Foundations of Scientific Inquiry (2018 - 2020)
In addition to the information listed below, detailed descriptions of each year's course offerings may be found on the Core Curriculum website.
Quantitative Reasoning: Mathematical Patterns in Nature
CORE-UA 101 Offered every other year. 4 points.
Calculator-based and focuses on applications and case studies in the natural sciences and economics. Topics include the scale of things in the natural world; the art of making estimates; growth laws, including the growth of money and the concept of "constant dollars"; radioactivity and its role in unraveling the history of the earth and solar system; the notion of randomness and basic ideas from statistics; scaling laws—why things are the size they are; the cosmic distance ladder; and the meaning of "infinity."
Quantitative Reasoning: Elementary Statistics
CORE-UA 105 Offered every year. 4 points.
Mathematical theory is minimized. Emphasis is on methods. Actual survey and experimental data are analyzed. Computations are done with calculators. Topics: description of data, elementary probability, random sampling, mean, variance, standard deviation, statistical tests, and estimation.
Quantitative Reasoning: Probability, Statistics, and Decision Making
CORE-UA 107 Offered every year. 4 points.
Elementary probability theory approached through games and gambling. Topics include probability, expectation, introduction to game theory, gambler's ruin, gambling systems, and optimal strategies. Examples are taken from games of chance, including backgammon, blackjack, craps, and poker.
Quantitative Reasoning: Mathematics and Computing
CORE-UA 109 Offered every other year. Klukowska. 4 points.
Teaches mathematical concepts using the Python programming language. Introduction to basic Python operations with numbers and strings, variables, Boolean logic, control structures, loops, and functions. These operations are applied to the mathematical principles of growth and decay, geometric progressions, compound interest, exponentials, permutations, and probability.
Quantitative Reasoning: Great Ideas in Mathematics
CORE-UA 110 Offered every year. 4 points.
Topics include: great mathematicians and their contributions; how understanding of the natural world affects mathematics (and vice versa); computations, proof, and mathematical reasoning in modern society; mathematics as a liberal art and a path to truth, beauty, and understanding.
Physical Science: Energy and the Environment
CORE-UA 203 Offered every semester. Kahr, Walters, Ward. 4 points.
Uses the principles of chemistry to analyze the environmental implications of energy usage and policy decisions concerning energy and the environment. Topics include the composition of the atmosphere, the ozone layer and its depletion, global warming and public policy, and acid rain. Discusses our need for energy, fossil fuels and their supplies, and the available alternatives.
Physical Science: Einstein's Universe
CORE-UA 204 Brujic, Budick, Tinker, Weiner. 4 points.
Addresses the life and work of Einstein in the context of 20th-century physics, beginning with 19th-century ideas about light, space, and time to understand why his work was so innovative. Einstein's most influential ideas are contained in his theories of special relativity, which reformulated conceptions of space and time, and general relativity, which extended these ideas to gravitation. Both these theories are quantitatively explored, together with wide-ranging applications of these ideas, from the nuclear energy that powers the sun to black holes and the big bang theory of the birth of the universe.
Physical Science: Exploration of Light and Color
CORE-UA 205 Offered every other year. Adler. 4 points.
This introduction to color and the related topics of light and optics includes their applications to photography, art, natural phenomena, and technology. Topics include how color is described and measured (colorimetry); how light is produced; how atoms and molecules affect light; how the human retina detects light; how lenses are used in cameras, telescopes, and microscopes; and the anatomy of the eye and aspects of human vision that influence how we see color. Laboratory projects include additive and subtractive color mixing, pinhole photography, cow-eye dissection, colorimetric measurements, and color-classification schemes.
Physical Science: From Quarks to Cosmos
CORE-UA 209 Cranmer, Mincer, Modjaz, Ruderman, Weiner. 4 points.
How old is the universe? How did galaxies, stars, and planets form? What are the fundamental constituents of matter, and how do they combine to form the contents of the universe? We consider how measurements and chains of scientific reasoning have allowed us to reconstruct the Big Bang by measuring little wisps of light reaching the earth, to learn about subatomic particles by use of many-mile-long machines, and to combine the two to understand the universe as a whole from the subatomic particles of which it is composed.
Physical Science: How Things Work
CORE-UA 214 Offered every year. Budick, Haas. 4 points.
Do you know how electricity is generated? How instruments create music? What makes refrigerator magnets stick? For that matter, why ice skating is possible, or how wheels use friction? All of the devices that define contemporary living are applications of basic scientific discoveries. Covers basic principles of physics by examining selected devices such as CD and DVD players, microwave ovens, the basic electronic components of computers, lasers and LEDs, magnetic resonance imaging used in medicine, and even nuclear weapons.
Life Science: Human Genetics
CORE-UA 303 Offered every year. Rockman, Small. 4 points.
Begins with an overview of the principles of inheritance, where simple Mendelian genetics is contrasted with the interactions of genes and environment that influence complex physical or behavioral traits. Descending to the molecular level, we investigate how genetic information is encoded in DNA and examine the science and social impact of genetic technology, including topics such as cloning, genetic testing, and the human genome project. Concludes by studying how genes vary in populations and how geneticists are contributing to our understanding of human evolution and diversity.
Life Science: Human Origins
CORE-UA 305 Offered every year. Anton, Bailey, Disotell, Harrison, Higham. 4 points.
Topics include reconstructing evolutionary relationships using molecular and morphological data; the mitochondrial Eve hypothesis; ancient DNA; human variation and natural selection; the use of stable isotopes to reconstruct dietary behavior in prehistoric humans; solving a 2,000-year-old murder mystery; the importance of studies of chimpanzees for understanding human behavior; and the four-millionyear- old fossil evidence for human evolution.
Life Science: Brain and Behavior
CORE-UA 306 Offered every semester. Fenton, Hawken, Kiorpes, Reyes, Suzuki. 4 points.
Begins with the basic elements that make up the nervous system and how electrical and chemical signals in the brain work to affect behavior. Examines how the brain learns and how it creates new behaviors, together with the brain mechanisms that are involved in sensory experience, movement, hunger and thirst, sexual behaviors, the experience of emotions, perception and cognition, and memory and the brain's plasticity. Other topics include behavioral disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and how drugs can alter behavior and brain function.
Life Science: The Molecules of Life
CORE-UA 310 Offered every year. Jordan. 4 points.
Examines the chemistry and biology of biomolecules that make up the molecular machinery of the cell. Applies the principles of chemical bonding and molecular structure to understand the structure and function of biomolecules. Topics include the structure and function of DNA, the varieties of protein architecture, and how enzymes facilitate biochemical reactions.
Life Science: Lessons from the Biosphere
CORE-UA 311 Offered every year. Volk. 4 points.
Major topics: (1) Evolution of Life: How did life come to be what it is today? (2) Life's Diversity: What is life like today on the global scale? (3) Cycles of Matter: How do life and the nonliving environment interact? (4) The Human Guild: How are humans changing the biosphere, and how might we consider our future within the biosphere? Includes an exploration at the American Museum of Natural History.
Life Science: Earth, Life, and Time
CORE-UA 312 Offered every other year. Rampino. 4 points.
Over the last four billion years, life on Earth has evolved in response to changes in the environment. At the same time, major innovations in the history of life have led to transformations of the Earth's physical environment. We examine the history of the intimate relationship between the Earth's changing environment and the evolution of life on the planet. This long-term historical perspective provides a context for understanding current environmental issues such as global warming, tropical deforestation, and loss of biodiversity.
Life Science: The Brain: A User's Guide
CORE-UA 313 Offered every year. Azmitia. 4 points.
We learn about the functions of the cortex in higher learning and memory, as well as discuss the basic work of the brain stem in regulating the internal environment of the body. The importance of nutrition on neurotransmitter synthesis, the function of sleep on memory and why we need so much of it, and the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain and the meaning of addiction are covered. We look at brain development and the special needs of children, as well as brain aging and illness. Laboratories provide handson experience in exploring the structure of the brain.
Life Science: Genomes and Diversity
CORE-UA 314 Offered every other year. Siegal. 4 points.
Topics: the fundamentals of DNA, genes, and genomes; microbial diversity; animal and plant diversity, focusing on domesticated species as examples of how genomic methods can be used to identify genes that underlie new or otherwise interesting traits; the use of DNA to trace human ancestry; the use of genomics as a diagnostic tool in medicine; and the societal implications of our ability to alter the genomes of crop plants, livestock, and, potentially, humans.
Life Science: Human Reproduction
CORE-UA 315 Offered every year. Naftolin. 4 points.
Covers the basic development, anatomy, and function of the reproductive systems in men and women, including the human sexual response and the sexual development of differences in the brain. Special topics include sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, in vitro fertilization, and reproductive ethics. Examines the relationships between reproduction and societal, medical, and global issues.