Making the Bomb

Course Overview

Instructor: Dave Feldman Email:
Office: Third Floor Arts and Sciences Phone: x249, 244-7635
Mailing List: Office Hours: TBA
Web page:

Course Overview

We will begin by reading Making the Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. We will then read another book or two, and/or some articles. The direction we go depends on the interests of the class and the themes that emerge during our discussion of Rhodes' book.

I have three main goals for this course:

  1. I want you to learn some of the history behind the Manhattan Project, including a qualitative understanding of some physics and chemistry.
  2. I want you to gain experience thinking critically about science and technology.
  3. I want you to gain a greater understanding of how the "institution" of science "works".


Your evaluation will be based on the following: I will assign grades (for those who so opt) by following the guidelines on page 8 of the COA Course Catalog. I do not have any quota of A's, B's, etc.


I will expect you to keep a journal throughout the course.
  1. You should write 2 (or more) entries per week. Each entry should be at least one page.
  2. You may write informally. I don't care about grammar or spelling or syntax (within reason). I'm mainly interested in witnessing you thinking and engaging the material.
  3. I will collect journals periodically.
  4. You may keep the "journal" electronically if you wish.
  5. I may occasionally assign or suggest certain topics to write on.

Study Groups

  1. By the end of the first week, you should form study groups of 4 people each.
  2. These groups should meet at least one time a week for around an hour.
  3. Groups will be asked to bring ideas and questions to class.

Final Project

Other Policies and Stuff

  1. This course does not fulfill the QR requirement. It does satisfy the history requirement.
  2. The final version of the syllabus will be on the course webpage.
  3. All course work must be completed by the end of the term. I will not grant an incomplete except in extreme circumstances.
  4. I expect you to attend class and study group meetings.
  5. We will see at least two films. These may require evening attendance.
  6. We may need to schedule a few extra classes during the last two weeks of the term.
  7. Academic misconduct -- cheating, plagarizing, etc. -- is bad. Any cases of academic misconduct will result in a judicial hearing, as per pp. 14-15 of the COA handbook. Possible consequences range from failure of the assignment to expulsion. For more, see the revised statement on academic integrity passed by the faculty last winter.

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