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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The Joves of Academe

Zach Barbera brings us a harrowing tale of bald-faced indoctrination in the course descriptions of the Anthropology Dept. at U. Mass Amherst. The (arguably) most egregious example is this:

Course Title: ST: The Anthropology of Whiteness
Professor: Enoch Page
Description: Lecture. Instructor Permission Required

Are literate and educated blacks, along with many other people of color, "infected" with whiteness? Is whiteness an antonym, synonym or metonym of multicultural disversity? Can we establish that whiteness is no longer exclusive to whites? If so, then what is the cultural basis of whiteness that allows it to "float" in a Hall-ian way, away from its reproduction? How can we take stock of this phenomenon beyond purely discursive accounts based most often on notions of identity? Aside from its foundations in identity, how did whiteness originate historically, what does whiteness look like when observed; how does one locate it's indicators; what must we analyze when searching for whiteness; and when looking for the m most incisive evidence of whiteness, don't we find its always embodied and enacted in cultural behavior? Most importantly, how must whiteness be dismantled and in whose best interests?

Note: Seminar enrollment will be closed after the first class meets. Please do not take this class unless for the explicit purpose of being thoroughly tutored in this form of analysis. Every student who hopes to enroll must be interviewed by the professor.

Although one could also argue that the Caribbean Cultures class---in which students are warned, "Anyone who is not thoroughly and candidly willing to examine how you, yourself, and Americans, in general, are adversely implicated in the gender, race and class basis of widely shared black experience of Caribbean territories is advised not to take this class."---is equally bad.

Now, as a scientist and a possible future professor, I should be shocked at this---not only shocked, but dismayed, disgusted, and outraged. But I am afraid I have become inured to these, and instead my reaction is, "Hey! That sounds like a great reducer of workload! How can I get in on it?"

So I went through the U. Mass course catalogs for physics and astronomy, and tried to change a few courses to fit the intellectual tenor of the day. Oh, and also, these changes would allow me to make stuff up entirely off the top of my head, and hand out arbitrary grades.

The original course descriptions are in blue and the new improved descriptions are in orange.

Physics Classes:


Course Summary

The nature of space and time from the viewpoint of the special theory of relativity. Historical perspective. A variety of paradoxes and puzzles including the twin paradox. The speed of light as an upper limit. Muon decay. Photons.


Course Summary

In 1905 Einstein encountered a fact that had been previously been ignored: there is no one privileged point of view. Why had this truth taken so long to be recognized? How much did the pseudo-privileged perspective of the white male European paradigm have to do with relativity's neglect, and rejection after its "discovery"? We will examine the universe from the point of view of a photon: reflected from a mirror in the grave of an Olmec king slain by the Spanish; emitted from an endangered firefly in the African rain forest; and absorbed by a pool of oil in Iraq. Also: the morality of limiting the ambitions of light.

Modern Physics I

Course Summary

Special relativity (Michelson-Morley experiment, Lorentz transformations for space and time, Velocity transformations, Relativistic Doppler effect, Twin paradox, Relativistic energy and momentum)

General Relativity (Principle of equivalence, Curved space, Deflection of light, Gravitational redshift, Black holes, Gravitational waves and gyroscopes)

Quantum Mechanics (Double slit experiment, Particle phenomena of light, Wave phenomena of matter, De Broglie hypothesis, Wave packets, Uncertainty, Rules for adding amplitudes and probabilities, Schroedinger equation, Special topics, Hydrogen atom).

Modern Physics I

Course Summary

Review of Special Relativity (see above). General Relativity---principle of moral equivalence, the oppression of space-time by mass (including the spatiochronicidal properties of black holes), and the cosmologization by gravitational waves, in which the traditions of distant space-time communities are disrupted by gravitational wave colonization.

We will also discuss the conflicted identity of light. Is light a wave, or a particle? Until recent times, light was thought of only in terms of waves; it was forced to hide its particle nature. Now that the particle nature has been revealed, can we admit that this is light's true nature? Can "waveness" be dismantled?

Quantum mechanics will focus on the limiting nature of "quanta"---the discrete energy states into which traditional, EuroAmerican patriarchal science has shoehorned the media of exchange in inter- and trans-particle reactions. What burdens does this discrete limitation impose upon, e.g., the hydrogen atom?

Special topics will include the examination of the ubiquity and meaning of the many Northern European names which have been imposed upon the reactions and quantities of nature: De Broglie, Schroedinger, Bohr, Angstrom, Planck, Balmer, Heisenberg, Lorentz, etc.

Astronomy Undergraduate Classes:

Astronomy 220: Special Topics in Astronomy
Astronomical issues impactng our society explored in a seminar format. Each issue approached by posing a question based on a body of scientific evidence with potential consequences for human society. The answers to these questions will be investigated both on scientific and societal grounds. Scientific issues include the potential threat of collisions between the earth and other solar system bodies and the potential existence of extraterrestrial life. Prerequisite: 1 semester of a physical science.

Note: Here's a phrase I didn't think I'd live to see in print: "Astronomical issues impacting our society".

Astronomy 220: Special Topics in Astronomy
Astronomical issues impacting our society. Scientific issues include the threat of collisions between the earth and other solar system bodies (Why do the asteroids hate us?) and the potential existence of cosmological (i.e., "extraterrestrial") life (What self-esteem problems will develop in cosmological lifeforms by the colonizing influence of our popular culture?)

Astronomy 215 : History of Astronomy
Astronomy and cosmology from earliest times, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Islamic; the medieval universe; Middle Ages; Copernican revolution, the infinite universe; Newtonian universe; mechanistic universe of the 18th and 19th centuries. Gravitational theory; origin, structure, and evolution of stars and galaxies; developments in modern astronomy.

Astronomy 215 : History of Astronomy
This class will emphasize the continuing efforts of Man to impose his own vision on the external universe. After reviewing the sustainable astronomy of peoples of Western Asia, we will examine the aggressive astronomical theories of the Greeks (and their medieval European heirs). From the European placement of the Earth at the center of the cosmos, to the oppressive insistence on a static universe, to the modern obsession with "quantifying" and "classifying" (thereby inevitably leading to a class system, a heirarchy of particles, fields, and reactions), we will study the human "gaze"---the continuing attempts of humans to view the Universe as an exploitable "other".

Astronomy 338H : Techniques of Radio Astronomy
With lab. Equipment, techniques, nature of cosmic radio sources. Radio receiver and antenna theory. Radio flux, brightness temperature and the transfer of radio radiation in cosmic sources. Effect of noise, sensitivity, bandwidth, and antenna efficiency. Techniques of beam switching, interferometry, and aperture synthesis. Basic types of radio astronomical sources: ionized plasmas, masers, recombination and hyperfine transitions; nonthermal sources. Applications to the sun, interstellar clouds, and extragalactic objects.

Astronomy 338H : Techniques of Radio Astronomy
Concentrates on the ethics of human surveillance of the internal affairs of stars, galaxies, and possible cosmological beings. Will also include a section on human radiative pollution and its effect on our local interstellar environment.

Astronomy Graduate Classes:

Astronomy 741 : The Interstellar Medium
Describes the gas and dust components of the interstellar medium in ionized regions, atomic clouds, and molecular clouds. Shows how data from optical, infrared, and radio wavelengths can be utilized to determine density, temperature, composition, and dynamics of the various phases of the ISM. Comparison of these results with theoretical models. Includes an overview of the processes that affect the evolution of the ISM including the incorporation of gas and dust into stars, the effect of HII regions and young stellar objects, and the return of matter from evolved stars and supernovae.

Astronomy 741 : The Interstellar Medium
Examines the unequal distribution of mass in the Universe. Why are some regions ("galaxies") permitted to have most of the mass of the Universe? Why are regions within those galaxies (such as the spiral arms in spiral galaxies) allowed to scoop up the mass from less privileged areas? What are the ramifications of the unequal allocation of resources, considering that star formation can only take place in matter-rich regions? This class will also discuss the implications of the gas/dust ratio in the universe (can dust be considered a pollutant?); the role of star formation in dispersing neighboring regions of gas ("I've got mine"); and the monopolistic practices of supernovae in the manufacture of heavy elements.

Well, that's a good start. Tenure is assured!

Via InstaProf.