Strange things happen in Frontiers of Science. Today, in the spirit of the Biodiversity section of the class, five avid pupils decided to dress up in animal costumes for class. Our wildlife photographer captured images of several giraffes, an owl and a dinosaur. One of the perpetrators said of their bold statement, “We’re biodiverse!” Clearly they haven’t been actually attending class: if they teach you anything in frosci, it’s the disappointing fact that dinosaurs actually had feathers. Get some more accurate costumes next time!
Wondering what Professor Emyln Hughes does when he’s not creating mass amounts of Froscanity? So were we. We heard that Hughes and a team of undergrads traveled to Europe to film a documentary about nuclear energy while Hughes worked at CERN, so we sent our expert on all things Froscane, Sarah Thompson, to investigate the finished product.
Last summer, six undergraduates under the direction of Professor Emlyn Hughes were placed in rural France near CERN and were instructed to make a documentary regarding the state of nuclear energy (and survive). The documentary, Critical Generation, formed the basis of the K=1 Criticality Project, named after the critical mass needed to sustain a nuclear chain reaction, and the members of the project and think-tank hope to “encourage discussion based on the facts” with the film.
Many of the students gathered in Pupin 428 last night hoped to receive extra credit for FroSci, whereas I went out of a sense of guilt that my statements to two major media outlets were crafted in a way that helped blow Froscanity out of scope and portray the brilliant Hughes in a negative and critical light. I think I’ll still get extra credit, though.
With all the fuss and media attention going on around Emlyn Hughes this week, frustrated Frontiersman Alexander Pines thought he deserved to be defended. Here’s the result:
I’ll be frank, Frontiers of Science is a bullshit course. Instead of providing an in-depth exploration of one or two key topics in modern scientific study, it seeks to instead condense incredibly complex subjects (quantum mechanics, particle physics, special relativity, neurobiology, to name a few) into easy to swallow one and a half hour lectures that act as little more than cocktail party fodder. Instead of giving all undergraduates a basic background in science and bridging the “divide between science and humanities in the minds” of College students, Frontiers strips complicated ideas of their nuance and asks students to swallow and regurgitate information instead of considering it critically. It is the anti-Lit Hum, a class of reduction of critical thought instead of expansion. For this reason, it’s one of the most controversial pieces of the Core and is continually being considered for review.
Unsurprisingly, Frontiers is ill attended and students who do show up rarely pay attention–hell, I’m sitting in Frontiers as I write this now. A cursory glance of the crowd will show rows of MacBooks open to Facebook, the New York Times, Oscar night fashion recaps, and shoe shopping on Zappos (and that’s just what I can see from my seat). A friend of mine who had the class last semester told me she sat in the back with her headphones in and watched porn every week. When I tell upperclassmen that I’m off to a Frontiers lecture, they laugh and tell me to take a nap instead.
After Emlyn Hughes’ cryptic stunt during last week’s Frontiers of Science lecture and the hullabaloo that followed, of course everyone was looking forward to today’s lecture. Our sources hinted that it would be even crazier than last week’s.
An e-mail was sent out to those in the class also announced that “due to recent media attention,” they would be checking ID’s to make sure that only people registered for the course would get in. This actually happened, as security guards with iPads barred anyone not on the class roster, and for some reason weren’t letting students bring in their coffee.
Before Hughes walked in, students were also told not to photograph or film the class. And this week’s hip hop song of choice was Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which was not accompanied by any shenanigans. Then Hughes arrived and simply stood by his desk as the song played over videos of nuclear tests and explosions, which makes sense because the topic of the week was nuclear terrorism.
Still wearing his hoodie and sunglasses, Hughes said, “Of course I do lots of unwise things in lectures, and you have punished me for it. We’ll talk about that later.”
The only truly mysterious thing that happened was that at one point, two girls suddenly sat on two chairs onstage using laptops, raised their hands, and left.
In the end, that was the extent of the weirdness: Hughes proceeded to deliver a normal lecture about nuclear terrorism and the physics involved, and ended with a video by “an alum,” namely, Barack Obama.
He ended the class with a discussion where he said, “Since we made this into the most famous classroom in the world, I know that we have a lot to say to each other… We’re going to talk about it, but not today.”
We guess that’s all for today folks, but the grand finale may finally come next week.
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.
Cartoon from the New York Daily News
real other news:
China keeps trying to hack us. Hey, pick on someone your own size! (WSJ)
The Supreme Court will hear a case on limiting campaign contributions. (NY Times)
International Space Station—where’d you go? I miss you so! Seems like it’s been forever that you’ve been gone. (CNN)
New details emerge in the Pistorius case. (USA Today)
Important stuff via Shutterstock
Yesterday, Professor Hughes began Frontiers of Science’s three-lecture physics unit by playing Lil Wayne, changing clothes on stage, and displaying 9/11 and Nazi Germany footage. Various news outlets (Slate, TIME, NY Daily News) have picked up the story, and here is some of the known coverage for today:
- Fox News’s The Five at 5 pm
- ABC Eyewitness News at 5:30 pm (Channel 7)
- Update: here’s ABC, featuring Bwog Daily Editor Sarah Thompson, CC’16!
- Fox News’s Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld at 3 am
Also, Columbia released the following statement saying that faculty members bear “corresponding responsibilities” and that they are “reviewing the facts” of the lecture.
Universities are committed to maintaining a climate of academic freedom, in which the faculty members are given the widest possible latitude in their teaching and scholarship. However, the freedoms traditionally accorded the faculty carry corresponding responsibilities. Columbia’s Faculty Handbook states that “In conducting their classes, faculty should promote an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, respect, and civility [and] should confine their classes to the subject matter covered by their courses.” While one must exercise caution in judging excerpts from a lecture or short presentations from an entire course outside of their full context, the appropriate academic administrators are currently reviewing the facts of this particular presentation in quantum mechanics.
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.
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:
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.”