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First-Year Research Seminar: Translation in Science: Dual Ways of Thinking

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number FIRST-UG797
Section 001
Instructor Lauren Greenspan
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Units 4
Level U
Foundation Requirement  


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


In  A Madman Dreams of Turning Machines , rich, mathematical prose transports the reader into the idiosyncratic minds of two brilliant mathematicians. Examples such as these (as well as those that use flowery language to convey scientific ideas) highlight the duality of thought between the scientist and the general public. In this research seminar, we will investigate what it takes to translate science into “ordinary” language. If writers can be thought of as translators of scientific jargon, how do interpretations vary among them? Translation between scientific subcultures, particularly in physics, occurs by way of “dualities.” These give scientists two ways of describing the same physics and often come equipped with extensive “dictionaries” that allow them to trade information across linguistic boundaries. In this course, we will use dualities as case studies in scientific translation: models of scientific discourse with a similar “trading zone” structure as the intersections between scientists and non-scientists. In what sense is this translation complete?

Course Type

First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)