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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Bruce W Hevly
GEN ST 197
Seattle Campus

Freshman Seminar

Small-group discussion with faculty representing a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. Topics and approaches vary. Instructor may introduce research techniques or findings, concentrate on readings in his/her area of interest, or illustrate problems and alternatives related to the study of a particular academic discipline. Credit/no-credit only. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

Course Description: In 1963 two distinctive phenomena came together at the University of Washington. One was Richard Feynman, who had emerged as the archetypical theoretical physicist of the Manhattan Project generation. The second, represented by the establishment of the UW’s Danz Lectures, was the idea of a new civic religion for the nuclear age, one appropriate for a time in which the powers of creation and apocalypse seemed to have passed into the hands of scientists and their government patrons. This seminar will comprise a series of discussions organized around the questions listed below, drawing upon this year’s common book, contemporary writings by Feynman (his Lectures on Physics and The Character of Physical Law) as well as work by historians of science on indeterminacy in modern physics, Feynman diagrams, physics as counter-culture, and science as a model for religion and political life. We will conclude with a discussion of what questions the University might best address in today’s world. Readings amount to 35 or 40 pages per week.

Discussion Topics:

1. What did Danz lectures set out to do, and how did this reflect the context of the early 1960s? 2. What counts as certain knowledge after the advent of the quantum theory? 3. Can we distinguish science from pseudoscience, and has this line remained constant? 4. What’s wrong with pseudoscience? 5. Can science establish ethical systems? 6. How were physicists mobilized as citizen-soldiers during the Cold War? Did this compromise ethics? 7. How did Feynman earn a Nobel Prize (1965)? 8. How did Feynman diagrams reflect the postwar context of University education? 9. How did pseudoscience save physics? 10. What should Danz lectures address in today’s University?

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Bruce W Hevly
Date: 12/15/2011