Science for Non-Scientists

Science for Non-Scientists

Developed by Basil Tikoff, Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This website hosts all of the materials developed for an undergraduate course called "Science for Non-Scientists." Students enrolled in this course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed very significant gains in critical thinking skills, as measured by the Critical Thinking Assessment test, developed at Tennessee Tech University. The course was developed by Basil Tikoff and taught in the Integrated Liberal Science (ILS) program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was designed to be an introductory science course for non-science majors, for whom this class would likely be a terminal science class, that would lead to a greater understanding of scientific thinking.

Course Materials

The sequence of course topics is shown below, with links to all available course materials. You can also access each type of course material via the navigation menu on the left side of this page, or by following these links:

Lecture presentations | Handouts | Readings | In-Class exercises | Homework assignments | Study guide and final exam


Week 1:

Course Overview: Scientific Ways of Knowing (PowerPoint 6MB Jul3 12)

Week 2:

Scientific Ways of Knowing Ptolemy & Copernicus

Week 3:

Galileo & Natural Observation Galileo & Experimentation
  • Readings:
    • Bryson - Ch 5-6
    • Galileo - Dialogue

Week 4:

Equinox & Eratosthenes Logical Fallacies, Galileo & Experimentation

Week 5:

Graphs and Graphing Statistics (Emperical)

Week 6:

Newton & Theoretical Approaches Probabilities (Theoretical)

Week 7:

Plate Tectonics Plate Tectonics

Week 8:

Plate Tectonics
  • Lecture: Plate Tectonics 2 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.4MB Jul6 12)
  • Reading: Oreskes - Epilogue
Midterm Exam

Week 9:

Evolution
  • Lecture: Evolution (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 12.8MB Jul12 12)
  • Readings:
    • Carroll - Ch 1-3
    • Bryson - Ch 16-18
Plate Tectonics
  • Readings:
    • Coyne - Intro & Ch 1
    • Bryson - Ch 19-21

Week 10:

Evolution and Darwin's Idea Darwin's Finches
  • Lecture: Darwin\'s Finches (PowerPoint 2.3MB Jul12 12)
  • Readings:
    • Weiner, pp. 17-48 & 140-156
    • Coyne - Ch 4-5
    • Bryson - Ch 22

Week 11:

Sex, Sexual Selection, and Natural Selection
  • Reading: Coyne - Ch 6-7
Human Evolution
  • Reading: Coyne - Ch 8-9

Week 12:

Climate Change
Climate Change
  • Lecture: Climate Change - Day 2 (PowerPoint 10.3MB Jul12 12)
    • Historical development (Until ~1980)
    • Keeling curve
    • Geological archive activity
    • CFCs, Ozone, & Treaties
    • Development of Numerical Models
  • Readings:
    • Pollack - Ch 4-5
    • Weart - Ch 1
  • Homework due: Exponential Growth

Week 13:

Climate Change
  • Lecture: Climate Change - Day 3 (PowerPoint 6.9MB Jul12 12)
  • Movie: Inconvenient Truth
  • Readings:
    • Pollack - Ch 6-7
    • Scientists' assessment of Inconvenient Truth
  • Homework due: Exponential Decay & Dating
  • Writing assignment: Rachel Carson? (or Copenhagen NY Times interviews or NY Times Winners and Losers in Climate Change)

Week 14:

Climate Change
  • Lecture: Climate Change - Day 5 (PowerPoint 2MB Jul12 12)
    • IPCC
  • In-class exercises:
    • Madison & climate change (activity)
    • Discussion of Nelson
  • Readings:
    • Pollack - Ch 8-9
    • IPCC FAQs
    • Nelson (Unicorn's Horn)
  • Writing Assignment: Long review of Nelson (Unicorn's Horn)
Climate Change
  • Lecture: Climate Change - Day 6 (PowerPoint 2.7MB Jul12 12)
  • IPCC and holistic science
  • In-class exercises:
  • Thresholds and Feedbacks (Hands-on & video)
    • Scientific presentations vs. other presentations
    • IPCC group discussion
  • Readings:
    • Pollack - Ch 10-11
    • IPCC FAQs
    • Additional Media Reading
  • Homework due: Madison and climate change

Week 15:

Climate Change
  • In-class exercises:
    • Science/Society interactions on climate change
    • IPCC group discussion
  • Readings:
    • Pollack - Ch 12
    • Weart - Ch 8 & Reflections
    • Copenhagen media
    • IPCC FAQs
  • Writing Assignment: Oreskes, 2004 & 2007
Climate Change
  • Science/Society interactions on climate change
  • Copenhagen media
  • Homework due: Carbon footprint & analysis

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