Classes

    Why Is There No Cure for Health? (Gen Ed 1079)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    Given all our technological advances, why are we still not able to prevent preventable diseases, provide affordable healthcare for millions of people, and deliver cures for curable diseases?

     

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    David M. Cutler

    Around the world, billions of dollars are spent on health care treatments, public health initiatives, and pharmaceutical research and development. So why are we still not able to prevent preventable diseases, provide affordable healthcare for millions of people, and deliver cures for curable diseases? And what are the best ways to address these issues? Because these questions are so large, we will focus our discussion around questions like: What steps should be taken to address epidemics? How should the United States reform its health care system? And how should prescription drugs be produced and sold?... Read more about Why Is There No Cure for Health? (Gen Ed 1079)

    Energy Resources and the Environment (Gen Ed 1085)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2022

    How can we make sound, realistic choices about the ways we produce energy to support our growing global economies while fulfilling our responsibility as stewards of the environment?  

     

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    John Shaw

    This is a revolutionary time of change regarding how we produce and utilize energy around the world. How will we provide enough energy to support our growing global economy while protecting our environment? This class examines the full life cycle of each energy resource, including where it comes from geologically, how we acquire it, the way it is used in our economies, and the environmental impacts of these activities.... Read more about Energy Resources and the Environment (Gen Ed 1085)

    Natural Disasters (Gen Ed 1098)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    What makes our planet so dangerous?

     

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    Brendan Meade

    Poster for Gen Ed 1098 - Natural Disasters. Image is a satellite photograph of a hurricane. Text includes course time (Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-1145am) and location (Haller Hall, Geology Museum).

    From Mexico to India, San Francisco to Tokyo, natural disasters have shaped both the surface of our planet and the development of civilizations. These catastrophes claim thousands of lives and cause tens of billions of dollars in damage each year, and the impact of natural disasters is only increasing as a result of human population growth and urbanization. This course uses the methods and skills associated with earth science to help you to develop an understanding of both the causes and impacts of these events.... Read more about Natural Disasters (Gen Ed 1098)

    Infectious Diseases and Social Injustice (Gen Ed 1129)

    Semester: 

    N/A

    Should we have been better prepared to mitigate the inequities that we are witnessing with COVID-19?

     

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    Donald Goldmann and Ken McIntosh

    Advances in prevention and treatment of infectious disease have left large segments of the global population behind. This course studies the societal impacts of nine infectious diseases: HIV/AIDS, malaria, plague, polio, cholera, smallpox, yellow fever, syphilis, and tuberculosis.... Read more about Infectious Diseases and Social Injustice (Gen Ed 1129)

    Ancestry: Where do we come from and why do we care? (Gen Ed 1014)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    How does ancestry affect our opportunities, our rights, and our sense of who we are?

     

    Histories, Societies, Individuals icon with text Science & Technology in Society icon with text

    Maya Jasanoff

    Everyone comes from somewhere. We carry our ancestries in our DNA, genealogy, family stories, and more. What do these forms of evidence tell us about who we are, as a species, as a social group, or as an individual? This course looks at ancestry from a range of perspectives: biology, anthropology, genealogy, history, law, and memory—from the origins of human populations to the origins of you.... Read more about Ancestry: Where do we come from and why do we care? (Gen Ed 1014)

    Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    Can we reconcile the scientific 'brain as a machine' view with our strong experience of moral agency?

     

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    Steven Hyman

    Advances in brain science have the potential to diminish many forms of human suffering and disability that are rooted in disordered brain function. But what are the ethical implications involved in altering the structure and function of human brains? What’s at stake when we have the ability to alter a person’s narrative identity, create brain-computer interfaces, and manipulate social and moral emotion? In this course, you will ask and attempt to answer these questions, and discuss the implications of mechanistic explanations of decision-making and action for widely-held concepts of moral agency and legal culpability.... Read more about Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)

    Confronting Climate Change: A Foundation in Science, Technology and Policy (Gen Ed 1094)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    How can we address the issue of climate change, reducing the damages by preparing for impacts already underway and fixing the problem by transforming our energy system?

     

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    Daniel Schrag

    This course will consider the challenge of climate change and what to do about it.   Students will be introduced to the basic science of climate change, including the radiation budget of the Earth, the carbon cycle, and the physics and chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere.... Read more about Confronting Climate Change: A Foundation in Science, Technology and Policy (Gen Ed 1094)

    Finding Our Way (Gen Ed 1031)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2020


    How did/do humans find their way across the planet, and how can we replicate their wayfinding?
     

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    John Huth

    How do you navigate our increasingly automated culture? In this course, we will use the theme of primitive navigation to open our eyes to the physical world in a direct and palpable manner. Basic principles include human cognition of physical and mental maps, dead reckoning, direction finding from nature. The course includes the basics of astronomy, including planetary orbits, meteorology, thermodynamics, bird behavior, electromagnetic radiation, optics, waves, tides, ocean currents, and fluid dynamics.... Read more about Finding Our Way (Gen Ed 1031)

    Understanding Darwinism (Gen Ed 1004)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2021

    How has our understanding of evolution evolved since Darwin?

     

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    Andrew Berry and Janet Browne

    How does scientific knowledge develop, how is it shaped by history, and what effect does it have on society? An interdisciplinary exploration of Darwin's ideas and their impact on science and society, this course links the history of Darwin's ideas with the key features of modern evolutionary biology. We review the development of the main elements of the theory of evolution, highlighting the areas in which Darwin's ideas have proved remarkably robust and areas in which subsequent developments have significantly modified the theory.... Read more about Understanding Darwinism (Gen Ed 1004)

    Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature (Gen Ed 1058)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2019

    Ethics & Civics icon with textScience & Technology in Society icon with text

    Michael Sandel and Doug Melton

    The course explores the moral, social, and political implications of new technologies. Will biotechnology and AI enable us to hack humanity? Should we edit the genes of our children, extend the human lifespan, and genetically enhance our athletic ability and IQ? Can algorithms be fair? Will robots make work obsolete? Can smart machines outthink us? In an age of big data and social media, is privacy over? Is democracy?... Read more about Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature (Gen Ed 1058)

    Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cares? Reimagining Global Health (Gen Ed 1093)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    How can health care systems be restructured to provide high quality care even to the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet?
     

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    Arthur Kleinman, Anne Becker, and Salmaan Keshavjee

    If you are sick or hurt, whether you live or die depends not only on biological factors, but social ones: who you are and where you are, what sort of healthcare system is available to help you survive, and what kind of care is available to help you recover, if society believes you deserve it. The global coronavirus pandemic illustrates with dramatic urgency the role social forces play in patterning health inequities and determining individual fates. The vulnerabilties of those most likely to get sick and die from COVID-19 stem from the ongoing effects of systemic racism on racialized subjects, the devaluation of eldercare and precarity of low-paid work under neoliberal forms of governance, and material effects of colonial-era power structures that render health care systems dangerously weak or inaccessible for many communities. Now, as ever, it is imperative to develop frameworks and methodologies to identify and to intervene effectively in harmful social configurations that cause illness and suffering.

    ... Read more about Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cares? Reimagining Global Health (Gen Ed 1093)

    Can We Know Our Past? (Gen Ed 1105)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    In a time when histories are being contested, monuments removed, and alternative facts compete with established orthodoxy, how do we evaluate competing narratives about what really happened in the past?

     

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    Jason Ur and Matthew Liebmann

    What happened in the past? How do you know? Even though today we take great pains to document every major event that occurs, more than 99% of human history is not written down.... Read more about Can We Know Our Past? (Gen Ed 1105)

    Evolving Morality: From Primordial Soup to Superintelligent Machines (Gen Ed 1046)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2022

    How can we understand the evolution of morality—from primordial soup to superintelligent machines—and how might the science of morality equip us to meet our most pressing moral challenges?

     

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    Joshua D. Greene

    In this course we’ll examine the evolution of morality on Earth, from its origins in the biology of unthinking organisms, through the psychology of intelligent primates, and into a future inhabited by machines that may be more intelligent and better organized than humans. First, we ask: What is morality?... Read more about Evolving Morality: From Primordial Soup to Superintelligent Machines (Gen Ed 1046)

    What is Life? From Quarks to Consciousness (Gen Ed 1029)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2020


    Are we — wonderful, human us — really nothing more than complex constellations of interacting atoms?

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    Logan S. McCarty and Andrew Berry

    This course views life through multiple lenses. Quantum physics involves uncertainty and randomness, and yet paradoxically it explains the stability of molecules, such as DNA, that encode information and are critical to life. Thermodynamics is about the universe's ever increasing disorder, and yet living systems remain ordered and intact.... Read more about What is Life? From Quarks to Consciousness (Gen Ed 1029)

    How to Build a Habitable Planet (Gen Ed 1018)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    The relationship between human beings and Earth is the central problem of our time; can an understanding of Earth’s history reveal a place for us in a process of planetary evolution that might influence our behavior?

     

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    Charles H. Langmuir

    Poster for Gen Ed 1018 - How to Build a Habitable Planet. Includes images of earth as well as a construction worker. Text describes course.

    Is Earth one of many planets in an inhabited Universe, or is it the result of a low-probability accident? And what does the answer to that question tell us about humans’ relationship to our planet? The aim of this course is to place human beings in a universal and planetary context as we investigate the steps of planetary evolution and their significance to our current relationship to Earth.... Read more about How to Build a Habitable Planet (Gen Ed 1018)

    Artificial and Natural Intelligence (Gen Ed 1125)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    What does it mean for a machine to be intelligent, how does current artificial intelligence compare with animal intelligence, and should we be worried?

     

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    Venkatesh Murthy

    What is intelligence? An inquiry into the nature of intelligence can take different forms – philosophical, biological, mathematical or technological. In this course, we will use machine intelligence (everything from voice recognizing smartphones to game-playing computers) as a handle to think about natural intelligence (brains and behavior of animals). Although we will start with big, general questions, we will quickly move to concrete queries about brains and computers.... Read more about Artificial and Natural Intelligence (Gen Ed 1125)

    Human Evolution and Human Health (Gen Ed 1027)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    How did the human body evolve to be the way it is, and how does that evolutionary history influence how we can promote health and prevent disease?

     

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    Daniel Lieberman

    How and why did humans evolve to be the way we are, and what are the implications of our evolved anatomy and physiology for human health in a post-industrial world? Why do we get sick, and how can we use principles of evolution to improve health and wellbeing?... Read more about Human Evolution and Human Health (Gen Ed 1027)

    Sleep (Gen Ed 1038)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    How does sleep affect your health, your safety, and our society?

     

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    Charles Czeisler and Frank A.J.L. Scheer

    What is sleep? Why do we sleep? Why don't we sleep? How much sleep do you need? What are circadian rhythms? How do technology and culture impact sleep? This course will explore the role of sleep and circadian timing in maintaining health, improving performance and enhancing safety.... Read more about Sleep (Gen Ed 1038)

    Human Nature (Gen Ed 1056)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2021

    What does it mean to be human, from a biological perspective – and how did we get that way?

     

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    Erin Hecht and Martin Surbeck

    This course asks: What makes us behaviorally and psychologically human? In what ways are humans similar to other species and in what ways are we different? What are the evolutionary origins of the behavioral and psychological features found across human societies including parental love, sibling rivalry, pair-bonding, incest aversion, social status, war, norms, altruism, religion, language, and cooking?... Read more about Human Nature (Gen Ed 1056)

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