Posted by: Dan | January 17, 2007

Another Semester Begins

As the new semester begins, I thought I’d take note of a couple interesting educational and curricular activities available. This is merely what has reached me by word-of-mouth, so please, if you’ve heard of more that you think I should emphasize, speak up!

First, there’s Darwin Day, with a weekend schedule sponsored by PRI/Museum of the Earth and Cornell University. Interesting items on the schedule include…

  • …a lecture by David Sloan Wilson titled “Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives.” Wilson is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Binghamton University and author of Darwin’s Cathedral.
  • … Family Day at Museum of the Earth, with special activities and programs for familes and children.
  • … two viewings of the film Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus
  • … a reading from Inherit the Wind, a play on the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial.”
  • … and three interesting panel discussions, and a Natural History At Noon lecture.

Second, there’s a course being hosted by the department of Neurobiology & Behavior called the State of the Planet that sounds interesting. The course introduction states:

There is little doubt that the world is in crisis. We are fouling our habitat, outstripping our natural resources, and failing to provide an acceptable standard of living for much of our global population. Members of the academic community frequently take aim at politicians and industry for failing to address these issues, while taking moral comfort in the knowledge that their research and teaching programs are contributing positively to the state of the planet. However, while the global crises are multi-faceted, the growing pressure for academic specialization has prompted universities to trade breadth for depth in their curricula. How can we expect students with such specialized knowledge to address problems of such breadth? If we are to achieve global sustainability, society needs broadly educated citizens making informed decisions about the resources they consume, the leaders they vote for, and the lives they live.

Interestingly, the course is going to go being the classroom and be made globally accessible:

In addition to launching the course, the State of the Planet team and associated graduate seminar will publicize the course internationally with high profile editorials, and will develop a publicly accessible website providing course materials. We will also initiate pilot activity to create specialized data-based worksheets that teachers around the planet can download freely to use in their core courses in mathematics, biology, chemistry, economics, sociology, etc.

Here’s the course schedule for “State of the Planet,” with an impressive array of topics to be covered. Of particular note, the January 24th lecture will be free and open to the public, by Donald Kennedy, who is the editor-in-chief of the journal Science. This lecture will apparently be a broad introduction to the course as a whole.

Update 2:
Chris Mooney will be on campus this Friday (Jan. 26th), to give a talk titled “Science at High Wind Speeds: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming,” which is also the title of his forthcoming book.

Friday Jan 26, 1:30 -to- 3:00 PM
211 Kennedy Hall, Cornell University

It may be the most fraught issue in meteorology today: Is global warming increasing the ferocity of hurricanes? Set against a backdrop of interest group politicking, media excesses, scientific suppression by the Bush administration, and storms slamming the coasts, the high-profile debate on this topic over the last several years has thrust a largely unsuspecting group of researchers into the political and scientific argument of their lives.

In this talk, a prelude to his forthcoming book Storm World, bestselling author Chris Mooney introduces the relatively new science of “hurricane climatology” and surveys the political, social, and meteorological context that made it matter so much. In the process, he explains what scientists can learn from such high-profile conflicts about how to communicate their knowledge to a media and public desperate for it (but not in the form of equations!).

Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and author of the New York Times bestselling book The Republican War on Science,a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times book prize in the category of “Science and Technology.”



  1. I wish there was more going on at Rutgers for Darwin Day… it seems that very few people here care at all about the evolution/creationism debate going on. If I had more time I’d start an evolution club called Darwin’s Bulldogs or something (with a name like that we could be a rugby team too, although there probably is a much tougher one already in Darwin, Australia), hah. Maybe I’ll take the day off and go to the American Museum of Natural History or the Bronx Zoo to honor the day…


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