Bard College Catalogue 2012-13
Additional Courses in the Sciences
Courses listed under this heading are introductory courses in branches of science that do not fit into the six divisional programs (biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics), or that approach the study of science from historical or philosophical points of view.
Paints and the Examination of Paintings
This course is about the composition of pigments, dyes, and paints; the chemistry underlying selected techniques (e.g., Attic vase and fresco painting); and scientific methods for examining paintings. As light, atoms, and molecules are central to paints and techniques for examining paintings, the course begins with these foundational topics. Laboratory work includes synthesis and analysis of pigments and dyes, and preparation of binders and paints.
Artists’ Materials: Metals and Prints
Topics covered include the properties of metals, formation of alloys, oxidation of metal surfaces by chemical and electrochemical means, and the chemistry of early photographic processes. Lab work includes preparation of bronze, etching, and anodization of metals; and making prints by the salted paper, blueprint, and gum bichromate processes.
One of our species’ most amazing achievements is a pretty good understanding of the composition of stars, despite our confinement to Earth. Since no space probe has gone near any star besides the sun, our understanding comes from a close examination of starlight—by a process resembling Isaac Newton’s decomposition of sunlight into its colors—and our modern understanding of atoms and molecules. This course is about the analysis of starlight, and what it tells us about the composition of stars, their temperatures, and their motions.
An introduction to astronomy and astrophysics that covers the current status of knowledge and theories of the solar system, individual stars, galaxies, and the interstellar medium. Theories of quasars, pulsars, supernovas, X-ray stars, and black holes are discussed in terms of models of stellar, galactic, and cosmic evolution.
A descriptive review of the astrophysical theories of the origin and development of the early universe. The Big Bang theory is examined in detail, with attendant evidence and theories of particles, fields, energy and entropy, and space-time geometry. Current models of supernovas, quasars, black and white holes, dark matter, quantum foam, and recent alternative models of supersymmetry and superstrings are reviewed.
The History of Science before Newton
Science History and Philosophy 222
T. S. Kuhn’s model of historical progress is used to examine selected parts of discourses involving pre-Socratic philosophy, mythology, Copernican astronomy, Galileo’s trial, and Newton’s philosophy. A critique of method introduces modern historiographic and philosophic controversies.
Physical Science after Newton
Science History and Philosophy 223
cross-listed: sts, victorian studies
A survey of major agendas of physical science since 1750. Characteristic episodes include Lavoisier and the theory of elements; Maxwell and the mathematization of physics; arguments about light from Newton, Young, Michelson, and Einstein; 20th-century atomic theory; and the emergence of “big science.”
Science and Pseudoscience
Science History and Philosophy 227
The search for a demarcation between “science” and “pseudoscience” has generated many productive developments in the academic philosophy of science. This course examines a number of well-studied 20th-century incidences of pseudoscience in physical science, including Blondlot’s N-rays, Langmuir’s criteria, Ehrenhaft’s electrons, polywater, cold fusion, and the fifth force. No background in science or mathematics is required.