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The Seen and Unseen in Science

Semester and Year FA 2010
Course Number IDSEM-UG1534
Section 001
Instructor Matthew Stanley
Days Tue,Thu
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement SCI


This class explores how science and scientists work with the invisible, unseen, or unseeable elements of our world. We will examine how scientists convince themselves that these unseen things, such as atoms and molecules, are real. We ask probing questions about what it means to “see” or “observe” the world around us, and grapple with the basic question of how we gain scientific knowledge at all. Topics include the atomic theory, energy, quantum physics, the unconscious and psychoanalysis, human consciousness and intelligence, dark matter, and the nature of objectivity. None of these can be seen or held in one’s hand, but scientists claim to have detected and to understand them. We will pay special attention to how scientists are trained to see in particular ways, and how culture and worldview can shape, restrict, or enhance the way we observe. Readings: Galileo, Ernst Mach, Henry Adams, Stephen J. Gould, Peter Galison, T.S. Kuhn, Freud, Edward Tufte.

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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