Science Seminar: the Universe and You

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Spring 2018
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

EJ Zita Square portrait
physics, math, astrophysics

We are interested in symmetries and changes in the universe, and in human understanding and interaction with nature.  Scientists have discovered new puzzles, which your generation may solve. 

How do we know that dark energy and dark matter are yin and yang?  What about the new gravity waves from merging black holes – could they open up a wormhole for warp speed travel?  Are climate change feedbacks self-healing, catastrophic, or an intentional “Revenge of Gaia”?  Is there a Planet X?  Where do ideas like these come from, and how can we assess their validity? 

Other puzzles depend on values and community. Is population control the key to a healthier planet?  Will organic farming feed the world sustainably or return us to the dark ages?  Will technology improve life on Earth, or eliminate meaningful work?  Must we worry, or can we be happy?

We will read books and articles on cosmology and science, critical thinking and our place in the universe.  We will explore the beauty and power of quantitative reasoning. Students will gain a deeper physical understanding of the natural world.

We will share our wonder and insights, ideas and questions about our readings and the universe. Students will write short essays and responses to peers' essays. Students will meet with teams weekly to discuss developing understanding and skills.

Learning goals include deeper understanding of physics, nature and the scientific method; more sophisticated skills as science-literate citizens; and improved writing, critical thinking, teamwork, and communication.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: natural science, environmental studies, teaching, philosophy, natural history, math

Online learning:
  • Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers 25 - 49% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.
Research Opportunities:

Research a question that intrigues you (with a teammate if you like), and share your learning with classmates and the Science Carnival.


There is NO prerequisite in physics or math.  Students need good reading and writing skills.  Many assignments will be online, so you must have daily access to a networked computer.  Students must be ready and willing to work in teams and online.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Final schedule and room assignment:


Advertised schedule:

We will spend at least 8 hours per week working online and with teammates outside class.