Classes

    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)

    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)

    World Health: Challenges and Opportunities (Gen Ed 1063)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    How do we analyze the health of global populations in a time of unprecedented crisis, and create new policies that address the social, political, economic, and environmental dimensions of health in an increasingly interdependent world?

     

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    Sue Goldie

    Extraordinary changes in the world present both risks and opportunities to health—unprecedented interconnections across borders, rapidly shifting global demographics, and changing patterns of diseases and injuries. This course will challenge your assumptions about the world’s populations, as you discover surprising similarities and unexpected differences between and within countries.... Read more about World Health: Challenges and Opportunities (Gen Ed 1063)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    Prediction: The Past and Present of the Future (Gen Ed 1112)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    How and why do humans try to divine their own futures?

     

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    Alyssa Goodman

    Human beings are the only creatures in the animal kingdom properly defined as worriers. We are the only ones who expend tremendous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying (sometimes obsessively) to understand our futures before they happen. While the innate ability of individual people to predict has not changed much in the past few millennia, developments in mathematical and conceptual models have inordinately improved predictive systems.... Read more about Prediction: The Past and Present of the Future (Gen Ed 1112)

    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)

    The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change: Transitioning to a Post Fossil Fuel Future (Gen Ed 1137)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    What can we do now to avoid the most serious consequences of climate change, which poses an immediate problem for global society?

     

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    Michael B. McElroy

    Human induced climate change has the potential to alter the function of natural ecosystems and the lives of people on a global scale. The prospect lies not in the distant future but is imminent. Our choice is either to act immediately to change the nature of our global energy system (abandon our dependence on fossil fuels) or accept the consequences (included among which are increased incidence of violent storms, fires, floods and droughts, changes in the spatial distribution and properties of critical ecosystems, and rising sea level).... Read more about The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change: Transitioning to a Post Fossil Fuel Future (Gen Ed 1137)

    Science of Stress (Gen Ed 1162)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    What are the causes and consequences of stress, and what are the most effective strategies for coping with stress?

     

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    Katie A. McLaughlin

    Stress is a universal human experience. What is stress and why do we experience it? How does stress influence our emotions and the way we think and behave? What are common causes of stress in our modern world? What are the consequences of stress for our health and well-being? Why are some people more vulnerable to developing stress-related illnesses than others? And perhaps most importantly – what are the most effective strategies for coping with stress?

    ... Read more about Science of Stress (Gen Ed 1162)

    Vaccines: History, Science, Policy (Gen Ed 1175)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    Can vaccines solve the problem of infectious global pandemics?

     

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    Galit Alter, Allan M. Brandt, and Ingrid Katz

    Vaccination is among the oldest and most effective of medical interventions, yet paradoxically, it is also one of the most controversial. In its modern form, it has been used for centuries to prevent some of the most virulent infectious scourges of our time. Today, immunization is one of the most successful and effective interventions available to medicine and public health, reducing morbidity and mortality across the world.... Read more about Vaccines: History, Science, Policy (Gen Ed 1175)

    Psychotherapy and the Modern Self (Gen Ed 1179)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    How can we understand the appeal of psychotherapy, widely recognized as the preferred antidote to human unhappiness and misery, and what does it offer that friends, family, self-help, and psychopharmacological remedies do not?

     

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    Elizabeth Lunbeck

    What does psychotherapy offer our distressed selves that friends, family, self-help, and psychopharmacological remedies do not? The demand for therapy is currently at an all-time high, bolstering its century-long hegemony as the preferred antidote to human unhappiness and misery, even as it is under sustained attack from critics characterizing it as self-indulgent as well as from platforms that would replace human therapists with chatbots, analysts with algorithms.... Read more about Psychotherapy and the Modern Self (Gen Ed 1179)

    Experiments that Changed Our World (Gen Ed 1037)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    In what ways does reliving 12 groundbreaking scientific experiments teach us how our own efforts can remake the world?

     

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    Philip Sadler

    Facing the edifice of preexisting knowledge, how are breakthrough scientific discoveries made that contradict the existing canon? Twelve great experiments that have transformed our understanding of nature will guide us, first through immersion in the scholarship and popular beliefs of the time. Next, how did the discoverer prepare? What were the motivations, prior experiences, and training that led to the threshold of a fruitful advance?... Read more about Experiments that Changed Our World (Gen Ed 1037)

    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)

    How Music Works: Engineering the Acoustical World (Gen Ed 1080)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    Music and technology are two dimensions of humanity that have been interdependent for tens of thousands of years; what can this intersection teach us about our past and our future?

     

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    Robert Wood

    How does Shazam know what song is playing? Why do some rooms have better acoustics than others? How and why do singers harmonize? Do high-end musical instruments sound better than cheap ones? How do electronic synthesizers work? What processes are common in designing a device and composing a piece of music? How is music stored and manipulated in a digital form? This class explores these and related themes in an accessible way for all concentrators, regardless of technical background.... Read more about How Music Works: Engineering the Acoustical World (Gen Ed 1080)

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