OBJECTVIC+VES & ASSINMENTS
Objectives: One of the (many) quotes, (incorrectly) attributed to Mark Twain is:
“If you do not read newspapers, you are uninformed, if you do, you are misinformed.”
The skill that the course aims to teach is to make it possible for the students to arrive at their own understanding of how to separate the chaff from the wheat in the course topics. This includes verifying / assessing critically and independently, statements and numbers, encountered in their studies as well as in daily life, concerning these topics. Tools to achieve this are (semi)-quantitative estimates, incl. uncertainty ranges, logic, such as reductio ad absurdum, and estimates, e.g., by viewing questions as "Fermi problems".
All this is possible using the ability for analytical thinking, one of the great assets that science and engineering training gives to / develops (further) in students.
Central to the course are dissent that stems from knowledge and logical reasoning, acquired by education.
The weekly assignment is that each participant fact-checks at least one issue / numerical datum/statement in the last lecture. That lecture will be put on the web (as will the preliminary material for the homework to be done for the first lecture):
- results of these efforts are then discussed before the start of the next lecture;
- after mistakes or unclear/missing statements that were flagged are verified, the relevant presentation is corrected, and the corrected slide(s) discussed at the start of the following lecture (with credit on the slide to the relevant student).
Only students that do the weekly assignment can (continue to) participate (miss one: reminder; miss two: leave course, force majeure excluded). The reason is that the assignments are an essential part of the learning experience and the effort towards reaching the learning outcome, as well as an important part of the basis for the evaluation at the end of the course.