HONR 238W Assignments

Please turn in two copies of all homeworks and reading responses: i) a hardcopy and ii) a PDF attachment to my email address with "HONR" in the subject line. I will return the hardcopy to you with comments and will keep the electronic copies as a record of your responses.

Reading Responses

Each week, except as noted in the lecture schedule, there will be a reading assignment. Before the relevant class, please read the selections from our textbooks as well as any supplementary websites listed on the HONR238W homepage. Follow up on one of the topics raised by the assigned reading that interests you and research it using one additional online source. Write one single-spaced typed page on your reaction to the assigned reading. A good essay will include a concise description of the topic covered, and your reaction to it. Your reaction should be critical (though not necessarily negative) and may be emotional (do you find the idea compelling? stupid?), but must be well argued and must include your thoughts instead of just being a summary of the reading. In one paragraph, indicate a webpage not listed on the reading that is on the topic, and your response to it. You are free, for example, to pick a crackpot site and refute it.

Homework Assignments

Due Date
HW #1
Feb. 25
HW #2
Apr. 1
HW #3
May 6

Numerical Calculations:

  • For approximate calculations, you do not need to report all digits that the calculator shows! Be guided by how well you know the inputs to a calculation. For instance, if a car gets about 26 miles per gallon of gas based on how it is driven, reporting extra digits (e.g. 26.294721) is meaningless and too precise.
  • Most importantly, show intermediate steps in any computational problems to indicate that you know what is going on. If you get a problem wrong, this provides an opportunity for partial credit.


    Solutions for Quantitative Problems.

    Task Forces

    Early in the semester, three or four of you will join each of the following task forces and together will work to learn more about one of the following topics: Later in the semester, your task force will divide its topic into logical and roughly equally-sized subtopics, one of which you will take charge of. Try to choose subtopics in a logical way such that your task force covers the entire topic.

    Final Paper

    You each will ultimately write a 10 page double-spaced paper on your subtopic which is due near the end of the semester (Due date TBD). Try to write at a level that can be understood by non-experts (that means define any terms that you did not know before taking this class). Things to consider include historical summaries of each energy source as well as estimates of global resources, costs, possibilities for future development, etc. Discuss the pros and cons of current standard practices. Include what has been tried in the US and abroad, current policies, as well as possible future directions. Try to make some of the hard calls - should use of your chosen energy source be expanded or contracted? Should we let the market make all of the decisions? How large a role should the government play in guiding energy policy in the US? Should we use tax money or other incentives to encourage/discourage use of your energy source? If so, a how much? Undertake your research by finding multiple sources that discuss your topic (magazine articles, newspaper articles, web postings, etc.). Try to fully understand your topic and summarize it in your paper, citing your sources as appropriate. If you have questions about the appropriateness of a particular topic, please feel free to ask me.

    Task Force Presentation

    Your task force presentations should be a thorough summary of your papers. The presentation should take about seven minutes per group member, with three minutes for questions. Questions can come after each individual talk or at the end of the full presentation. Your goal as a group is to cover your topic as clearly and completely as possible, both in this presentation and in individual written papers. Be honest about the advantages and disadvantages of the different energy sources, technologies, and policies. Each Task Force presentation should make recommendations for the future. Please try to divide up the work evenly so that each contributor presents his or her fair share of the material. Turn in original and PDF copies of your presentation before class so that they can all be presented from my computer. Your goal as an audience is to ask key questions to help you understand the material, some of which may appear on the final exam.

    Class Debates

    We will have five formal debates during the class and I will inform you of the debate topic about two weeks in advance. As you will have prior knowledge of the topic, I will expect you to prepare in advance. The debate structure will follow the outline below. I will allocate times for you to discuss collectively the major points for and against the proposition. The role of your group and your role within the group will be determined by random drawing. For example, in the first debate, one group will argue that pesticides like DDT should be regulated by the government, one group will argue that they should not, and the two remaining groups will judge. Unlike in competitive debates, we are not looking for rapid presentation of many points, but rather a clear presentation of the key points. Each side begins with an opening argument and then responds to the other side with a rubuttal. After the debate, each of the judging groups confers separately, and then each individual judge decides who he or she thinks won the debate. A judge's should select as winner the group that he or she feels presented their side best, and not necessarily the group whose arguments he or she agrees with. I will poll the judges individually for their statements and votes. With five debates, and three participants on each side, we will arrange things so that all students take on at least one and no more than two speaking roles in the debates. These count toward your participation score. The debates will take place roughly every two weeks on dates noted in the lecture schedule.
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