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Bard College Catalogue 2020-21
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, or that approach the study of science from historical or philosophical points of view.
The Story of Water: From Drops to Drips
What journey has a drop of water taken to get to our tap? How can we determine if toxic or harmful contaminants are present? This course addresses the composition of natural waters and the analytical methods used to assess water quality. Foundational principles of chemistry are used to explore the weird and wonderful properties of water, which make life, as we know it, possible. Integrated laboratory work focuses on the analysis of water quality parameters as a means to understand and evaluate water treatment.
Paints and the Examination of Paintings
Students investigate 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.
Topics covered range from the chemistry of silver and nonsilver photographic processes to the physics of CCD cameras. Laboratory work emphasizes the chemical transformations involved in making gum dichromate prints, cyanotypes, blueprints, salted paper prints, and black-and-white silver emulsion prints.
Learning about Learning
What is learning? How can we learn more quickly? What happens in our brains when we learn? This course offers an experimental investigation of what influences the depth and quality of learning. A major focus is on student-generated, quantitative experiments designed to test ideas about learning.
No space probe has traveled to any star besides the sun, and yet we have constructed a detailed picture of the composition and life cycle of stars based on the light and particles they emit. Analysis of starlight tells us about the composition, temperature, and size of stars, while analysis of the particles offers clues about the nuclear processes that occur on them. Foundational topics addressed include the nature of light, structure of atoms, and nuclear reactions. Students must be comfortable with scientific notation and using algebra to solve problems.
Thinking about Thinking: Models of Reality
How have we learned to make sense of the physical world? The answer is far from obvious. Indeed, most of our knowledge is counterintuitive. We know the Earth goes around the sun, not the converse, but that’s not the way it seems. Seeing is often misleading, and our contemporary grasp of reality is rooted instead in deep thinking and testable models. Students grapple with five transformative ideas that have changed the way we see the world, focusing on what it means to explain something quantitatively and how we test the validity of that explanation.
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 analyzed.
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.
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.”