History of Science Since the Seventeenth Century

History of Science 3023 Section 900 Fall 2014
Instructor: Peter Barker

Research essay instructions.

Outline (including sources) Oct 16, submit electronically;
First draft (optional) Nov 06, submit printed copy;
Final draft deadline Nov 20, submit printed copy.

Instructions: Write an essay of 2500 words (about ten pages) on ONE of the following topics. You are encouraged to find sources in addition to class materials to support your answer. These should be indicated in a standard format bibliography. Footnotes, illustrations and bibliography do not contribute to the total word count required for the essay. For practical information on essay writing see "Frequently asked questions about writing essays"

Your essay should be double spaced, in a 12 point font like Times Roman. You may use any recognized style for notes and bibliography. You should prepare it in standard format with numbered pages. Do not use a separate page for ID and title. Put your name, ID number, and the number of the course before the title at the top, left, of the first page.

SUBMISSION FORMAT: Print one hard copy and deliver it to Dr. Barker during a regular class session. Keep a paper copy and backup the file on your computer.


1. OPEN QUESTION: Write an essay on any theme approved by Dr. Barker. Your theme should connect with material presented in the course, but may deal with material mentioned in the class outline but not yet covered. To obtain approval, send an outline, including a clear title, and a bibliography to BOTH BarkerP@ou.edu AND blair.stein@ou.edu, no later than one week before your deadline.

iF YOU PREFER TO WORK ONLINE you may complete a Wikipedia assignment equivalent to this essay assignment.

2. Describe the sequence of events that takes place before, during and after a scientific revolution, according the Kuhn. Illustrate your answer with actual historical events in any scientific discipline you are familiar with.

3. Describe in your own words the important differences between Einstein's conception of the universe and Newton's. Why does Kuhn treat the replacement of Newton's theories by Einstein's as a scientific revolution? Explain giving reasons.

4. What were the main features of the scientific account of the natural world replaced by Darwin? What evidence led Darwin to question this account (include at least three items)? How did Darwin explain the same evidence?

5. Was the Darwinian revolution a paradigm shift?

6. Describe in your own words the scientific background leading up to Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA. Is this discovery a revolution in Kuhn's sense? Explain giving reasons.

7. What are the main differences between Newton's paradigm and the quantum paradigm developed by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schroedinger?

8. What did Einstein mean when he complained "God does not play dice"? What is the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics and how far does it answer Einstein's complaint?

9. Describe the differences between Werner Heisenberg's account of his 1941 conversation with Niels Bohr (Junck, pp. 102-4) with the versions available at the Niels Bohr Archive. Who do you believe, and why? (You may want to watch the Daniel Craig film Copenhagen as background.)

10. What factors made Nazi Germany a nuclear threat to the United States in 1939? How had these factors changed by 1945? How did the U.S. rationale for developing nuclear weapons change over the same period?

11. What were the main problems overcome in the course of the Manhattan project? How many of these factors are relevant to assessing the likelihood that a third-world nation is in a position to construct nuclear weapons, at the beginning of the twenty-first century?

12. Why did the U.S. drop two bombs on Japan?