Adventures in Ethics and Science

The Tangled Bank

These are the offerings for the semester starting February 1, 2006. Students are encouraged to sit in on a variety of classes during the “shopping” period.

In addition to academic offerings, this listing includes programs in the residence halls and around campus. Remember that a sharp mind needs to step outside the classroom and the laboratory from time to time.


  • “CSI: My Cat”
    Instructor: Alison McCook, Location: The Scientist
    Description: Determination of likely cause of a cat’s death.
    Comments: Cats will be provided.


  • “How much of this landscape would you protect?”
    Instructor: alun, Location: alun
    Description: The Thornborough henges complex has been described by English Heritage’s chief archaeologist as “the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys,” but what precisely is the site? Where does it end? This is becoming an urgent question as a mining company is seeking permission to scoop out large chunks of the landscape for gravel. Is it enough to protect the henges themselves, or is more of the landscape needed to provide context to the site?
    Comments: Wear sturdy shoes.


  • Published Research Synopsis: 5.5 Earth Mass Exoplanet Found
    Instructor: Anthony Kendall, Location: Anthonares
    Description: A review and synopsis of the discovery of a ~5.5 Earth mass planet around a dim star near the center of our galaxy, with an original analysis by the instructor of total exoplanet populations.
    Comments: Prerequisite: Attend screening of video explaining gravitational microlensing.
  • “Another non-Earth-like ‘Earth-like’ planet”
    Instructor: B and B, Location: B and B
    Description: An overview of the recent discovery, via gravitational lensing, of what was
    hailed in the press as the most “Earth-like” planet yet. Discussion of why there’s really little possibility of it being anything like Earth.
    Comments: Bring an original essay about what the Earth is like to first class meeting.
  • “If you can’t wait, just blow it up …”
    Instructor: Karmen, Location: Chaotic Utopia
    Description: Critical examination of NASA plan to knock a hole in Mars for research. Consideration of relevant information from Project Rulison nuclear test and methodological rules from archaeology and geology.
    Comments: Come to first meeting to be added to waiting list.


  • Core Concepts:“The Intelligence Illusion”
    Instructor: AJ, Location: Omnidictum
    Description: In the Intelligent Design/ Evolution debate, there is one concept that both sides seem to implicitly accept. While both “design” and “evolution” are questioned, intelligence never is. In fact, if not for the implicit agreement about what this concept means, it would be impossible to even debate whether life is an outcome of an “intelligent” process or a “non-intelligent” process. An examination of “intelligence” as a biological concept.
    Comments: Grading is pass/no-credit.
  • Ecology :“Does Interspecific Competition Mean Anything in an Evolutionary Context?”
    Instructor: RPM, Location: Evolgen
    Description: Discussion of inter-specific (between species) competition from a population genetics framework in order to understand ecological concepts from an evolutionary perspective.
    Comments: Offered alternate semesters with seminar in organismal biology.
  • Genetics :“Chimps More Like Humans Than Apes?”
    Instructor: Nick Rao, Location: OK, so I’m not a cowboy
    Description: Critical examination of the claims of a quantitative geneticist that genus-level affinities can be determined based solely on degree of genetic similarity. Discussion of the failure
    of genetic similarity to say anything about functional similarity. Consideration of the history of the human genus and its current definition as discussed by two of the experts in the field.
    Comments: “Monkey’s uncle” jokes are grounds for dismissal from this course.
  • Molecular biology:“Fluorescent proteins and the currency of Darwin”
    Instructor: Dyticas, Location: The Dyticas Chronicles
    Description: Examination of how mutation and selection have been used to generate novel fluorescent proteins.
    Comments: Black-light party immediately following first class meeting.
  • Gene sequencing practicum:” Paleogenomics, the Future of Evolutionary Biology? “
    Instructor: Moment of Science, Location: Moment of Science
    Description: Sequencing of DNA from frozen mammoth bones.
    Comments: Bring your own freezer mitts.
  • Lab :“Persistence in Perfusion”
    Instructor: Bora Zivkovic, Location: Circadiana
    Description: Details of the experimental challenges of culturing quail retinae.
    Comments: Eye-protection required.
  • Zoology field-trip :” All in a day’s work …”
    Instructor: TQA, Location: The Questionable Authority
    Description: Trip to Kaena Point (at the northwestern tip of Oahu) to observe a colony of Laysan Albatross.
    Comments: Pack a change of clothes.


  • Simulations in biology:“Abiogenesis and information growth in simulations: what does it mean?”
    Instructor: Adam Ierymenko, Location: GreyThumb.Blog
    Description: An examination of the nature of artificial life simulations and of related epistemological concerns. Relevance of artificial life systems to questions about natural abiogenesis. Consideration of possible theoretical objections including the idea that there is a strict local conservation law for information in all causal systems.
    Comments: Virus protection required for lab portion of course.


  • Primary school policy: “Diversity in science: will we ever see a rainbow?”
    Instructor: Sandra Porter, Location: Discovering biology in a digital world
    Description: Why isn’t there a greater diversity of science students in the pipeline? The University of Washington hit an appalling low this year of 118 black students out of 5,000 freshman. Examination of policy from the perspective of parents with children in the Seattle public school system to assay an hypotheses about the way that school system and parents work, early on, to enhance the education of some and leave the education of others to a system of benign neglect.
    Comments: Loaner children provided for fieldwork.
  • Secondary school policy: “Losing One’s Educational Virginity”
    Instructor: James, Location: Ruminating Dude
    Description: Consideration of the different personal and institutional factors driving the enrollment (and attrition rate) in high school chemistry classes.
    Comments: No crying in the teachers’ lounge.


  • Shakespeare Seminar:“Falstaffian Hypodermic Needles”
    Instructor: Jeremy Abrams, Location: bardseyeview
    Description: A study of Henry IV with an eye to performing more effective vaccinations in modern patient populations.
    Comments: Cross-listed in NURSING.


  • “Implications of the Hwang case for authorship in academia”
    Instructor: Radagast, Location: Rhosgobel
    Description: A look at how authorship is often determined on academic papers, including some unanswered questions as to what should happen when fraud occurs.
    Comments: Signed egg donor cards will be collected at first class meeting.
  • “When will it end?”
    Instructor: Rob Knell, Location: JourKnell
    Description: In the light of recent fraud allegations, consideration of the importance of reproducibility. Tips for collecting data in ways that increase reproducibility of results.
    Comments: Lab notebooks for this class will be subject to forensic analysis.




  • “When is a Tanager a Spindalis?”
    Instructor: Mike, Location: 10,000 Birds
    Description: Exploration of the origins of the renaming of the Stripe-headed Tanager in 2000. Discussion of related issues of taxonomy.
    Comments: Everybody knows the bird’s the word.


  • “Thag not grok god!”
    Instructor: Mark A. Rayner, Location: the skwib
    Description: An exploration of early attempts to explain meteorological phenomena. Attention to the question of what requires explanation.
    Comments: Cross-listed in HISTORY and RELIGIOUS STUDIES.


  • “ID vs. QM (1): Jump, they say.”
    Instructor: Florine Meijer, Location: Qulog
    Description: An examination of the evolution of the wave function and issues raised by the collapse of the wavefunction. Consideration of an analogy with biological evolution.
    Comments: Cats (will be/won’t be) provided.
  • “The Multiple Natures Conjecture”
    Instructor: Moby Dikc, Location: Cosmik Debris
    Description: Discussion of the theoretical foundations of a new kind of model of the universe that can be very different from Einstein’s space-time universe. It is proposed that the new model could account for relativistic and quantum phenomena using an intuitive but novel method of predicting measurements.
    Comments: Brain protectors available for purchase at first class meeting.



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The next Tangled Bank catalog will be posted Feb. 15, 2006 at Kete Were. Submit updated course and event listings to or


  1. #1 TroutGrrrl
    February 1, 2006

    Hey, great job Dr. F!

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    February 1, 2006

    Well done!

    Where do I sign up for class? And is the TBPI football team any good? 😉

  3. #3 Andre
    February 1, 2006

    Hi Dr. Free-Ride,

    Great job on the latest Tangled Bank. I love the course catalogue concept.

    I hate to be negative about any of it, but I was a little surprised about the inclusion of the “Multiple Natures Conjecture” post. I know the Tangled Bank is meant to be very inclusive, but I would argue that this post is not science or even really about science although it uses some scientific-sounding words.

    It may not backed by a high powered PR firm like ID and so any negative impact from the essay will probably be comparatively small, but I would hate to see someone with no physics background mistake the post for legitimate scientific speculation about physics in the way that some people mistake ID for a legitimate speculation about biological origin and diversity.

  4. #4 Kevin W. Parker
    February 1, 2006

    The “Intelligence Illusion” link has a spurious html break at the end.

    [Thanks — got it!]

  5. #5 beajerry
    February 1, 2006

    My brain blew a gasket. I’ll never graduate now!

  6. #6 coturnix
    February 1, 2006

    Very creative! Thank – great job!

  7. #7 Jenn
    February 1, 2006

    That was a lot of fun to read – great job! Yet another Tangled Bank host intimidating the rest of us with such high creative standards :-).

  8. #8 Monado
    February 3, 2006

    This is aamazing. It’s going to take me a few sessions to get through it all. One little thing… the link for “interspecies competition” has some extra characters at the end. Tnx,

    [Fixed it — thanks!]

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