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Robots, Rockets, and Ray Guns: Science and Man in Science Fiction

The category of Science Fiction covers a strikingly broad variety of writing styles and purposes. The plausibility of the math and science incorporated also varies widely. In this course, we will read approximately ten short stories and novel excerpts from the Science Fiction genre and then discuss both the overt and subtle portrayals of known scientific and mathematical principles which they contain. Furthermore, while Science Fiction is often thought of as simple space operas or entertaining page-turners, these stories often pose thought-provoking and surprisingly profound questions about man’s relationship to creation, his place as a subcreator via science and engineering, and his relationship to his technological creations. These topics will also be centerpieces of the class discussions.

Math and science topics that may be addressed include thermodynamics, geology, atmospheric science, artificial intelligence, computer programming, epistemology, the scientific method, chaos theory, interactive/information technology, chemistry, Newtonian mechanics, infinity, and probability.

This course is geared towards upper school students. Care will be taken to select works that do not contain objectional material, but both the scientific principles and the difficulty of some of the subject matter call for an older cohort of students.

Students will be expected to read the assigned material and come to class prepared to participate in a thoughtful and respectful discussion. Students may be encouraged to make a presentation at the end of the course, such as a short story of their own, an overview of a scientific or technological invention or area of research, or even their own work such as a robotics project, a mathematical proof, model rockets, etc.

Dr. Clancy will provide excerpts of novels and links to valid sources for short stories. Every effort will be made to ensure that links are to reputable websites (educational, archival), but because other materials may be available through these sites parents may want to be aware of what information their students are accessing. It is possible that some material will need to be purchased, but all efforts will be made to minimize the necessity of purchasing material without compromising the quality of the course.

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Course Materials

The book selection will be finalized before summer but may include a few of the following:

Out of the Silent Planet C.S. Lewis 1938 (excerpt)

“Runaround”, “Proof” from I, Robot Isaac Asimov 1950

The Planiverse A.K. Dewdney 1984 (excerpt)

“–And He Built a Crooked House” Robert Heinlein 1940

“The Murderer” Ray Bradbury 1953

“The Feeling of Power” Isaac Asimov 1958

“The Machine Stops” E.M. Forester 1909

“The Library of Babel” Jorge Luis Borges 1941

“The Universal Library” Kurd Lasswitz 1901

“Superiority” Arthur C. Clarke 1951

“A Sound of Thunder” Ray Bradbury 1952

“In Search of Infinity” N. Ya. Vilenkin 1968

“Desertion” Clifford Simak 1944

“A Meeting with Medusa” Arthur C. Clarke 1971

 

Chris Clancy earned her PhD in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After working as a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University and the University of Chicago, she decided to leave academia and stay home with her first born son. She and her husband homeschool their four children. After reading Dorothy Sayers’ “The Lost Tools of Learning”, she was inspired to teach her children in the classical style of learning.

Chris has taught high school Biology, Chemistry, and Physics to both her own children and other homeschoolers at a Catholic homeschool coop which she and her husband helped found. She is equally enthusiastic about history and literature, and is always willing to play a board game, cribbage, or backgammon. clancy_schole@comcast.net

 

 

Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebcam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer. Webcam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. unnamed-e1455142229376 To download Zoom:

  1. Visit zoom.us/download.
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.

 

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First, read the available course descriptions, noting prerequisites, target grades, and course objectives. If you think your student is prepared for the course, go ahead and register. After registration, a placement assessment may be provided to students, depending on the course and the student’s previous enrollment with Scholé Academy. Registration is finalized when the student’s placement assessment has been returned by the course instructor with placement confirmation.

 

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