Fuel for ThoughtGAMBIER, Ohio (November 16, 2005) True or false: the era of cheap oil is over. True or false: the new economy will run on hydrogen. The correct answer is (C): Such questions are too complex, and too important, for one-word answers. That's why Associate Professor of Chemistry Scott Cummings designed his new course, "Solar Energy." The course, to be offered next semester, will allow non-science majors to grapple--scientifically--with many of the energy issues dominating today's headlines.
"I don't want to lecture students about what opinions they should have on the issues," says Cummings, who will cover topics ranging from fossil fuels and greenhouse gases to photovoltaics and fuel cells. "I want them to walk away from the course saying 'I'm better prepared to make up my own mind now.'"
"Solar Energy" is one of several innovative courses through which Kenyon professors enable non-majors to explore issues in science and mathematics from a rigorous, quantitative perspective--and have fun doing so. The mathematics department regularly offers "Surprises at Infinity," which immerses students in notions such as the fact that some infinities are bigger than others. A physics course on Einstein uses a "bungee cam" to demonstrate the principle of equivalence, a keystone of the special theory of relativity.
Cummings, whose research interests involve the photochemistry and photophysics of transition metal complexes, is enthused about the opportunity to work with non-majors. "I'm hoping that there's going to be a good synergy between what students will think about in this course and what they'll think about in some other courses in political science, religious studies and sociology."