Making the Bomb: What to Expect
This class may be somewhat different than other classes you've
taken. In particular, because of the nature of the material, there
are some challenges associated with this class. It's important to be
clear about what you're getting into. To that end, here's some advice
and comments and such.
- This class is a lot of reading. If you don't like to read, you
probably won't enjoy this class. Most of the reading is not very
"academic", but it's still a lot. It's important that you space out
the reading. It's hard to read 150 pages in one night, but it's not
so hard to read 50 pages three nights in a row.
- Falling behind in the reading is not a good idea. This class is
almost entirely discussion-based. I won't have lectures prepared. If
you're behind in the reading, then you won't be able to contribute to
the discussions. In so doing, you're detracting from the learning
opportunity of the other students in the class.
- In the past, some students have found this class to be
surprisingly emotionally intense. I think there are several reasons
- We read a lot about the World War II, and focus quite a bit on the
atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The magnitude of the human
destruction associated with these events is difficult to comprehend.
- The story of the making of the atomic bomb and its subsequent use
in World War II is not a simple one; the issues are large and, in my
opinion, there aren't many easy conclusions to draw.
- I suspect that over the course of the term especially toward the
end, we may find ourselves reminded of the events of Sept. 11, 2002,
and also the current goings-on in Iraq. This might be difficult
territory for some.
- This is not a science class, but along the way we'll learn some
science. There won't be any equations or problem sets or labs. In
the past, I've found that students who take this class have a very
wide range of backgrounds in physics and chemistry. In my view, this
is a strength of the course. However, it does mean that at times a
few people might be confused, and sometimes we might review some
chemistry that you're already familiar with. The maximum science
confusion will occur around week three.
- This is a history class. However, I am not a historian. I know
a lot about the physics and chemistry, have thought and read lots
about different ways to think about and analyze science, and know a
fair amount about the history of the Manhattan project. But I have no
training in methods of historical analysis, nor do I have any
scholarly sense of different schools of thought about what gets to
count as history, and why.
- What we do for the last third of the class is quite flexible;
feedback is encouraged, and will help make the class better.
[Making the Bomb]
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