Scopes of Modern Science

Ref: C2342732

As I write this, news of the first observation of a super-massive black hole is a major item in the press and on TV. How are technical feats like this achieved? What implications, if any, do they have for our knowledge? At the other extreme, that of the mightily miniscule, the Large Hadron Collider delves ever deeper into the very smallest components of the natural world. How did life first arise on Earth? Is it likely elsewhere? Clocks that lose seconds over billions of years: microscopes that show images of living cells: probes that give an insight into how a human brain functions in making choices or learning stuff. This course hopes to present an over-view not only of the technical side but also give some idea of the theories behind the observations, and what the implications might be for future developments and our understanding.

Course aim

Science today probes the natural world in ever greater detail. This course will look at how it does this and what it's found, from the hugely big down to the microscopically small: from massive black holes down to stuff that's hardly there at all.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course is for the interested lay-person. Some general awareness of modern technology would obviously be an aid, but is not essential - a lively interest is more important in my view. Copious Handouts provided will aid further perusal at home and act as a resource for future reference.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe the technological development of the modern telescope and give an account of some of its findings.
  • Give a general account of the workings of and theory behind the LHC at CERN and the LIGO observatories and how these complex systems extend the scope of science.
  • Relate some of the developments in the technology associated with probing the human brain (e.g. fMRI) and give an account of some of the findings in this field.
  • Give a general account of the historical development of the microscope and how modern microscopy contributes to various ares of research, especially in the life sciences - e.g. how the cell works.
  • Give a brief summary of how evolution emerged from the 17th century and describe recent advances in the area of evolution research.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • You will be expected to carry out a range of activities in your own time
  • Whilst being in the right ball-park activities 2 & 3 above are quite voluntary. There will be handouts to read and suggestions for personal research at home (e.g. Google) but you NOT be 'expected' to do such - advised and encouraged maybe, but that's quite up to you.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be asked to fill out a personal Session Evaluation slip at the end of each session, asking you to reflect on how it went, what you have learnt and making comments about the material presented.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • The chief requisite is a lively interest and a desire to learn more. A general science/technology knowledge would clearly be helpful, but is certainly not essential - you can learn as you go. Tutorial Handouts will be distributed for further perusal at home.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Various books will be suggested as the Course proceeds through the different topics.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • I would like to think that all students would maintain their interest in at least a few of the topics presented in the course e.g. astronomy and the current crop of huge telescopes: the understanding of how the brain works; recent findings in the area of evolution, etc all of which change regularly.

Download full course information sheet

Scopes of Modern Science

Enrolment Conditions

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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