Making the Bomb
I have several main goals for this course:
- I want you to learn some of the history behind the Manhattan
Project, including a qualitative understanding of some physics and
- I want you to gain experience thinking critically about
scientists, science, and technology.
- I want you to gain a greater understanding of science as an
institution and science as a culture.
- I want to begin to think about how the multiple narratives of the
atom bomb and Hiroshima affect U.S. culture in general, and the
culture of science in particular.
We will read all or Rhodes and a lot of the essays from Bird and
Lifschultz. Everyone will need to buy Rhodes; buying a copy of Bird
and Lifschultz is strongly recommended. We'll do a smattering of
readings from the other books listed. All the books will be on
- Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon and
- Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz, eds., Hiroshima's
Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian
Controversy. The Phamphleteer's Press, 1998.
- Richard Wolfson, Nuclear Choices. MIT Press, 1993.
- Peter Bacon Hales, Atomic Spaces: Living on the Manhattan
Project. University of Illinois Press, 1997.
- Paul Boyer, By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and
Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. University of North
Carolina Press, 1994.
- Paul Boyer, Fallout. Ohio State University Press, 1998.
- Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America:
Fifty Years of Denial. Grosset/Putnam, 1995.
Your evaluation will be based roughly on the following:
I will assign grades (for those who so opt) by following the guidelines
in the COA Course Catalog. I do not have any quota of A's, B's,
- Class Participation: 30 percent.
- Short Papers and Other Exercises: 30 percent.
- Final Project: 40 percent.
Short Response Papers
During the course you will write three of four short response papers.
See the daily schedule for due dates.
Here are some guidelines for the short papers.
- By the end of the first week, you should form study groups of
4 people each.
- These groups should meet at least one time a week for around an
- Groups may be asked to bring ideas and questions to class.
Final Synthetic Paper
- Toward the end of the term, you will write a medium length
(5-8 page) paper. This paper should be an informed personal essay,
in which you try to make some sort of sense of what we've been reading
and learning about. Very roughly speaking, this paper should discuss
what the "moral of the story" is, or, alternatively, discuss why there
isn't really a "moral of the story".
- A rough draft will be due, probably at the end of week 7.
Students will then read other's drafts and provide feedback.
- More details about the assignment will appear shortly.
- If you wish, you can do a research paper instead. See me soon if
you're interested in exploring this option.
Other Policies and Stuff
- This course does not fulfill the QR requirement. It does satisfy the
- The final version of the syllabus will be on the course webpage.
- All course work must be completed by the end of the term. I will
not grant an incomplete except in extreme circumstances.
- I expect you to attend class. Missing a class isn't a big deal,
but please let me know in advance if you can.
- We will see at least two films. These may require evening attendance.
- We may need to schedule a few extra classes during the last two
weeks of the term.
- 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 unanimously by the faculty two winters ago.
[ Dave ]
the Bomb ]
[ COA ]
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