Biology in Science Fiction
Science-fiction literature and film extend our awareness of the natural world in amazing ways, as in the film Avatar.Yet real biology is often more amazing than science fiction. We examine the impact of evolution on human existence through Wells's The Time Machine and Vonnegut's Galapagos, and explore bizarre living creatures through Herbert's Dune and Crichton's Jurassic Park. Quantitative reasoning in biology is introduced through problem sets applying calculation to test current and future biological phenomena. Exponential functions are used to explore whether human populations will explode, as in Star Trek, "The Trouble with Tribbles," or decline as in The Time Machine. Hardy-Weinberg equilibria and computer modeling show how bizarre mutant traits spread through populations, as in Galapagos. Acid-base titrations show how global warming acidifies the ocean, disrupting the marine ecosystem as in Slonczewski's A Door into Ocean. Students create their own interactive projects on the Web. Does not count toward the major or minor. Students may not take this course on the pass/D/fail basis. No prerequisite. May be offered in alternating years.