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Cascade! Fall 2010
Course Catalog

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Protein Engineering 101
Teachers: Sam Pollock

From sky scrapers to space shuttles, humans have always been interested in building complex structures and vehicles to do our bidding. And yet, in a few years time humanity's greatest accomplishments by far will not fly through or tower into the sky, but will be made in small glass beakers. Protein engineering takes some of the most complex structures in the universe, proteins, and allows humans to custom build them in a way your own cells never could. In this course you will learn how to build using chemistry, what proteins are, and how to customize them. Most importantly, you will learn how to think like a synthetic chemist by seeing the world through the eyes of a molecule. Be prepared to get up, collide, and polymerize.

Linguistics via Constructed Languages

Are you interested in languages? Do you love science fiction shows or fantasy novels? If so, then this class is for you! Linguistics is the scientific study of languages and how they work. In "Linguistics via Constructed Languages," we'll learn the basics of linguistics by studying fictional languages ("conlangs") from sci-fi and fantasy worlds, languages like Klingon, Elvish, and Na'vi, as well as a few languages meant for use in the real world. While exploring the weird science of fictional languages (and getting the chance to create new languages of our own), we'll learn to look at languages, and learning, in new (and fun!) ways.

Spice Jam!
Teachers: Elle Nurmi

Love delicious food? Ever wanted to learn more about the theory and practice of cooking food from other cultures? In this class, we will take an intensive look at the cuisine and culture of southern India. The class will involve both discussion of Indian culture & food and hands-on experience cooking (and eating!) Indian dishes.

Human Rights and Civil Rights
Teachers: Julia Clemons

What are human rights? What are civil rights? (What’s the difference?) Who decides what they are, and how to protect them? How are they protected in the US, how are they violated, and how do other countries’ policies to protect their citizens’ rights differ from ours?

Put another way: it’s 1994 in South Africa. You’re in charge of writing the new, post-apartheid constitution. What’s your starting point? How are you going to improve it? Is the constitution going to matter?

Decoding the signs of our lives: Semiotics and the study of symbols and signs in everyday life

Do you ever wonder about the meaning behind a particular symbol or image and how it relates to the world around us? Everyday we run across signs and symbols whose meaning escapes us. Understanding the meanings behind these symbols and signs is the job of semioticians. Some call semiotics the study of “all that is interesting.” In this class, students will gain a basic introduction to semiotics, which will include learning the methods and tools semioticians use to carry out their work. Then, like detectives on a murder case, students will use these tools to investigate the role of images and symbols in some aspect of everyday life, like pop culture or conspiracy theories. Much like the Robert Langdonx character from The Da Vinci Code, they will use all that they learn in order to solve cultural and historical mysteries by decoding symbols and interpreting their meaning.

Drawing Comics
Teachers: Alla Hoffman

This class is a crash course in the basics of writing graphic novels and comics. We will learn about different styles of comic art and how to balance art with text in a panel. We’ll also talk about the theory of why comics look the way they do and what makes them different from other kinds of art. We should spend a lot of time drawing and whether you want to create the next Batman, Rorschach, Calvin and Hobbes, or even just want your class doodles to be that much more theoretically sound, you should come out of this class with a basis for getting started.

Food, Glorious Food!
Teachers: Amy Woodruff

In this class we will take four weeks to explore the reasons we choose to eat certain foods-- including our feelings, money, convenience, health, the environment, societal pressures, our childhood memories, and more! The final week we will discuss what we've learned and how to use our understanding of *why* we eat certain things to make better choices. This is not a class about dieting or weight loss, rather it is about understanding something that is a central part of every culture and defines our daily lives. Healthy eating will be encouraged, but also respect for every person's right to make decisions for themselves.

Group Theory
Teachers: Noah Schweber

Math, at its core, is essentially creative. This is a little hard to see: the way math is generally taught is as a collection of rules, designed to solve specific problems in a rigorous fashion. But this view of math misses the most excellent part of the subject. Every so often, mahematicians notice that a bunch of seemingly unrelated problems are really just examples of an as-yet-undiscovered idea. This is the real soul of the subject.

This class is an introduction to one of these new big ideas - the theory of groups. Groups are essentially a way of talking about symmetries; and it turns out that pretty much everything in math is tied to the idea of symmetry. In this class, I'll show you what groups are, and how they can change how we look at all sorts of mathematics. If we're lucky,we'll be looking at some research-level math, but don't worry - this class has no prerequisites.

An Introduction to the History and Form of Classical Music
Teachers: Samuel Kalcheim

This course is intended to showcase the incredible diversity and power of artistic expression of Classical music. Students will do a great deal of listening to music of different styles and periods. In addition to this, there will be brief lectures on music history and the evolution of musical form, and during and after listening to musical selections, the form of the music, i.e., how it is constructed as a coherent musical whole will be discussed. In doing this, the aim will be to appreciate some of the great genius behind this music!

Note: This course requires no prior knowledge of Classical music or music theory.

How to Outlive Everyone on Earth: A Class on Special Relativity
Teachers: Aaron Ewall-Wice

The Universe is a magical place, for more magical then one might think at first glance. Over 100 years ago, Albert Einstein formulated his Theory of Relativity. Starting from only two simple postulates, a dizzying array of incredible phenomena emerge. Time moves at different speeds for different observers, lengths of objects change depending on how fast they are moving. In this class you will learn how to outlive everyone on earth, how to travel across the universe in span of an afternoon, how to fit a redwood into a small cardboard box and how to make an electron as massive as a super tanker. All very important career skills.

Note: Anyone with a familiarity with high school algebra and the Pythagorean theorem should have no problem following along.

Teachers: Lorca Sloan

Do you think that the disturbed and twisted villains are the best part of movies? Are you interested in the mythology of creatures like vampires and zombies? In this class, we'll explore the psychological and cultural effect of monsters from the benign-looking psychopath to the crazed disfigured killer to the supernatural, soul-harvesting creature. Why are monsters so fascinatingly disturbing? We'll watch Hollywood villains like Norman Bates, the Joker, Two-Face, Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, discuss real-life monsters Ted Bundy and Josef Mengele, and examine the folklore of creatures like bloodsuckers and zombies. Ultimately, we'll explore whether normal people can be turned monstrous.

Note: Since the class will emphasize why the image and character of monsters are frightening, minimal violence and gore will be shown.

Fairy Tales
Teachers: Brooke Slawinski

Fanciful tales of great heroes, legendary deeds, wondrous creatures, magic and enchantment. Welcome to the realm of fairy tales! You've probably seen one of Walt Disney's animated fairy tales, like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, or Beauty and the Beast. The oral tradition of the fairy tale came long before animated versions we see today. Tales were told or enacted dramatically, rather than written down, and handed down from generation to generation. The best known fairy tales of today originated from folk tales of 17th century France and 19th century Germany. Fairy tales were actually written for adults, but are now enjoyed by people of all ages. In this class, we will critically examine the popular versions of these stories, and compare them to their traditional predecessors. Furthermore, we will deconstruct the common elements of fairy tales to discover common motifs and symbols used throughout the genre.

Teachers: Lucas Tian

It is possible for some blind people to see objects without being able to explain what they see; it is also impossible for people to see objects that lie in a certain part of the visual field known as the “blind spot.” Two circles on a paper can be exactly the same, but one will seem larger to most viewers. These phenomena occur because of the spectacular way that our brains and nervous systems are structured. In this class, we will learn why every optical illusion can be explained by understanding how the brain works. There will be many demonstrations, videos, and examples. In addition to learning why different optical illusions and neurological anomalies happen from a biological perspective, we will also demonstrate what scientists do by using students as subjects in class experiments. Interesting readings will be handed out every week, but they will not be mandatory.