These classes all have websites, but only registered students can look beyond the front pages linked below. If you'd like more information on any of these, please contact me. You may also be interested in my teaching philosophy.
Scientists are often called on to provide evidence in public debates that range from the global to the local. The presentation and interpretation of these data shape both public opinion and public policy, and put a heavy responsibility on scientists and technical communicators to explain science accurately and ethically to non-experts. In this class we will consider the forces at work when scientists must communicate about matters of grave importance. What is the role of the scientists' own opinions? How can they explain complex problems to the general public without over- simplifying? How are scientists and their research used by politicians, the media, and other special interests, and how can scientists better control their own communication? To explore these questions we will focus on current debates on topics such as global warming, genetically modified food, and the distortion of science for political ends. Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources including scientific journals, popular media, government reports, and the research of bodies such as the National Academies of Science and the World Health Organization.
12.410J - 8.287J introduces students to the fundamentals of planning an astronomical observing project, obtaining the data, reducing the data, drawing conclusions from the results, and writing a project report. The material taught in the subject is geared toward allowing participants to carry out an independent research project that meets the Institute laboratory requirement. It is typically taken by sophomores, juniors, and seniors in EAPS, Physics, and Mathematics, especially those who are concentrating in astrophysics or planetary science. For majors it serves as the basis for more advanced subjects, UROP projects, and/or undergraduate theses. This is a communication intensive course for EAPS and Physics majors. --I teach the communication intensive aspect.
Speculative texts occupy an important role in any culture; from their earliest appearance, they have served to express our hopes for and fears of the human spirit. Often, creators use their stories as a way to address issues of grave concern such as war, oppression, industrialization, or a search for identity. Though speculative texts are often seen as escapist and thus not taken seriously by critics, these works can teach us as much as any other more respected texts about the culture that produced them. As works in this genre has been steadily growing, and growing more popular, during our own time, we should explore them, and learn whatever they can teach us about ourselves. In this class we focus on how particular worlds, characters, and stories are used by both creators and audiences to create, maintain, and express personal identity. Texts drawn from authors such as Samuel R. Delany, Ursula Le Guin, Larissa Lai; comic books like Transmetropolitan, and films such as the Matrix Trilogy and Spirited Away. Some works will be chosen by the students.