The online version of the Caltech Catalog is provided as a convenience; however, the printed version is the only authoritative source of information about course offerings, option requirements, graduation requirements, and other important topics.
HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Hum/H/HPS 10. Introduction to the History of Science. 9 units (3-0-6). For course description, see Humanities.
Hum/H/HPS 11. History of Astronomy and Cosmology. 9 units (3-0-6). For course description, see Humanities.
HPS 98. Reading in History and Philosophy of Science. 9 units (1-0-8). Prerequisite: instructor’s permission. An individual program of directed reading in history and philosophy of science, in areas not covered by regular courses. Instructor: Staff.
HPS 102 ab. Senior Research Seminar. 12 units (2-0-10). Offered in any two consecutive terms, by arrangement with HPS faculty. Under the guidance of an HPS faculty member, students will research and write a focused research paper of 15,000 words (approximately 50 pages). Work in the first term will comprise intensive reading in the relevant literature and/or archival or other primary source research. In the second term, students will draft and revise their paper. Open to seniors in the HPS option and to others by special permission of an HPS faculty member. Instructor: Staff.
HPS 103. Public Lecture Series. 1 unit; first, second, third terms. Student attend four lectures, featuring speakers from outside Caltech, on topics in the history and philosophy of science. Students may choose from a variety of regularly scheduled HPS lectures, including HPS seminars, Harris lectures, and Munro seminars (history or philosophy of science only). Graded on attendance. Not available for credit toward the humanities–social science requirement. Graded pass/fail. Instructors: Visiting lecturers.
HPS 104. Forbidden Knowledge. 9 units (3-0-6). When and how has the notion of freedom of knowledge and teaching in science emerged? What kinds of restrictions have been placed on scientists, their publications and institutions? Who restrained scientific knowledge of what sorts; for what reasons; and how successfully? These questions will be addressed by looking at some canonical cases in the history of science, such as Copernicus and Galileo. But we will also move into more recent history, discussing work on the atomic bomb, genetic engineering, and global warming. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS 105. Science and Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This course explores the relationships between the sciences and the humanities, from the point of view of literary-scientific interactions. Issues to be addressed include the “Two Cultures” debate over the years: Huxley vs. Arnold in the late 19th century; Snow vs. Leavis in the mid 20th century; the Science Wars of the late 20th century. Problems of representing scientific content in literary works and the consequences of examining scientific writing from a literary perspective will also be addressed. Readings will be drawn from a variety of genres, including novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and scientific texts. Not offered 2015–16
HPS/Pl 120. Introduction to Philosophy of Science. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. An introduction to fundamental philosophical problems concerning the nature of science. Topics may include the character of scientific explanation, criteria for the conformation and falsification of scientific theories, the relationship between theory and observation, philosophical accounts of the concept of “law of nature,” causation, chance, realism about unobservable entities, the objectivity of science, and issues having to do with the ways in which scientific knowledge changes over time. Instructor: Eberhardt.
HPS/Pl 121. Causation and Explanation. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. An examination of theories of causation and explanation in philosophy and neighboring disciplines. Topics discussed may include probabilistic and counterfactual treatments of causation, the role of statistical evidence and experimentation in causal inference, and the deductive-nomological model of explanation. The treatment of these topics by important figures from the history of philosophy such as Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume may also be considered. Instructor: Eberhardt.
HPS/Pl 122. Probability, Evidence, and Belief. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. Philosophical and conceptual issues arising from the study of probability theory and how it relates to rationality and belief. Topics discussed may include the foundations and interpretations of probability, arguments for and against the view that we ought to have personal degrees of belief, rational change in beliefs over time, and the relationship between probability and traditional epistemological topics like evidence, justification, and knowledge. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 123. Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Prerequisites: Ph 1abc or instructor’s permission. This course will examine the philosophical foundations of the physical theories covered in the freshman physics sequence: classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and special relativity. Topics may include: the goals of physics; what laws of nature are; the unification of physical theories; symmetries; determinism; locality; the reality of fields; the arrow of time. Instructors: Sebens.
HPS/Pl 124. Philosophy of Space and Time. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course will focus on questions about the nature of space and time, particularly as they arise in connection with physical theory. Topics may include the nature and existence of space, time, and motion; the relationship between geometry and physical space (or space-time); entropy and the direction of time; the nature of simultaneity; and the possibility of time travel. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 125. Philosophical Issues in Quantum Physics. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. Prerequisites: Ph 2b or Ph 12b. This course will focus on philosophical and foundational questions raised by quantum physics. Questions may include: Is quantum mechanics a local theory? Is the theory deterministic or indeterministic? What is the role of measurement and observation? Does the wave function always obey the Schrödinger equation? Does the wave function give a complete description of the state of a system? Are there parallel universes? How are we to understand quantum probabilities? Instructors: Sebens.
HPS/Pl 128. Philosophy of Mathematics. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. An examination of conceptual issues that arise in mathematics. The sorts of issues addressed may include the following: Are mathematical objects such as numbers in some sense real? How do we obtain knowledge of the mathematical world? Are proofs the only legitimate source of mathematical knowledge? What is the relationship between mathematics and the world? How is it possible to apply abstract theory to the world? Views of major historical figures such as Plato, Hume, Kant, and Mill, as well as of contemporary writers are examined. The course will also examine philosophical issues that arise in particular areas of mathematics such as probability theory and geometry. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 129. Introduction to Philosophy of Biology. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Philosophical and conceptual issues relating to the biological sciences. Topics covered may include the logical structure of evolutionary theory, units of selection, optimization theory, the nature of species, reductionism, teleological and functional reasoning, and ethical issues arising from contemporary biological research. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 130. Philosophy and Biology. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. A selection of philosophical issues arising in the biological sciences. Topics will vary by term. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 132. Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Psychology. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. An introduction to the mind-body problem. The course attempts, from the time of Descartes to the present, to understand the nature of the mind and its relation to the body and brain. Topics to be addressed may include dualism, behaviorism, functionalism, computationalism, neurophilosophy, consciousness and qualia, scientific psychology vs. “folk” psychology, the nature of emotion, knowledge of other minds. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 134. Current Issues in Philosophical Psychology. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. An in-depth examination of one or more issues at the intersection of contemporary philosophy and the brain and behavioral sciences. Topics may include the development of a theory of mind and self-representation, theories of representation and neural coding, the nature of rationality, the nature and causes of psychopathology, learning and innateness, the modularity of mind. Instructor: Cowie.
HPS/Pl 135. Moral Philosophy and the Brain. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course will examine the impact of recent advances in neuroscience on moral philosophy. Topics to be addressed include: the evolution of morality and a naturalistic perspective on ethics; the role of brain imaging in adjudicating between deontological vs. consequentialist perspectives on moral decision-making and judgment; the relation between virtue theory and habit systems in the brain; brain imaging of altruism and its implications for egoism, empathy, and moral motivation; moral agency and free will; the neuroscience of distributive justice; the debate regarding the normative significance of neuroscience for moral philosophy. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 136. Happiness and the Good Life. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. This course will critically examine the emerging science of happiness and positive psychology, its philosophical assumptions, methodology, and its role in framing social policy and practice. Topics to be addressed include: the relation between happiness as subjective well-being or life satisfaction and philosophical visions of the good life; the relation between happiness and virtue; the causes of happiness and the role of life experience; happiness and economic notions of human welfare, attempts to measure happiness, and the prospect for an economics of happiness; happiness as a brain state and whether brain science can illuminate the nature of happiness; mental illness and psychiatry in light of positive psychology. Instructors: Quartz.
HPS/Pl 138. Human Nature and Society. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This course will investigate how assumptions about human nature shape political philosophy, social institutions, and social policy. The course will begin with a historical perspective, examining the work of such political philosophers as Plato, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx, along with such psychologists as Freud and Skinner. Against this historical perspective, it will then turn to examine contemporary views on human nature from cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology and explore their potential implications for political philosophy and social policy. Among topics to be discussed will be the nature of human sociality and cooperation; economic systems and assumptions regarding production and consumption; and propaganda, marketing, and manipulation. Instructor: Quartz.
HPS/H 152. Renaissance Anatomy and Botany. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. In this class, “the Renaissance” refers to a cultural movement taking place between roughly 1500 and the early decades of the seventeenth century, where anatomy and botany, and those who studied medicine and natural history, formed a part of this movement. Through lectures, class discussion, videos, and field trips to see books, plants, and art work discussed in class, students will learn about the persistence of ancient forms of knowledge, the relations between art and science, the discovery of the circulation of the blood, the expanding use of physiological experiments, and the rise of a mechanistic understanding of the body during the Renaissance. Instructors: Manning.
HPS/H 156. The History of Modern Science. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. Selected topics in the development of the physical and biological sciences since the 17th century. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS 157. The Evolution of Knowledge. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. The course analyzes the history of science from a new perspective, that of an evolution of knowledge. It begins with a discussion of the cognitive, social, and material dimensions of knowledge, introducing basic concepts from cognitive science and sociology. It analyzes current discussions of cultural evolution and their relevance to understanding the history of science. Building on this theoretical introduction, major milestones are reviewed, the origin of science in antiquity, the Scientific Revolution of the early modern period, and the transition from classical to modern science, relying on secondary literature as well as on primary sources. Instructors: Renn.
HPS/H 158. The Scientific Revolution. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. The birth of modern Western science from 1400 to 1700. The course examines the intellectual revolution brought about by the contributions of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Kepler, Newton, and Harvey, and their relation to major political, social, and economic developments. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 159. The Cold War and American Science. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This course examines the growth of science in America after World War II, and its relation to Cold War geopolitics. Topics will include the growth of the American research university; the establishment and role of the national laboratory system; the role of federal funding agencies including ONR, NSF, NIH, and DARPA; and the impact of geopolitical considerations and priorities on scientific research and knowledge. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 160 ab. Einstein and His Generation: The History of Modern Physical Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. An exploration of the most significant scientific developments in the physical sciences, structured around the life and work of Albert Einstein (1879–1955), with particular emphasis on the new theories of radiation, the structure of matter, relativity, and quantum mechanics. While using original Einstein manuscripts, notebooks, scientific papers, and personal correspondence, we shall also study how experimental and theoretical work in the sciences was carried out; scientific education and career patterns; personal, political, cultural, and sociological dimensions of science. Instructor: Kormos-Buchwald.
HPS/H 162. Social Studies of Science. 9 units (3-0-6), third term. A comparative, multidisciplinary course that examines the practice of science in a variety of locales, using methods from the history, sociology, and anthropology of scientific knowledge. Topics covered include the high-energy particle laboratory as compared with a biological one; Western as compared to non-Western scientific reasoning; the use of visualization techniques in science from their inception to virtual reality; gender in science; and other topics. Instructor: Feingold.
HPS/H 164. History of Space Exploration. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course will cover the entire history of space exploration with a particular focus on the Cold War era. The course will begin with the first dreaming about space travel during the 16th century and end with the rise of new space powers such as China and India. We will consider the political, military, technological, social, and cultural dimensions of space exploration. Topics covered include speculations on why humans were drawn to the cosmos in the first place, the weaponization of space, the popular culture of TV shows (such as Star Trek) and movies (such as the Alien series), the secret Soviet space program, the extraordinary Apollo missions to the Moon, and the International Space Station of the 21st century. Instructors: Siddiqi.
HPS/Pl 165. Selected Topics in Philosophy of Science. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
HPS/H 166. Historical Perspectives on the Relations between Science and Religion. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. The course develops a framework for understanding the changing relations between science and religion in Western culture since antiquity. Focus will be on the ways in which the conceptual, personal, and social boundaries between the two domains have been reshaped over the centuries. Questions to be addressed include the extent to which a particular religious doctrine was more or less amenable to scientific work in a given period, how scientific activity carved an autonomous domain, and the roles played by scientific activity in the overall process of secularization. Instructor: Feingold.
HPS/H 167. Experimenting with History/Historic Experiment. 9 units (3-0-6); second, third terms. This course uses a combination of lectures with hands-on laboratory work to bring out the methods, techniques, and knowledge that were involved in building and conducting historical experiments. We will connect our laboratory work with the debates and claims made by the original discoverers, asking such questions as how experimental facts have been connected to theories, how anomalies arise and are handled, and what sorts of conditions make historically for good data. Typical experiments might include investigations of refraction, laws of electric force, interference of polarized light, electromagnetic induction, or resonating circuits and electric waves. We will reconstruct instrumentation and experimental apparatus based on a close reading of original sources. Instructor: Buchwald, J.
HPS/H 168. History of Electromagnetism and Heat Science. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. This course covers the development of electromagnetism and thermal science from its beginnings in the early 18th century through the early 20th century. Topics covered include electrostatics, magnetostatics, electrodynamics, Maxwell’s field theory, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics as well as related experimental discoveries. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 169. Selected Topics in the History of Science and Technology. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
HPS/H 170. History of Light from Antiquity to the 20th Century. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. A study of the experimental, mathematical, and theoretical developments concerning light, from the time of Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D. to the production of electromagnetic optics in the 20th century. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 171. History of Mechanics from Galileo through Euler. 9 units (3-0-6); second, third terms. Prerequisite: basic Caltech physics course. This course covers developments in mechanics, as well as related aspects of mathematics and models of nature, from just before the time of Galileo through the middle of the 18th century, which saw the creation of fluid and rotational dynamics in the hands of Euler and others. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 172. History of Mathematics: A Global View with Close-ups. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. The course will provide students with a brief yet adequate survey of the history of mathematics, characterizing the main developments and placing these in their chronological, cultural, and scientific contexts. A more detailed study of a few themes, such as Archimedes’ approach to infinite processes, the changing meanings of “analysis” in mathematics, Descartes’ analytic geometry, and the axiomatization of geometry c. 1900; students’ input in the choice of these themes will be welcomed. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H/Pl 173. History of Chemistry. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This course examines developments in chemistry from medieval alchemy to the time of Lavoisier and Dalton. It will examine the real content of alchemy and its contributions to modern science, as well as how to decode its bizarre language; chemistry’s long quest for respect and academic status; the relations of chemistry with metallurgy, medicine, and other fields; and the content and development of the chemical theories and the chemical laboratory and its methods. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 174. Early Greek Astronomy. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. The course will highlight the background and some of the landmarks in the evolution of Greek astronomy from its tentative beginnings in the 5th century B.C., to its culmination in the work of Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 175. Matter, Motion, and Force: Physical Astronomy from Ptolemy to Newton. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. The course will examine how elements of knowledge that evolved against significantly different cultural and religious backgrounds motivated the great scientific revolution of the 17th century. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H/Pl 176. History of Alchemy. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. Alchemy, long considered one of history’s “losers,” has recently acquired a new and very different prominence among historians as a forerunner of experimental science in general and of chemistry in particular. This course surveys the field of alchemy over its main period of development, considering cases from the ancient world, medieval Islam and Christendom, and early modern Europe. The goal is to chart the evolution of alchemical theory and practice from its inception until the period of its decline at the end of the seventeenth century. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 178. Galileo’s Astronomy and Conflicts with the Church. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. Galileo’s discoveries with the telescope and arguments for the heliocentric theory radically transformed the System of the World, as it was called, and resulted in his being brought before the Inquisition, the most famous single event in the history of science. The readings will be Galileo’s Sidereal Messenger, Letters on Sunspots, The Assayer, Dialogue on the Two Great Systems of the World, and documents concerned with Galileo’s conflicts with the Church in 1616 and 1633. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 180. Physics and Philosophy from the Scientific Revolution to the 20th Century. 9 units (3-0-6). This course will examine the interplay between the theoretical understanding of physical nature and the philosophical definition of reliable knowledge. It will investigate this intellectual interplay in the work of Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Hume, Maxwell, and Einstein. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 181. Evidence, Measurement, and the Uses of Data in the Early Modern Period. 9 units (3-0-6). From treatises about geography and astronomy to the history of plants and animals, early modern Natural philosophy provided an astonishingly broad background of research agendas. The course will examine the manner in which observations were carried out and evidence weighed, both in university settings and in the field. Topics to be addressed include the changing perceptions regarding the reliability of the senses; the contribution of instruments to accumulation of reliable knowledge; the standardization of data and its presentation; and the emergence of new argumentative strategies. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/H 182. See and Tell: 3-D Models for the Visualization of Complex Concepts from the 16th century to modern times. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Early modern artists and scholars of all disciplines routinely built three-dimensional objects in order to represent complex concepts and appearances. Some rendered visible abstract formulas in geometrical forms like the movement of the stars; others schematized complex work-flows like drainage systems, or the geographical conditions on Earth; still others proposed costly projects, such as the cupola of St. Peter in Rome, on the basis of a model. These models-many of which still survive-were constructed according to precise rules and regulations, as well as personal taste. The course will offer an introduction to the significance of three-dimensional models in the early modern period, and the manner in which they were crafted and used by artists, physicians, and natural philosophers. Not offered 2015–16.
Pl/HPS 183. Bioethics. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. For course description, see Philosophy.
H/HPS 185. Angels and Monsters. 9 units (3-0-6). For course description, see History.
HPS/H 186. The Sciences in the Romantic Era. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. This course aims at introducing students to problems, methods, and resources in European science during the era of Romanticism (c. 1780–1830). The Romantic movement embraced the sciences as well as literature, theology, and the arts, and sought to unite them into a comprehensive program of understanding nature based on experimentation and speculative philosophy. Scientists of the Romantic era have addressed fundemental concerns about scientific manipulations of nature that have, in a different form, resurfaced in the later part of the 20th century. Romanticism addresses major themes in the self-awareness of scientists and their perception in society, and it contributed to the emergence of new research fields and scientific institutions to accommodate nationalistic claims. Not offered 2015–16.
HPS/Pl 188. The Evolution of Cognition. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. By many measures, Homo sapiens is the most cognitively sophisticated animal on the planet. Not only does it live in a huge variety of habitats, and not only has it transformed its environment in unprecedented ways, but it is also responsible for such cultural artifacts as language, science, religion, and art. These are achievements that other species, however successful they may be in other respects, have not accomplished. This course investigates the cognitive, behavioral, and environmental bases for humans’ surprising cultural dominance of our planet. Possible topics include the evolution of language, the evolution of morality, the evolution of religion, the evolution of cooperation, and the advent of technology, math, science, and the Internet. Contact the instructor to find out what the topic in any given term is. Not offered 2015–16.
H/HPS 194. Travels, Travelers, and Travel Tales: 1700-1900. 9 units. For course description, see History.
HPS/H 196. Science in Popular Culture. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. This course will be a historical survey of the intersection between science and popular culture. As such, our goal will be to explore and understand popular science as a historical phenomenon. The course will trace the evolution of popular science in the Western world through important transformations in the modern era, beginning with the rise of a distinct category of “popular science” during the Victorian Era and then moving through to the present day. During the term, we will study a variety of popular scientific forms, such as science fiction, magazines, comics, graphic novels, sci-fi movies, and TV shows. Students will be required to engage in critical analysis of all the assigned readings and actively participate in an online blog. Instructors: Siddiqi.
HPS/H 198. Print In a Global Context, 14th to 19th Centuries. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. New types of media came into being during the 14th and 15th centuries, leading eventually to a revolution of communication from the 16th century, with the coming of the printing press. This course offers an advanced approach to the variety and power of media, by following text culture in a global perspective before and after the introduction of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the second half of the 15th century. Important issues concern the role of paper, the techniques of producing books and newspapers or pamphlets, the function of illustrations, and finally practices of selling, reading and manipulating information all over the world. The course covers print cultures in Asia, The Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the Atlantic World. Not offered 2015–16.