My May Term Class is the Bomb…Literally!

malory thelen

Picture enormous mushroom clouds filling the atmosphere, or the first time Rutherford successfully split the atom, or when Leonard visits CERN’s Large Hadron Collider on the Big Bang Theory.

Now imagine an entire class devoted to (at least) the first two of these occurrences, a class that delves into both the history and science behind the atomic bomb, a class that is truly interdisciplinary in the spirit of the liberal arts.

As explained in Rachel’s post, students at Transy take one May Term class per year.  It is a time to fill general education requirements, to broaden your horizons, and overall to have fun and unique learning experiences in the classroom.  Which brings me again to my class, wittily entitled “The Bomb.” 

No, there will be no actually experimentation, no smashing protons into atom nuclei – just some theoretical jargon and a lot of engaging discussion.  However, on the first day, Dr. Rosenberg did demonstrate some chemical properties to the class: apparently when you pour liquid nitrogen onto a balloon, the balloon deflates and then re-inflates after you take away the lithium.  Who knew that explaining ‘pressure’ could be so interactive?

What I love most about this class so far is that it has been catered to three different types of people: science majors, students who took a fair amount of high school science, and those who purged every bit of periodic table knowledge from their brain at high school graduation.  So, my class is filled with varying perspectives, and every person can learn and understand the material in their own way.

Additionally, the class is not solely focused on atomic mass units or uranium: we are also learning the history of science and the historical milestones outside of physics.  For example, the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics (which are centered on uncertainty and the relative nature of the scientific world) inadvertently exacerbated questions of the supposed irrationality of humans and the possible relativity of cultural mores and ethics.  This shows how truly intertwined history and science became.

“The Bomb,” as taught by two visionary professors, continues to embody the true spirit of May Term.  In two hours a day, we critically think, make connections between disciplines, and have a lot of fun doing it.  Who knows, maybe we will squeeze in a couple episodes of the Big Bang Theory too!