JPH 441

Physical Science in Contemporary Society

This year (2017) is the fourth time that I have taught this course. I will more or less follow what I did last year. The general topic is the same as in the past. We will look at what science is and what it is not, and the methodology that distinguishes science from other human activities. We will look at what some modern philosophers have said about modern science, and think about whether their statements make any sense. Of course we will read what some practicing scientists have written about what they think they are doing. We will try to identify features which distinguish junk (bogus) science from real science. We will discuss how real (and bogus) science influiences our society. Finally we will look at what physical science today says about the nature of reality.

When you study quantum mechanics, or differential geometry, the usual method of teaching is for the instructor to give a lecture, and you ask a few questions for clarification. I think this course is a bit different from that. My feeling is that we should discuss some of the ideas we cover in class. So I will put aside time for that. I really do encourage people to speak up, whether it is to ask questions, or to give your opinions on the material, or anything related to it.

You should check this web site each week before the lectures. I'll try to have the notes for each lecture posted the weekend before. Of course, this is a pretty ambitious program, and we'll just have to see how far we get. Over the past year I have been collecting various readings that are relevant to the material in this course, and I will be posting them on this website. I'll note this in class. I also add information about grading, assignments and exams. The best way to contact me is by email, which is orr(no_spam_wanted=@) I read it reguarly.

I have ordered the following books through the textbook store.

These are my notes on the lectures:

Lecture 01:

Lecture 02:

Lecture 03:

Lecture 04:

Lecture 05:

Lecture 06:

Lecture 07:

Lecture 08:

Lecture 09:

Lecture 10:

Lecture 11:

Lecture 12:

These are readings and useful links:

Richard Feynman talk on Scientific Method:

Is the Moon There When Nobody Looks? Reality and Quantum Theory:

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences:

What is PseudoScience:

The Multiverse and the Measure Problem:

Grading Scheme:

Essay 1 - 15% Due 7 February

Essay 2 - 15% Due 7 March

Essay 3 - 15% Due 28 March

Mid term - 10% During class time 28 February

Exam, 3 hours, essay style - 45%