This experimental course covers six broad themes: the 21st-century challenges of Earth and the environment, energy, and life; an understanding of the natural phenomena relevant to your daily life in the form of science all around you; the study of science and culture to illuminate the laws of natural science as the foundational backdrop of civilization; and, finally, mathematics as the language used to describe the natural world.
Our unit on Earth and the environment consists of three projects—the greenhouse effect and the warming of the planet, environmental radiation, and the grand feedback loop of Earth and its atmosphere—that offer students an opportunity to understand, through firsthand experience, the causes of global warming, the sources of the environmental radiation surrounding us at all times, and the mechanisms of climate change. In our unit on energy, students build their own dye-sensitization solar cell and convert light into electrical energy. Our coverage of life offers students the opportunity to experience two aspects of modern biology: observation of fertilization and cleavage and DNA analysis. From these observations, students learn about the origins of life and study precisely what is meant by the notion of legally protected “human life” and the substance of DNA, which records the genetic data of biological organisms. The goal of our unit on science all around you is to convince you—through observations—that the glowing fireflies and blood-stain detection are ultimately made possible by the same underlying light-emission phenomena. These experiments involve students themselves making actual sea fireflies glow. In studying science and culture, we will conduct experiments to determine the relationship between music and the vibrations of strings. Finally, our discussion of mathematics will include both “experiments” and “tasks to enhance understanding”; focusing on the subjects of algebra and geometry, we will consider unsolved problems of mathematics, modern encryption technologies, the arithmetic of real numbers, and the geometry of spherical triangles.