SLIDESHOW 1C: It's the end of the world as we know it.

Continuing on from our previous lecture notes (the last being about historical awareness of "global" - i.e. characterization of the Earth from both a physical and place context), we have planned that Immediately after that lecture, Allen would next go over a "State of the World" type summary. A bit of a "we're all going to die" type of thing, which would nicely prelude 20 minutes of me talking about why we've kind of been there before.

In other words, there have been many instances in the past, where events (often tied into the amalgamation of the humanities and sciences) have essentially rocked the world. In this slide show, I go over three examples, one that specifically relates to the definition of what it means to be human, and the other two, real life instances where the world has had to react to circumstances where literally the fate of the planet was dealt with in some fashion (maybe not dealt with effectively, and in many ways, may even be an "in progress" sort of thing).

These three examples, of course, are (1) Darwin and the whole evolution thing; (2) the advent of nuclear technology and in particular its role in weapons of mass destruction; and (3) that mother of an ozone hole over the Antarctic that has formed from the 60s/70s to present day, largely due to CFC use.

You'll note that many of these slides are white in colour, often with the image offset to one side. This is mainly because when specifically "talking science" (actually going over some of the concepts involved in these topics), I lecture best when I can write out my thoughts with an overhead projector projecting along side the graphic.

Anyway, here's a more specific breakdown of the slides above:

1. Lyrics to REM's "It's the end of the world as we know it."

2. A watercolour painting of the H.M.S. Beagle by Conrad Martens. (

3. Darwin's finches. Two images, one from his own pen (, and another from a classroom exercise (

4. Two letter "A"s, one in Times, and one using Clarendon. This is to go over a few concepts related to adaptation.

5. Page from Darwin's notebook. Essentially, the first instance where an evolutionary tree is drawn ( Still going over evolution.

6. William Blake, The Ancient of Days, 1794, being overlapped by a similarily bearded Darwin portrait ( The slow overlapping effect gives me plenty of time to go over just how earth shattering this stuff was at that time of history.

7. Now on to: Nuclear Fission. ( I suspect, I'll be getting into a bit of the physics involved here.

8. This slide shows a reproduction of a letter from Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein, sent to Roosevelt to warn of the impending situation regarding work on the atomic bomb. ( This in turn led to the Manhattan Project.

9. ...Which was headed by this guy, who goes by the name of Oppenheimer (wiki).

10. This slide shows two general schematics of early Uranium and Plutonium based bombs (also from the link in slide 7).

11. A graph of relative positions of the minute hand in the Doomsday Clock (also from wiki). Essentially, this element of the lecture will do a brief overview of some of the nuances of the Cold War, as well as pointing out that tensions still exist in the arena of atomic weapons.

12. Moving on to the ozone depletion story, beginning with an animated gif of the ozone hole over the Antartica since the 1950's (there's lots of images like these if you browse through google images - many with a different perspective).

13. And then, an overview of the role of CFC's and how they react with the ozone, in essense causing those molecules to break up. The ozone (O3) images were found at , and the CFC image, I found at this URL (

14. The ozone depletion situation, of course, was serious enough to merit some significant correspondence within the international community, which has led to several editions of the Montreal Protocol ( This is arguably one of the most widely cited examples, where pretty much everyone in the international community agreed on a single issue (although, there is always debate around that as well).

15. Anyway, the talk then essentially finishes off by mentioning two books that look very deeply into the prospect of us humans messing up the world. Both of them are good, and worth reading by the way. I've even blogged about one of them in the past.

Now... the big question I have for readers is whether they can think of other past instances, where literally, the fate of the planet was at stake. Not current issues like Climate Change, or Avian Flu, etc, but other past occurrences. You know, where REM's "It's the end of the world as we know it" would have been right on the money...

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Ooh. Another slide show. And one that tracks instances in history where humanity notices, "You know, the "stuff" all around, and the "where" we happen to be." As set up by this previous post, and produced by the grace of Apple's Keynote software. Would love to get some feedback. (Note this file…
Karen James, better known online as 'nunatak', is part of the team that is trying to build a replica of H.M.S. Beagle in time for next year's bicenntenial celebration of Charles Darwin's life and work. Karen is the director of science at The Beagle Project and one of the two Beagle Bloggers. She…
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O.K. so to begin the ASIC course, we thought that part of this should be an attempt to look at historically what may have defined "global" - as in both the humanities and sciences context (maybe about 20 to 25 minutes each). Here is a preview of my first few slides. Essentially, I'll probably do…

From the dinosaurs' point of view, they might say they experienced a time when the fate of their planet was at stake. Unfortunately we can't ask them about it because their experience included going extinct.

I'm confident there have been humans who believed they faced such cataclysm. But actually facing the end of the world as we humans know it? No, not really.

And that's a factor in our inability to face it. We try to understand our future in terms of our past -- usually in terms of our personal past. And too few of us grasp that our past experience doesn't prepare us for the future we're so busy creating.

Jack Alpert, at, gives a talk in which he compares resistance to understanding our situation today to the resistance people put up when car seat belts were introduced. People believed they didn't need seat belts because they believed the experience of a high-speed collision would be similar to a low-speed fender bender or panic stop. But our low-speed experience doesn't prepare us for the exponential increase of forces in a high-speed crash -- to our great peril.

What I find most interesting is the description of your teaching practice, i.e. using beamer for pics and overhead projector to note down something. Could be an nice exercise to deconstruct this entanglement of technology (i.e. beamer, projector), institution/infra structure (class room) and human.

The closest thing I can think of is the year without a summer of 1816, when the eruption of Mt. Tambora disrupted temperatures all over the world. Certainly to whomever might have been living on Indonesia at the time, it would have been terrible, but even people as far away as North America had summer snowstorms and crop failures to deal with.

As editor pointed out, there have always been people predicting a coming apocalypse, but that summer might have given them a real reason to imagine that the end was nigh.

On another note, I did not respond after the last slideshow, because I didn't think I had enough material to comment on, but I'd like to say that I like this so far and I'm interested to see where you're headed in finding common ground for the arts and sciences.

Thanks for the comments.

Till: The half/half slide show scenario is just a way to take advantage of existing infrastructure in the classroom we get to use.

However, the most important element (for me anyway), is where I can write things down. I find it a good way to pace things, and also to give me the opportunity to break things down as the lecture progresses (i.e. the reading of the classes faces - do they get it or did I lose them). I'm pretty good at the "breakfast of champions" doodles to work through concepts that might otherwise be tricky or jargon heavy (I even have an example here).

Size: That "year without summer" is pretty cool. I'll look into it more. Would be interesting to see how the media played that one out.

As far as the common ground for the arts and sciences, my main role is to talk science to the Arts students in this venture. And to do this without diluting the content, and in particular in so far as getting these students to opportunity to evaluate the scientific method itself (whose inherent caveats tend to be responsible for much of the discourse in things like climate change and genetically modified organisms). Allen (who does the reciprocal) and I hope to be able to showcase these perspectives, and a large element of the course is to allow the diverse class of students to interact with each other, and present dialogue and possible solutions to problems, scenarios presented.

No idea at this point, if it will succeed beyond just being a really interesting class, but excited to be involved.

Thanks for the "doodle" link -- I really like that style of explanation (I'm a sociologist, so I did learn something even by browsing the page, e.g. I never heard about antiparallelism in DNA). Using line-drawings and doodles to explain something seems to be a good way (at least for me). For example, there is a book about (social) group dynamics and utopia that I read years ago -- and I still remember that there are drawings of stick people and elephants to explain the theory (but not, at the moment, the author). ((On a related note: I like the visual style of the presentation, too -- especially as it is really more like a stack of multimedia than a "presentation" sensu PowerPoint. There is something to learn ...))

These three examples, of course, are (1) Darwin and the whole evolution thing; (2) the advent of nuclear technology and in particular its role in weapons of mass destruction; and (3) that mother of an ozone hole over the Antarctic that has formed from the 60s/70s to present day, largely due to CFC use.