Science 122 Program 1 Introduction

©1998 RCBrill. All rights reserved.


Program 1
Lesson 1.1

Coming Up

Before we're done with this program we will have been introduced to the course, and we will have learned about the telecourse and how we will approach the study of physical science like a river rafting trip as we follow a cultural heritage of ideas, beliefs and preferences. We will look at its structure, its topics, its goals and objectives, what you will have to do as a student, the texts and references, and other general information about the course.

Text references




Learning Styles

Physical Science

The Nature of Physical Science

The Syllabus

The Course


Text References

Spielberg & Anderson pp. 1-4

Booth & Bloom pp. 3-4

Course Syllabus


1. What is the difference between synthesis and analysis?

2. Why do we call this course "The Nature of Science?"

3. Discuss any two themes of this course?

4. What are the requirements for completing this course?


Here are the objectives for today's lesson. Before you watch the video and begin to study the lesson, take a few minutes to read the objectives and the study questions for this lesson. Look for key words and ideas as you read. Use this study guide and follow it as you watch the program. Some students find it helpful to make a note in the margin which pertains to a particular objective or a study question. Be sure to read these objectives and refer to them as you study the lesson. Focusing on the learning objectives will help you to study and understand the important concepts. Compare these objectives with the study questions for the lesson to be sure that you have the concepts under control.

1. Be prepared to write a brief and concise response to any of the questions at the beginning of this lesson

2. Understand the structure of this telecourse

3. Become familiar with course policies and responsibilities

4. Establish communications

5. Write a one page exposition which demonstrates comprehension of any the following topics

1. The Nature of Physical Science

2. What is Physical Science

3. Synthesis vs. Analysis

4. Why Study Physical Science

1. Introduction

This telecourse represents a new concept in we like to call the classroom without walls. We will communicate via electronic discussions. You will submit written work of your choice, but on our deadlines. The responsbility of gathering the information and completing the course requirements will be up to you. We have put together a course which will require you to manage the information while we provide the connections and context for the information.

If that sounds confusing, it's not surprising.

Often in a classroom the instructor tells you what you are supposed to know and you tell it back as if you were answering a question on a quiz show. In this scourse we give you some of the information and show you the direction, but you must work on your own. We will help you make connections and put facts in context, but ultimately it will be up to you.

There are many different paths through the course, all of which lead to the same basic destination, as stated in the goals and objectives. But just as we are each unique in the background we bring to a course like this, so are we all different in what we take away from it when it is done.

It is our hope that this course will enrich your life, not because you can recite facts about the physical universe, but because you see how it works, you see how it all fits together, and because we want to live in a world where people use their minds to the fullest capacity.

To understand one's place in the universe has been an eternal quest of mankind. Any help we can provide, we do with pleasure.

1.1. Not Enrolled?

If you are not enrolled but would like information, send email to

1.2. Knowledge is more than facts

It is all too common to get knowledge confused with facts. Facts are available in references and textbooks. Knowledge goes a little deeper. Knowledge involves understanding the facts in context, knowing how the facts were obtained, and being able to draw conclusion from the facts in new or unfamiliar situations.

The word is synthesis.

1.3. Synthesis and analysis

The dictionary says that synthesis is the combination of parts or elements, as material substances or objects of thought, into a complex whole. More often than not the synthesized whole is more than the sum of the parts, such as when a computer is built from a pile of chips.

Compare this with analysis, which is to resolve the whole into its parts, or constituent elements.

Syntheis and analysis will be covered in more detail in program 2.

To be successful in this course you will synthesize ideas from reading the study guide and the texts, from watching and listening to the thirty TV programs, from the worldwide web, from outside sources, and from your own observations . You will analyze the results of experiments done at home and you will draw conclusions from them. You will think critically and you will write clearly and concisely.

If that sounds like a lot, you're right. But this is an introductory course and you are expected to improve at these things, not become an expert. As you progress through your college experiences you will get better at all of these things, which are those elements that are desired and cultivated in the process of higher education.

1.4. multimedia course integration

There will be some questions in the study guide which will not be directly addressed in the video.

There will also be questions posed in the video which will not be in the texts or in the study guide. The purpose of using the multimedia of the telecourse is that there will be total integration, but not total repetition among the video, hypertext, and text. You will need to use all of the media in order to have maximum access to the information. The depth to which you pursue each topic is up to you.

Your task as a student is to reach an acceptable level of comprehension according to the criteria which are described below in the section entitled 'criteria'. Ours is not to prod you and make you do it. The prodding and making you do it is your responsibility.

Our job is to make the material available to you, to guide you through it, to provoke thought, to establish connections, to stimulate curiosity, and to critique submitted assignments.

It's a nice working arrangement and works well if we all do our jobs.

1.5. writing

You will be asked to submit expositions, essays, and a research paper which will demonstrate how well you have analyzed, integrated and synthesized the concepts and ideas. The more you write, the better. We encourage you to write your thoughts. Just sit at your computer terminal and tap out responses, feelings, thoughts. Keep a journal, write letters to your friends and family telling them what you've learned. Write anything at all.The more you write the more you learn.

The "A" student will submit a minimum of 52 well written pages, at approximately 250 words per page. Does that seem like a lot?

It's about 13,000 words, equivalent to about an hour and forty minutes of slow talking. That might be a lot by some reckoning, but it really isn't very many words compared to how many you will speak during the run of the course, or for the rest of your life.

Writing skills are the most important ones you can learn. If you read letters sent out by companies in the mail you will see how important writing is, and also how many poorly written documents there are floating around. Being a good writer will advance you up the ladder of success faster than just about any other skill.

Write, write, write until you're tired of it, then write some more . . .

2. Learning styles

If you are interested you can take a learning temperament profile test (MBTI) which might help you to identify which approach to take. The test is available online at:


A good description of the sixteen basic personality types can be found at

Like all personality tests, the results may be slightly variable from day to day. This test is most useful when the results are applied to learning. More specifically, it is the approach to learning. If you have more questions you might want to see your college counselor or other professional.

3. Physical Science: The study of matter and energy and their interactions

This is not a very good definition since it applies equally well to physics and chemistry as well as astronomy, geology, and meteorology. We have not a clue to what matter and energy really are, although we will spend a great deal of our time in this course learning about them.
For now this definition will have to do, inadequate as it may be.

3.1. Physics and chemistry are the basic sciences

3.2. Astronomy, geology, meterology use rules of basic sciences to explain nature

4. The Nature of Physical Science

Here's an overview of the themes and the focus of this course. In the syllabus is a list and description of the course topics and the broadcast dates for each program.

Video program 1 has more detailed descriptions of the individual course topics.

4.1. The Nature of Science

We call this course "The Nature of Physical Science" to emphasize that we will not just be looking at facts and formulas. We are concerned with those things, but also with the whole of physical science, especially the social context in which scientific discoveries and theories are born. We are interested in the social influences on the scientist, but also the impact of science and the scientist on society. It is the interaction of science, scientist, and society that makes for an exciting voyage down the river of time.

It would be useful at this point to look at a dictionary definition of "nature". We are using the meaning akin to 'essence'. You may wish to look at the meaning of that word as well. The dictionary reference above has a link to 'essence'.

There are several questions to consider about the nature of science. Some of these we will address in this lesson, others will emerge as we proceed through the course.

4.1.1. what is a scientific study?

4.1.2. how have views of the physical universe changed?

4.1.3. why do we believe what we do about the physical world?

4.1.4. what methods have been developed to visualize patterns, order and relationships?

4.1.5. if we collect enough facts will we understand everything?

4.1.6. what kinds of things can we study?

4.2. A natural history of physical science, its beginnings, development, and growth.

We will be concerned with contributors, timelines, interrelationships, cultural factors and personalities as well as the ideas of physical science.

4.3. From the beginnings of man through the twenty-first century.

Actually we'll end our study in the mid twentieth century, but we will have the tools necessary for keeping up with the next century.

4.4. Learn the significance and appreciate the influence of the classical Greeks and their geometry.

One of the most important contributions made by anyone to the study of physical science was the development of geometry, with its logical steps and formal structure. With their analysis of the properties of shapes and lines, they laid the groundwork for our modern mathematical descriptions of nature and their interpretation.

4.5. Trace the fate of learning and knowledge during the dark ages in Europe and the rise of the Islamic world after the fall of Rome.

Learning virtually disappeared in Europe for nearly a thousand years. Other civilizations thrived during this period and contributed much, not only by preserving ancient documents, but also for important original contributions.

4.6. Learn of the development of modern scientific beliefs about the physical universe in historical context.

Our modern beliefs about physical laws come from a long heritage which is intimately interlocked with other historical events. History is a complex tangle of events for which we can never hope to completely reconstruct in all its detail. The same is true for the history of science.

We can pick the major events and try to place them in historical context, such as Lavoisier's death at the hands of French revolutionaries at the height of his scientific career, or Galileo's exile for his blasphemous assertions and his brash criticism of the Church's policies.

5. The Syllabus

Be sure to read the syllabus carefully. Some of the information of this lesson is also contained in the syllabus, but it contains more details. You should consider it like a prospectus for the course, and like a text for this lesson. It contains information on goals, objectives, communication, requirements, grading, expectations, course structure and others.

It also contains the broadcast schedule for the current semester.

The instructor will assume that you will read the syllabus and study it until you understand it. You are responsible for fulfilling all course requirements.

The syllabus defines the goals, objectives, structure, content, grading and procedures for the telecourse. Read it carefully. Think of it as the first reading assignment. You will be much more successful in this course if you know where you are and where you are going.

The instructor is here to guide you through the course, but you must take the initiative to plot a course through the course. Your success in this course will require you to learn the course material, but it is also designed for you to learn how to learn, and how to locate and navigate through information sources. If you need to be led through the course, then this is probably not the course for you. If that is your learning style, you might be better off in a more traditional classroom setting. Consult the instructor if you have doubts in this area.

6. The Course


In this lesson we'll consider the goals and objectives of the course as concentrate on the "nature" part of the phrase. Next lesson we'll turn our attention to the "physical science" part.

Why do you think we called this course the nature of physical science. What is the difference between that and the physical science of nature?

Here's an outline of the course and its focus. The video program has more detail including a listing and more detailed descriptions of the individual course topics.

6.2. not typical physical science course

This is not your typical physical science course. Typically such a course begins with the study of motion with lots of equations and exercises to calculate the distance a dropped stone will fall in a certain amount of time.

That’s not us. We will certainly see that relationship in our studies, but not as the main thrust of the course.

We’ll be interested in the ideas and ideals of science more than we are interested in the facts. I’ll try to elaborate on that in today’s program.

We will often explain how and why things work but only to emphasize the larger picture of science as a human activity.

6.2.1. concerned with relevance more than with facts

6.2.2. facts and their interpretations in context

6.2.3. knowing vs. understanding

6.2.4. being vs. becoming

6.3. A survey of the development of the foundations of modern science

6.3.1. a brief history of scientific ideas and methods

6.3.2. justification for beliefs

6.3.3. causes for changes in world views

6.3.4. relationships and natural laws

6.3.5. questions and beliefs of the times

6.4. Overview of Course Topics

1. the role of perception

2. ancient astronomers, physicists, and chemists

3. motion in the heavens

4. underlying assumptions of science

5. historical relationships and cultural heritage

6. mathematical and geometric tools

7. motion on earth

8. gravitation, forces and motion

9. energy and work

10. heat and temperature

11. alchemy vs. chemistry

12. the nature and properties of matter

13. matter in motion

14. chemical properties and atomic structure

15. entropy, order and chaos

6.5. Themes

There are several themes which run through the course. You might find it helpful to look for them. I'll give brief definitions here but we will run into these time and time again, and they will each be defined more than once in different contexts.

6.5.1. parsimony

Parsimony means stinginess or frugality. In science it means a preference for simplicity over complexity. We look for the simplest answers possible.

6.5.2. paradigm

A paradigm is a model for thinking, classifying experiences, or interpreting what the senses perceive. We will devote an entire program to this concept (Program 3).

6.5.3. unity and universiality

The same physical laws apply to all objects, otherwise the laws are too specific. Substance have certain properties which may vary from one to another. But they all follow the same physical laws which allow for consistency when the physical properties are taken into account.

All of these concepts will become clearer as we get along in the course.

6.5.4. numerical relationships

The fact that the universe follows mathematical laws is awesome, if you stop to think about it. Whay should it be that way. Does order require the existence of numerical relationships between measureable quantities. like force and mass? Or is it just a coincidence that these relationships exist in a logical format such that mathematics can be developed to describe them. It is not really a question for science to consider. But it is like the questions which have influenced science throughout history as we have tried to figure out what kind of things can be studied scientifically and what kinds of things cannot.

Don't panic here. This course is non mathematical. You do not have to be mathematically trained. We will use equations to show relationships and to show how mathematics can be used logically to derive hidden relationships. This you should be able to follow with basic math. You need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. You should know what a square root is and what a power is, as in x squared or x to the fourth power.

You have the option of solving numerical problems from the texts and you will be required to do some low level quantitative calculations for most of the laboratory exercises.

This will be the focus of Program 6, but it will reappear throughout the course.

6.5.5. change and rate of change

The concept of change is one we take for granted. We know that change is constantly taking place. So did our ancestors. It is not change that is unusual, but rather how we describe it. If change occurs in a regular way then there are numerical relationships involved. The mathematics which has been developed since the time of Galileo has been concerned with describing how one thing changes in relation to another.

Early mathematicians taught that change could not be described mathematically, even if it was possible to predict certain outcomes, like the locations of the stars, sun, moon, and planets in the sky.

6.5.6. genius, personality and culture

Science is done by humans with all of the strengths and weaknesses of the species. The interplay between genius, personality and culture has a strong role in the directions that our science takes.

6.5.7. cultural heritage of science

Our modern scientific ideas have roots in the earliest ideas of man. We can trace a continuous path, with only a few small gaps, from those primitive ideas based on the supernatural, to our modern science of high energy particle accelerators and super telescopes. Hopefully our science will appear equally primitive to our descendants in the coming millenia.

6.6. Four Sections

There are four sections to the course, each containing seven or eight lessons. Each lesson corresponds to a video program and also to a lesson in the study guide. Lessons are numbered within each section. So this is program 1 lesson 1.1. The first program in section two will be program 9, lesson 2.1, and so on.

Be sure you undertand the meaning of the numbers. Look in the study guide to see the an outline of the structure of the topics.

6.6.1. Part1: Beginnings

In the first section we examine the process and progress of physical science from its beginnings in ancient astronomy through Copernicus’ publication of the first heliocentric model which spurred the scientific revolution. The discovery that the Earth is not the center of the universe is one of the most significant and most difficult discoveries made by the human mind. Studying the processes by which we came to this knowledge gives us great insight into the workings of the mind and the nature of reality. It involves Greek philosophy, the authority of Aristotle and the development of the Church as a political force and authority in the middle ages.

This approach gives us insight into the relationship between science, the society in which it exists and the minds of those who create and modify it.

Program 1: 1.1 Introduction

Program 2: 1.2 Physical Science

Program 3: 1.3 Paradigms & Perception

Program 4: 1.4 Earth & Space

Program 5: 1.5 Beginnings

Program 6: 1.6 Pythagorean Mysticism

Program 7: 1.7 The Golden Age

Program 8: 1.8 Ptolemaic Astronomy

6.6.2. Part 2: Revolution

In the second section we study the scientific revolution from Kepler to Newton.

Our emphasis in this section is on the gradual transition from myth to fact regarding the motions of the heavens, and motion here on Earth. Galileo’s thoughts, observations and experiments laid the groundwork for Newton's laws of motion and set the stage for his mathematical description of gravity and gravitation.

Program 9: 2.1 Darkness & Dawn

Program 10: 2.2 Brahe & Kepler

Program 11: 2.3 Kepler's Laws

Program 12: 2.4 Describing Motion

Program 13: 2.5 Galileo: The First Scientist

Program 14: 2.6 Freefall & Inertia

Program 15: 2.7 Newton and The Laws

6.6.3. Part 3: Newtonian Universe

In this section we look carefully at Newton’s laws and their impact on subsequent thought, often called the Newtonian paradigm. Newton's work exemplifies the combination of clear scientific reasoning, the use of mathematics and the creativity of genius. The Newtonian view of forces, motion and gravity made sense out of the heliocentric view and at the same time provided the framework for the development of the concepts of energy and conservation in understanding the nature of heat. It is in fact, the basis for all of modern science.

Program 16: 3.1 Gravity

Program 17: 3.2 Gravitation

Program 18: 3.3 Momentum & Conservation

Program 19: 3.4 Work & Energy

Program 20: 3.5 Temperature & Heat

Program 21: 3.6 Heat and Conservation

Program 22: 3.7 Classification & Properties of Matter

6.6.4. Part 4: Atomic Paradigm

The fourth section deals with the development of atomic theory. Here we go back to early times and trace the development of man's knowledge and understanding of the chemical properties of matter. Beginning with fire through the quantum atomic model we’ll see how it was ultimately Newton’s physics which gave direction to the quest for fire, the oldest and least understood of the ancient technnologies. Its understanding required us to meld together Newtonian physics with atomic theory to understand combustion and heat. Just as astronomy and physics were combined to yield Newton’s Laws, we’ll see how the interaction of physics and chemistry combine to finally be able to describe and understand heat.

In the final program we will touch upon thermodynamics, the dynamics of heat. The concepts of entropy and chaos with implications for the future will be our final topic.

Program 23: 4.1 Aristotle & Alchemy

Program 24: 4.2 Skeptical Chemists

Program 25: 4.3 Chemistry & Atomic Theory

Program 26: 4.4 Kinetic Theory

Program 27: 4.5 Electrical Fragments

Program 28: 4.6 The Empty Atom

Program 29: 4.7 Periodicity & Bonding

Program 30: 4.8 Entropy & Chaos

6.7. Video programs focus on the main ideas

The video programs are designed to focus on the main ideas and to guide you through the material. We cannot and should not simply tell you what you need to know. Remember, effective learning is active and you

6.8. Study Guide and Questions to guide learning

The study guide is the course organizer.

6.8.1. Keyed to TV programs lesson by lesson

6.8.2. Supplementary textual information

6.8.3. Detailed outline of topcs

6.8.4. Exam questions

6.8.5. Syllabus and Course Schedule

6.8.6. Additional References

6.9. Text and hypertext

There are several forms of textual material available for the course. The texts provide the main source of information for the course. They should be read, reread, and studied.

In the texts you will find background information, drawings and illustrations, graphs and tables. focuses on special problems or personalities, and so forth.

6.9.1. Designed to fill in the details and to guide learning

6.9.2. Customized text: Physical Science by Booth and Bloom

6.9.3. Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe by Spielberg and Anderson

6.9.4. Assorted email communications throughout the course.

You will receive questions, comments, and suggestions throughout the course. Some will originate here. Others may come from students or other viewers.

Do not hesitate to send us your questions and comments whether or not your are enrolled.

6.9.5. Text page references are online at:

6.9.. Physical science references in the library are in the Q section in the Library of Congress sytem used in college and university libraries. In public libraries look in the 500s of the Dewey Decimal system.

6.10. Lab exercises designed for firsthand experience

The lab exercises are designed to be done at home either indoors or outdoors. Most of the items you should have on hand or have access to. You will need a calculator and a stopwatch. A thermometer which reads in Celsius is nice. You can use a Fahrenheit thermometer but you will need to conver to Celsius.

You will also need things like a long (3 ft or so, that's 1 meter for you metrophiles) board or piece of sturdy cardboard, an empty tin can, a styrofoam cup, a stove for heating water, that kind of stuff.

There are more lab exercises than you are required to do, so you have some choice, but you will need to set up and experiment or observation, collect data, do calculations with that data, organize it into tables and graphs, and analyze and synthesize it.

6.11. Exams and writing assignments

are designed to demonstrate learning and understanding rather than memorization. This will be covered in detail near the conclusion of this program.

7. Summary

In this lesson we have learned the structure of this telecourse, Science 122, The Nature of Physical Science. Be sure that you study the goals and objectives at the beginning of this lesson, and formulate answers to the questions.

There are two things you must do now.

1. If you have not checked in yet, contact the instructor via email at with an active email address. You must do this before the end of the day that program 3 is broadcast. Enrolled students who do not check in by this deadline and who do not withdraw from the course will be issued a grade of "F" at the end of the semester.

2. Write your program response for this program, a one page essay which summarizes this program, answers one or more of the questions either from this program, from the text at the ends of chapters pertaining to this program, or from the study guide questions for today's lesson. See the section in the syllabus about the program responses, and also the web page that gives some guidelines.

There, that's not so hard, is it?

When it comes to science, GET PHYSICAL!