writings of the three faiths and their classical and contemporary interpreters. The seminar concludes with case studies of three areas of conflicting liberal and religious values—abortion, gay marriage, and the interpretation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment. (Tuesday, Thursday 3:00 - 4:20 PM)
Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
FRS 156 Pottery: Archaeology, Art, and Technology LA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
Pottery sits at the intersection of art and technology, simultaneously part of aesthetic systems and complex tools requiring specialized knowledge of their production. This course explores archaeological approaches to pottery including stylistic, typological, modal, mineral, and chemical studies. We will survey a range of prehistoric pottery traditions, including those from Greece, Japan, Peru, and Mesoamerica. Students will examine how technological studies of pottery illuminate new avenues for understanding aesthetic systems and how aesthetic systems emerge from the materiality of pottery. Part of the course will involve experimental studies of pottery production (e.g., clay preparation, ceramic forming, and open-pit firing) in which students will test their own questions about the social, artistic, and technological milieus of ancient cultures. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 160 Race and the History of Racism in Brazil: An Alternative to the United States? HA
Pedro Meira Monteiro
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
In his memoirs, President Obama refers to the day his mother took him to the movies to see a Brazilian film from the 1950s, which depicted “black and brown” Brazilians singing and dancing in carnival-like manner in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. What Obama writes when he describes the moment he looked at his mother’s face is poignant, and can make us think about the role Brazil has played in the imagination of those who, in the United States, think about race and the history of racism throughout the world: “Her face, lit by the blue glow of the screen, was set in a wistful gaze. At that moment, I felt as if I were being given a window into her heart, the unreflective heart of her youth. I suddenly realized that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen, the reverse image of Conrad’s dark savages, was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life: warm, sensual, exotic, different.”
Like the United States, Brazil has a long history of slavery and racism, but differently from the United States, Brazil has not postulated any “one-drop rule” to establish color lines in a segregationist manner. This may explain profound differences between the two nations, their histories and cultures, but at the same time it reveals a common fascination by a racially mixed and hybrid society, one in which differences between individuals would be less clear, be they based in color, phenotypical traces, linked to biology, or to economic and social status. Obama’s passage is key for the discussions we will be holding during this seminar: Why is it that Brazil so often seduces the rest of the world as being a colorful and supposedly less racialized society? Why in the 1930s was Brazil, seen as a “melting pot,” just one step from racial apartheid? Is “racial democracy” as a concept just an infamous invention that hides oblique and nonetheless cruel forms of racism in Brazil? Is racial democracy just a myth? But if it is a myth, what does that myth tell us about the society that invented it? If “race matters,” as per Cornel West’s witty expression, does it matter equally in different countries? How do we understand a society that is democratic on its surface, with mixed and hybrid cultural demonstrations (such as in music, arts, and sports), but which at the same time discriminates between its people socially (in the work environment, in terms of justice, as can be seen throughout its history)? Addressing these and other questions, we’ll analyze a variety of sources (literature, painting, newspaper articles, film, music, demographic data) in order to understand how race has been conceived in Brazil in different and rich ways, and how Brazilians often think of themselves as an “alternative” to the United States.
Finally, we will understand how Brazil can be so deeply paradoxical, and how, despite being the last country to abolish slavery in the Western world (1888), it was long considered the “country of the future,” at once the cradle of racial democracy and a repository of urban violence, as exposed in the media through the typical drug lords in the “favelas,” most of them “black and brown” young people. The first half of the seminar, from February to March, will be co-taught by Princeton’s Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures Pedro Meira Monteiro, and Princeton’s Global Scholar Lilia Schwarcz, a distinguished Latin American scholar of race and racism. Professor Meira Monteiro alone will teach the second half of the seminar. While students who take this seminar are not required to know Portuguese, they are strongly encouraged to start learning Portuguese, either in the fall or the spring semester of their freshman year. Those freshmen who, in addition to the seminar, take Portuguese classes at Princeton in 2011–12 will be given priority in registering for the Portuguese language program that Princeton will hold in Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2012. (Thursday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 162 From the Bronze Age to the Plastic Age: A History of Chemistry through Experimental Discovery STL
Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
Modern chemistry evolved as an independent discipline during the Scientific Revolution in the late 18th century, but what is taught in standard chemistry courses today is based on knowledge reaching back to the days before recorded history. For thousands of years people manipulated metals, soaps, dyes, textiles, and medicines without understanding why things worked. Modern chemical research still works with dyes, metals, soaps, textiles, and medicines, but with more intentional design. The underlying theme of this course is the application of individual discoveries to a broader understanding of how the world works.
This course covers the full range of chemical history—from 6,000 B.C. to the present—stressing what was known and accepted in chemical fields during each major era, and highlighting important laboratory advances that changed the thinking of the day. The alchemists sought to create gold and were labeled charlatans at best, but much of the glassware used in chemistry laboratories today was invented by them. In less obvious ways the fashion industry has been the catalyst for many layers of scientific discovery—the same dyes synthesized for use on textiles were used to stain bacteria under microscopes, which led directly to the discovery of the sulfa class of antibiotics.
We will begin the seminar by pondering along with Aristotle what the world is made of. We will not only read about what experiments were done, but also embark on discussions of how theories could have been proven or disproven given the scientific equipment of the day. Hand-in-hand with the classroom discussions of scientific developments during each era, students will reproduce some of the historically important experiments and representative industrial chemical processes in the laboratory component of the course. From the ancient synthesis of soap and the collection of gases during a reaction to the production of electricity, and the surprisingly simple synthesis of nylon fibers, we will expand our knowledge of how the world works.
This seminar has no prerequisites and is intended primarily for students who do not intend to concentrate in the natural sciences or engineering. The focus of the course will be on the process of experimental discovery. (Seminar -Tuesday, Thursday 11:00 AM - 12:20 PM & Lab - Wednesday 1:30-4:20 PM)
Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar in Music
Constitutions are designed to prescribe sustainable modes of assumption and exercise of state power. However, modern history is replete with instances when state power is assumed or exercised in ways not contemplated by the constitution. This takes many forms, ranging from the complete overthrow of the constitutional order to suspension of some part of the constitution on grounds of exceptional circumstances. Coups d’etat, emergencies, and martial laws have been recurring features in many states, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In recent years, departures from constitutional norms in the name of the “war on terror” have become common in liberal democracies of Europe and North America. This seminar will focus on the causes and consequences of such breakdowns of constitutional order and the exercise of emergency powers.
We will examine a range of theoretical writings, case studies, and relevant current events to explore the following questions: Why do constitutional orders break down? What various forms do these breakdowns take? What is the history of extra-constitutional usurpations and the exercise of emergency powers? What is the relationship between colonialism and extra-constitutionality? Why does constitutional stability remain elusive in most post-colonial states? Are modern economies and globalization incompatible with constitutionalism? Have exceptional emergency powers become a permanent feature of today’s world? What is the impact of emergency powers and exceptional measures on the rule of law and human rights? Can constitutions provide functional modalities to deal with emergencies? How can human rights be protected in the face of the ubiquitous use of emergency powers? (Wednesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 170 The Dreamkeepers: Education Reform and the Urban Teaching Experience SA
Currently, urban education reform is one of the most heated and divisive issues in the United States. Debates center on such questions as how to close the so-called racial achievement gap, how effective the “business model” of education has been, and how to best train and motivate teachers. The debates also bring attention to inner-city poverty and social inequality, and call into question the impact of macro-structural forces on classroom life. For example, arguing for more accountability of teachers and school leaders, Michelle Rhee, CEO of the political advocacy group, Students First, has said, “We will no longer describe failure as the result of vast impersonal forces like poverty or a broken bureaucracy.” Yet, on the other side of the divide, Diane Ravitch has argued that it would be good if our nation’s education leaders recognized that teachers are not solely responsible for student test scores. Poverty matters, and needs to be addressed as part of our educational agenda. And then there is Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, who has kept the focus on teacher quality and school leadership. She argues, “By deepening our understanding of what differentiates the most successful teachers and feeding those lessons into strategies for selection, training, and professional development, we can increase the number of highly successful teachers.”
In the midst of the maelstrom of political rhetoric, we find the “Dreamkeepers,” (borrowed from Ladson-Billings)—hardworking urban public school teachers who are often left feeling discouraged and unsupported. Yet, some have provided inspiring examples of “what works” in the classroom. And still others have emerged as dynamic and innovative school leaders and beacons of hope.
With a critically analytical and empathetic eye on the dreamkeeper, or the urban teacher, this seminar explores the daunting challenges and possibilities of urban teaching in the context of current debates, and it places the experience of the urban classroom teacher at the center of our inquiry into the problem of urban education. Some of the central questions students will explore are: What is it really like to work in an urban public school? How do the political economy and current educational policies shape those experiences? What key policy initiatives appear to be most promising, and what makes for a successful teacher in an urban school?
Readings will include an overview of several of the most timely educational trends and debates within urban education; foundational studies exploring the tensions between teachers’ actions and social and institutional constraints; current research documenting the perspectives, attitudes, and experiences of teachers working in low-income urban schools; and theories and research on the qualities of effective urban teachers.
This seminar is designed for any student considering making a short or long-term commitment to urban teaching and/or students interested in the study of urban inequality and the urban school as a major contemporary social problem. Class discussions will be based on one-page weekly student papers. An additional final paper will be assigned. The course will also include teachers from local urban schools, teacher activists, and scholars in the field as guest speakers, and a class trip into urban schools of interest. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)
FRS 180 Science and Technology for a Sustainable Energy Future STL
Donald P. Wilson ’33 and Edna M. Wilson Freshman Seminar
FRS 186 Signals, Yardsticks, and Tipping Points of Global Warming and Ocean Environments STL
In a recent USA Today article, “Is Earth near its tipping points from global warming?” Richard Moss, director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, commented, “In a sense, we are looking at a series of tipping points for humanity and climate.” Physical signals of global warming, such as temperature, sea level rise, and concentrations of greenhouse gases are the most certain past and future yardsticks for global warming. The interconnections of these physical effects with biological ones suggest that the next significant climate change impacts will involve dramatic species extinctions and, for human life, increased disease and hunger.
This seminar will focus on understanding climate signals, yardsticks, and tipping points of global warming followed by discussions of what we can do to begin the process of solving the carbon and climate problem. General topics will include principles of climate change, the scientific basis for risk of human-induced climate change, and potential environmental and biological impacts of global warming. Emphasis will be placed on how climate change is expected to affect ocean systems and life. Subject areas related to environmental impacts will include atmosphere-ocean interconnections, melting of continental ice caps and glaciers, sea level rise, sea temperature and acidification, and changes in vertical ocean circulation. Topic areas related to biological consequences will include limits of temperature tolerances and adaptations from single cells to whole organisms, including inter-relationships within complex ocean communities, such as coral reefs.
The format of the class will include presentations, readings, discussions, films, and hands-on lab and field inquiry-based exercises, including a seven-day excursion during fall break (Saturday, October 29, to Sunday, November 6) to the island of Bermuda. We will be based at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS, www.bios.edu), an institution with an international reputation for scientific research and education on marine ecosystems. The island of Bermuda is located in the core of the Sargasso Sea, a warm, clear surface ocean environment in the mid-Atlantic, an ideal place to study the role of the ocean in global climate change. Early studies in the Atlantic have revealed connections between both surface ocean circulation, such as the Gulf Stream, and deep ocean circulation with climate. In ongoing research in affiliation with BIOS, the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study (BATS) is focused on understanding the causes of variability in ocean biogeochemistry, and provides the framework for the longest continuous time series of open ocean data in the world. Lab exercises will use BATS data to study and track changes in sea temperature and ocean circulation patterns. The unique marine habitat around Bermuda includes reef-building corals, which also provide excellent field sites for the investigative labs of the course to study the impact of a warming Gulf Stream on temperature tolerances and adaptations of ocean communities, including the coral bleaching phenomenon.
Several times a day, every day of the year, wealthy, highly educated tourists in Kenya gather on the equator to watch a young African demonstrate how the Coriolis force causes water draining out of a bowl to swirl clockwise in one hemisphere, counter-clockwise in the other. The demonstration mesmerizes the tourists, but angers many scientists who, on the World Wide Web, explain why it is a hoax, denounce the African as a charlatan, and demand that the demonstrations be stopped. What these scientists fail to see is that the African is a clever entrepreneur with a disturbing message: the tourists are so easily beguiled because they have been taught so poorly.
Scientific illiteracy among the people is particularly evident in the current debate over global warming. Over the past few years, the evidence that human activities are causing global warming has become convincing to more and more scientists, yet more and more laymen now ask, “Where did global warming go?” They know that the equator is a special line, but do not appreciate that every place on Earth is special, and that this is a most unusual moment in the long and eventful history of a most unusual planet, the only one known to be habitable. Why is the Earth habitable? Why, in a global context, are Princeton and your hometown special places? If we can answer such questions, we will be moving towards resolution of the global warming.
This seminar will explore how past scientific controversies can help us understand and cope with current ones. Scientific issues that have been resolved, after centuries of debate in some cases, exemplify the complexity of interactions between scientists and laymen, and display the curious methods of science, especially the firm commitment to skepticism demanded of its practitioners. Indeed, we can learn much from our ancestors who once debated whether the Earth is flat, and whether it is the center of the universe. Our seminar will be organized around weekly discussions, first of past scientific controversies and the way they were resolved, then of possible solutions to current controversies. No particular scientific background is required, just curiosity about the natural world and human nature. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 PM)