This is an Information Page
for Students Considering PHY105

Instructor:  Dr. David R. Burgess
Title:   Crazy Ideas and Scientific Theories, PHY105
Credits:   3 Semester Hours

Course Content

Crazy Ideas and Scientific Theories is a core science course that can be taken to fulfill one of the general education science requirements at Rivier University. The course is well suited for this purpose because it will provide practice in writing and logical reasoning as well as help students to better understand science and learn some science content. The emphasis will be on evaluating an idea as a scientific theory. Specifically, it will expose students to some modern ideas that have been proposed as scientific theories, provide a way to evaluate whether an idea has merit as a scientific theory, and give the student a framework to evaluate which of two competing theories has more merit.


The course is completely online and there will not be any face-to-face meetings. This online course is asynchronous and will not require attendance at chat sessions, nor will it require postings on any kind of discussion board. I have developed a schedule for giving out and receiving homework. There will be homework due generally twice each week. The homework will include questions about readings in the texts and short papers. As stated on the "Philosophy Page", the course will teach and use a specific logic structure for writing papers and the papers will be evaluated for their logical structure as well as for their science content. All of the homework is given online and your answers will all be given to me online. I have written web pages to assist you with the homework. I will place answers to questions from students on our homepage when appropriate and I will also be available for email contact. There are no exams in this class. The last paper will be used as the final exam.

Time Commitment/Student Expectations

A three credit course taught during a regular (14 week) semester usually requires three hours in class per week, plus 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class, for a total of 9-12 hours per week. The 9-12 hours per week rule is also appropriate for this three credit on-line course when taught during a 14 week semester or summer long (12 weeks). The course is now offered in the 7-week format, so the assignments will be approximately doubled up each week and the required time could also approximately double.

This format puts a lot of responsibility on the student. As one student put it, this is an "online access class" and not "online live". Students must have self-motivation, be able to work independently, and be comfortable asking questions in this environment.

Consider the following quote from a former student: "Online courses require a lot of responsibility. Since there is no teacher taking attendance, it is tough for the student in the sense that sometimes the student might forget to go online and do the assignment. It is also difficult for the student to ask the professor questions if there is no professor; yeah, one could email the teacher, but might forget to look for the response because of another class that the student might actually have to go to. For a person such as myself, that has little computer experience, and is used to GOING TO CLASS, having the professor there to answer any questions, it is quite difficult to maintain focus on a class that takes place over the internet." You may also be interested in a page from Columbia University titled "Is Online Learning for Me?" Most of the page is specific to Columbia University, but the section under "Online Learning Self-Assessment" and the assessment quiz may be helpful.

Here is a quote about online courses from Gerald Thompson:

"I have learned that Web-based training offers many advantages to face-to-face instruction. A student is not confined to a single classroom hour to ask a question. The student can take the time to think about a question before asking it, can do so in private and the instructor is free to give all the time needed to address the question without disruption or slowing down the class to do so."

"Students control the times and the pace of learning and determine the best method suited to their learning style, as well as their ability to concentrate on course material. A classroom with its set time and duration forces students to learn at a pace not their own and to be ready to learn at times of the day when performance may have been affected by other commitments or duties."

"The disadvantages are also very clear.The student will often work harder and longer online than in a classroom. Students are not handed the material they must do something to obtain it, this means downloading information, reading the material (instead of having it read to them in the form of lecture). Students who work outside of a classroom must tell someone they have problems because the instructor will not know there is a problem unless the learner speaks up. Instructors in a classroom can see students who appear to be in trouble even before the student is aware of it...this is not true when teaching at a distance. Students at a distance must learn how to ask for, seek help, and not wait for help to come as they have learned to do in a face-to-face classroom."

In an article from E-Learning Magazine by Gerald Thompson.

Required Texts

These two books are written for the general public and they can be obtained online or at bookstores. The Rivier Bookstore has them if you are in town.

Nine Crazy Ideas in Science by Robert Ehrlich (Copyright 2001, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-09495-0)

Voodoo Science by Robert Park (Copyright 2000, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-514710-3)

Computer Requirements

  1. Internet access.
  2. At least 1024 x 768 screen resolution.
  3. Text editor or word processing program. All homework will be sent as plain text in emails.
  4. Windows 2000 or higher operating system.
  5. Up to date web browser (I make sure everything works with Internet Explorer and Firefox).
  6. A Rivier email account.

Crazy Ideas and Scientific Theories
Dr. David R. Burgess
Rivier University

Copyright © 2003-2015
David R. Burgess
All Rights Reserved