2014 - Fall

Science Literacy & Numeracy

Course Number: JOUR-GA 1018.001

Day & Time: Monday, 12:00pm-3:00pm

Location: 659

Instructor: Charles Seife

Science Literacy and Numeracy aims to give students a historical and literary context for science journalism, and will also introduce them to crucial concepts in statistics, probability and data analysis. The course will be rigorous, with an extensive reading list tracing the development of science journalism and examining the science journalist’s role in society. There will also be heavy usage of problem sets and writing assignments aimed at showing students how to recognize “good science” and it’s opposite. The course begins with a discussion of the conflict between scientists and non-scientists, and how science journalists are a bridge between the two cultures. Then students explore how society’s way of understanding the natural world has changed over the centuries, the modern methods and philosophies of the practice of science, and some issues that affect scientists and scientific journalists that are not dreamt of in those philosophies. A mini-course in numeracy also arms students with the weapons to understand and dissect scientific studies. Using that knowledge, the class then returns to the scientific world to look at how science journalists have plied their craft, and at the pressures they face that make it hard for them to be solid bridges between scientists and non-scientists.