The Universal Machine
We are all aware of the extremely rapid developments in recent years that have led to the technology driven digital age that we live in. But what were the big conceptual ideas and discoveries that paved the way for these fairly recent advances?
This course peers back through history in an attempt to pinpoint the major intellectual strides in the art and science of computing. Who were the individuals responsible, and what provided the impetus for their work? As the title of the course suggests, our principal focus will be the Universal Machine, a theoretical innovation of Alan Turing whose profound influence on our world today is difficult to overstate. (If you have seen the recent movie, The Imitation Game, you have some sense of this already.)
Our journey begins, more or less, in the 17th Century, lingers for a while in the 19th Century, and reaches its exciting climax in the twenty or so years either side of the Second World War. We will pause for some literary reflection on the age of machines, and to take a glimpse into the arcane world of cryptology.
Sequence Society & Self
In this seminar, students will gain a greater understanding of the role of science in society and begin to appreciate how science influences our understanding of the universe around us.
The Human Genome Project was a 13-year endeavor that cost the federal government approximately $4 billion. We will use the Human Genome Project as a lens to answer questions about how science functions in Western society and how the genome sequence can be used to better understand ourselves as individuals and as a society. Has the HGP changed my life? Will I want to have my genome sequenced? Who gets to know my genetic make-up? Will I want to screen potential partners or embryos based on their genetic make-up? Who were the Denisovans? When we have the ability to sequence everyone's genome will we change the way we define ourselves and act as a society?
Students will read texts about the genome and genome project; literature that explores the basis of human nature, investigate human genes of interest and participate in the annotation (mapping) of a bacterial genome.
Extreme Discoveries: Physics Across Different Scales
The farthest galaxy, the smallest particle, the coldest temperature, the fastest computer, the most precisely tested theory, the most complex system - the human brain...all of these scales are made accessible to us thanks to generations of researchers advancing theories, inventing technologies and forging collaborations.
Using cutting-edge discoveries as a backdrop, this foundation seminar integrates reading, writing and quantitative reasoning through weekly-themed topics. Students will learn to analyze each topic of its historic background, theoretical framework, technological support, significance to society, and public reception, thus develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of a well-rounded education as well as interdisciplinary collaborations.