#frontiers of science
Frontiers of Science Removed From Core

This morning the Committee on the Core Curriculum released a statement announcing that Frontiers of Science has been removed from the Core Curriculum.

The statement claimed that the main cause for the cancellation was the class’s overall lack of useful education. It cited interviews and conversations with students that stated “literally nobody” enjoyed the class or took it seriously and that the lecture served as “a time for students to surf the internet on their laptops.” In anonymous student evaluations, the discussion sections were described as “boring” and “drawn out.”

According to the statement, Frontiers of Science has been under discussion for a few semesters, but only now is the Committee ready to make major changes to the program. It cited Froscanity as a reason for this shift: “It was only after Emlyn Hughes’ enlightening introductory class, in which he stripped, stabbed stuffed animals, and showed footage of 9/11, that the Committee realized that Frontiers of Science was an ineffective way to introduce first-years to the sciences.”

The cancellation is effective immediately, meaning that today’s 11AM lecture has been cancelled, as have all lectures, discussion sections, homework assignments, quizzes, and finals until the end of the semester. All credits from the class have been removed from transcripts, and students will have to make up for them by other means. “We regret the inconvenience this sudden change will no doubt cause for students,” the statement concedes, “but we came to the unanimous decision that an immediate action would best serve our new goals for the Columbia science requirement and for the Core.”

Incoming freshmen will be glad to know that instead of the current Frontiers lecture-discussion setup, they will have the option to take any introductory math or science course to have it count for the added third semester of their science requirement, which can be fulfilled at any time. Bwog recommends courses such as “Physics for Poets” or “Weapons of Mass Destruction” for humanities majors not thrilled about the additional science requirement.

No word yet on the Committee’s review of University Writing.

Froscanity: So Ridiculous, It’s a Cartoon

In the media coverage still focusing on Monday’s Froscanity, cartoonists at the New York Daily News are now depicting their version of the episode. We think cartoon Dr. Hughes looks pretty good in the nude, but he’s not wearing a g-string for us to tuck our $45,000 checks into.
dat ass

Cartoon from the New York Daily News

Overseen: FroSci Gone Wild
He undresses

He undresses

If you think Frontiers of Science is a boring, useless class, think again—the Core’s most infamous class went wild today.

According to our reports, the first class of the physics unit was running a bit late when the lights went out. When they came back on, professor Emlyn Hughes was in the spotlight.

Then Snoop Dogg’s  Lil Wayne’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” started playing in some sort of weird combination with deadmau5, Billy Joel, and Die Antwoord (UPDATE: we’re pretty sure this is what was playing) and he started to undress and put on a hoodie and sunglasses. After that, he curled up into a fetal position in his chair as images of 9/11, terrorists, and Nazi Germany started playing on the projector.

Finally, the show was interrupted by ninjas who appeared and smashed puppets onstage.

But none of this was as offensive as the fact that he proceeded to display a Big Bang Theory clip in a “Science” class.

We shit you not. And it makes no sense to us either.

Here’s the video:

FroSci Gone Wild from Bwog on Vimeo.

Update, 2/19 4:30 pm: The University has finally released a statement saying that “appropriate academic administrators” are “reviewing the facts of this particular presentation.”

Frontiers of Science Town Hall Review: Is FroSci a Worthwhile Piece of the Core?

Oh Hipster Scientist, you have so many opinions!

In lieu of the usual CCSC meeting, members of the Council and student body gathered to discuss the Educational Policy and Planning Committee’s review of Frontiers of Science. Bwog’s council correspondent, Maren Killackey, reports.

For Sunday’s Frontiers of Science Town Hall, administration procured a bevy of well-spoken individuals who voiced a variety criticisms regarding what many would consider their least favorite Core class. A decent spectrum of academic areas were represented, from Astrophysics and Biochemistry to Philosophy and Hispanic Studies. No consensus was articulated, but the general theme of the evening seemed to be, “FroSci could be something so great… but it’s not.”

The overarching questions posed by EPPC member Simon Jerome (CC’13) and Committee on the Core member Samara Bliss (CC’13) – with helpful input by Committee on Instruction Bob Sun (CC’14) and Grace McCarty (CC’13, CoC) – were 1) What is the main purpose of the course? 2) What aspects of Frontiers were most relevant to you? The most useful? The most engaging? Least? and 3) What are some ways the structure could be changed to make the course more effective?


BunsenBwog: No Anti-Matter The Costs

We need more Dilithium, Capt'n!

Bwog’s resident Particle Pontificator again rounds up all the top science stories for the week and breaks them down for the rest of us.

Fortunately for those who prefer to not be spontaniously annihilated, the universe is overwhelmingly made out of matter and virtually no antimatter. But why? An international collaboration of physicists have used powerful supercomputers to calculate the decay process of a kaon particle into two pions. The mechanism of the kaon’s decay is important because it could shed light on the phenomenon of CP symmetry violations. This describes how the interactions of particles and anti-particles differ in such a way that more matter is created than antimater.

Romans and Carthaginians, Capulets and Montagues, pigs and angry-birds—some of history’s greatest rivalries. No feud, however, is as great as that between biologists and engineers. Yet sometimes people can put down their differences and work together towards a common goal. Columbia professor Dimitris Anastassiou started his career as an engineer, but after being inspired by a textbook (The Biology of Cancer) by MIT professor Robert Weinberg, he defied fate and traded his soldering gun for a micropipet. Now he’s used his engineering training to expand on Weinberg’s research. His latest study examines patients whose cancer took longer to recur.  He found that these patients have a lower amount of a protein signature that indicates cancer cells that act like stems cells. This supports Weinberg’s theory that these stem cells are what drive cancer growth.


On Amphibian Reproduction

Overheard from Dr. Evelyn Hughes during a Frontiers of Science lecture today:

“Just because physicists don’t show videos of frogs doing it, that doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking about it.”

We’ll follow suit and spare you, but while we’re on the subject, we may as well introduce you fresh batch of College folk to what is almost a rite of passage. The following video was composed and performed for a Frontiers of Science homework assignment by Reni Lane CC’10 who also went on to sign with major label Custard/Universal Motown.

Valentini Undergoes Ritual Town Hall Initiation

To further his ongoing efforts to reach out to students and increase transparency in the wake of Moodygateinterim Dean Valentini held a town hall last night. Deantini held the court in the oaken glory of Havemeyer 309, where he’s given countless lectures and even once had one burst out in song. Seasoned Town Haller Conor Skelding sat in.

Taking a stand.

Over the course of the night, Dean Valentini accomplished the following four things:

  • Explained the mystical decision-making process of the dean and affirming his commitment to a clear system
  •  Refused to speak for Moody-Adams, or really anybody else, or to approximate people’s opinions.
  • Emphasized his commitment to listening to us, and
  • Demonstrated his capacity for being a nice guy by sharing anecdotes, and chatting with speakers about where they’re from.

A few minutes after the intended start of 8 pm, Sam Roth, Editor of the Spectator, opened with a little blurb to the effect that the town hall was intended to address student concerns in a “time of upheaval.” Havemeyer 309 was sparsely filled, with maybe 40% of the lower level occupied and nobody in the wings. So, from approximately 8 to 9 pm, Deantini addressed Sam and CCSC prez Aki Terasaki’s concerns.

The pair started off with general questions, like why Deantini got the job (“because the president asked me to do it”), and whether he thought he could do it (“Yes”).

Roth then touched on interrelations between governing bodies, which Valentini turned into the motif of the entire event. For the duration of the evening, JJV would expound on exactly who makes each decision, and how. Valentini pointed to a strange segmentation in our school: the College has everything it needs to run under its aegis, except teachers, who are under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (more…)

David Helfand Leaves Columbia to Seek Truth

Blame Canada

Almost as famous for the epic proportions of his beard as for his pedagogy, the chair of the Astronomy department and Frontiers of Science mastermind Professor David Helfand will be relocating to Canada. It was reported Monday in a local newspaper in a remarkably hand-wavey way that “Helfand is now on a long term leave of absence from Columbia, with zero responsibilities for the foreseeable future.” He’s given up the Big Apple for the town of Squamish, just north of Vancouver, home of the newly-founded Quest University. Helfand was one of the University’s Founding Tutors and has been acting as interim president since 2008.

Helfand will now be acting as the full-time head of Quest, which graduated its first class this April. According to The Chief, Squamish’s news website, Helfand feels more at home there then he ever did during his 33 years at Columbia. “I have been lecturing at Columbia for a third of a century,” said Helfand. “But I feel I only began truly teaching when I came to Quest.”

We’ll especially miss his killer moves.

Homecoming via Quest

Bwoglines: Dare to Dream Edition

What Kraft product would you give this dreamer?

Four Columbia professors have been elected fellows of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. (Columbia)

According to a recent Rolling Stone Interview, Weezy won’t be coming back to New York, stating “they’d have to give me U2 money” to lure him back. Start fundraising Bacchanal! (Boombox)

Kraft created a vending machine that chooses food for you based on your facial expression. Bwog hopes that Kraft can bring this technology to our old friend in Lerner. (Gawker)

Starbucks is proud to announce they will start selling their largest drink to date- the trenta. The behemoth beverage packs 31 liquid oz., making it larger than the average capacity of the human stomach. The drink has already debuted in 14 states and should hit shelves here by May 3rd, hopefully in time to make an appearance during finals week. (LATimes, National Post)

Image via Wikimedia

Frontiers Of Science: It Ain’t Poetry

Freshpeople! You tired, you poor, you huddled masses gathering to take the Frontiers final today: we promise, college isn’t always like this. To provide some last-minute assistance, here are some haikus sent by one of your own. If you have other haikus, Frontiers-related or otherwise, leave ‘em in the comments. Good luck, friends!

Two distributions
Significantly different?
Check the error bars

Making assumptions
We’re not being judgmental
Just reasonable
Living on islands
You might meet a relative
No alternatives

Saw a shooting star?
If you are a dinosaur
Your end is coming.

Spiral galaxies
Beyond ours, more are lurking
future cannibals?

Action potentials
The currency of our thoughts
Small spikes make big waves

May 9th…It’s the Final Frontier!

We're not kidding!

Hey you freshpeople, good luck on your Frontiers final today!

If you need some last minute guidance, consult the University of Sydney’s bizarre Frontiers of Science website, which chronicles the 1961 Sydney Morning Herald comic strip called, uh, Frontiers of Science. “Everyone is science-conscious these days,” the intro to the comic strip explains, “and this new strip feature, intelligently presented and attractively drawn, will enable newspaper readers to get a better grasp of what is going on in the world today.” Read, and you will learn about the moon, the Soviet enemy, and aliens. Shit just got real, eh 2013?

Chewbacca Spotted in Frontiers of Science

Chewie gets his learn on; presumably the discussion today is on moons and space stations:

Left photo by Mary Frauenheim

Science Rules!

We’re told today’s Frontiers of Science lecture was eye-opening and stimulating.

Photo by David Fine

CCSC: Four More Years for Frontiers?

The prolonging of Frontiers, student honor boards, and serving alcohol to freshmen – it’s all in this week’s CCSC report:

In typical Yang-era fashion, the meeting opened with a series of brief announcements. VP for Finance Nuriel Moghavem told the council that student groups wishing to use the Black Box Theater have to put various fire safety measures into place (hiring fire marshals, etc.), typically costing around $2000. This new fee has originated “from God knows where,” according to Moghavem, but the student councils are hoping to end it.

Other brief announcements included Yang saying that the new student group spaces almost ready to open in Broadway and Schapiro are “larger than expected,” and that there will be a student survey to help determine the best use of the spaces, and Academic Affairs rep Gilad Bendheim’s project to allow pass/fail grades in introductory language courses, which Bendheim expressed optimism about. At this point, your correspondent excitedly looked up the Course Directory, only to learn that “Quenya” was shockingly not on offer.

The low point of the meeting came when 2010 President Cliff Massey reported from the Committee on the Core Curriculum. As this year marks the end of Frontiers of Science’s five-year trial run, the course is under “strong review.” But the Committee on Science Education has requested that the unholy terror of Frontiers be extended for another four years, “to collect more data.” Despite this reasoning sounding most similar to “let’s keep bombing Vietnam to collect more data,” Massey reported (to CCSC’s noticeable disappointment) that the Core Committee is “99% likely” to approve the request. (more…)

In Defense of…Frontiers of Science

Welcome to Bwog’s latest feature, “In Defense Of…” Here, a writer defends something that most students consider useless, inferior, or downright loathsome. In doing so, Bwog hopes to bring you a new perspective, and give the subject the appreciation it deserves…or not. In our second offering, J. Bryan Lowder offers some thoughts on a much-discussed and often unloved Core class.

Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin may soon be “a heartbeat away” from leading the United States.  Allegedly, Palin also believes in intelligent design.  I hope Matt Damon and I aren’t the only ones who think this is a problem.  What may be even more problematic, however, is that Palin is not alone.  An August 2006 article in the journal Science found that in 2005, only 40% of Americans accepted the idea of evolution, second in the survey only to Turkey.   Far from a simple theological disagreement, the intelligent design movement represents an outright rejection of scientific, rational thought at a time when it is most important.

This brings me to Frontiers.  We’ve all heard the joke that Lit Hum and CC are really just preparatory courses for future cocktail parties.  Maybe so, but I doubt that any half-sober student can leave those seminars without having been exposed to at least a few life-changing ideas. This “enlightenment by osmosis” is really the point of the Core, and so, while you may not remember how to figure the luminosity of a star (or even what that is), you should leave Frontiers at least having learned how to think scientifically.