Course Identification

Energy, Sustainability & climate change: critical thinking on the facts & factoids

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Prof. David Cahen
Guy Reuveni

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Sunday, 09:15 - 11:00, Perlman, Rm 404

Wednesday, 09:15 - 10:00, FGS, Rm 1

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Chemical Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 3.00 points
Life Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 3.00 points


There may be one or more catching-up assignments that each could take up to 2 hours, for those with lacunes of knowledge in their background


For 2nd year M.Sc.students or more advanced ones

Minimum number of  students:6

Undergrad degree,  after at least 1 yr of 2nd degree studies. Preferred 1st degrees are BSc in chemical, physical,  life, geo-sciences or in electrical, chem., mater., environmental, bio- or similar engineering disciplines.

Others, that think they have equivalent knowledge in terms of understanding of fundamental biology , chemistry, physics, (levels of good high school), incl. simple thermodynamics, and have the ability to perform, critical, web- and library-(web-site) based searches can apply.

Anything beyond this level will be taught, directly and/or via tutorial sesions.



Language of Instruction


Registration by


Attendance and participation


Grade Type

Numerical (out of 100)

Grade Breakdown (in %)

tutorials TBD

Evaluation Type


Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)




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.

Learning Outcomes

Ability to arrive at your own understanding in the areas, covered by the course topics and to verîfy / assess, critically and independently, statements, based on science and engineeñng, made in daily life, using order of magnitude estimates and logic.

Reading List