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Final exam grade information

The quizzes: The average quizzes grade will be calculated using the top n-1 grades that you got in the n quizzes given during the course. Since we had 2 quizzes and we have 2 more lectures, n can be between 2 and 4.

The main purpose of the quizzes is to encourage you to read the texts. Since I think that this goal has been achieved, I've decided that the average quizzes grade will be used as a bonus grade. In other words: if your average quizzes grade will be lower than your final exam grade, it will have no impact your final course grade.  If it will be higher than the final exam grade, it will improve your final course grade.

The grades in all the quizzes will be published in the last week of the semester. 

The final exam: Here are exam guidelines and a sample final exam.    

June 26: Jewish Explorations

We will discuss how early Judaism shaped western civilization as we know it.

Class Notes:
Mandatory reading: 

Quiz: as usual there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on June 19 (two reading items).

June 19: Explorations in Mathematics and Computer Science

We will talk about how early math led to the development of modern computer science.

June 12: Explorations in Art and Science

We will talk about some explorations in art and science.

Mandatory reading: 
  • There is no reading this week.

Quiz: as usual there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on June 5 (Lincoln).

June 5: Lincoln

We will talk about the Lincoln legacy and the brief history of democracy.

Class Notes:
  • Lincoln lectureNote: this file is about 10MB each so it takes a few seconds to download.
Mandatory reading (two documents): 
  • Lincoln reading, from "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Here is also a reading guide for this text.

  • Elements of Style (Chapter V) , by Strunk and White.  A treasure trove of tips and advice to anyone who has to express his or her thoughts in writing -- be it an essay, a presentation, a business plan, whatever.

Quiz: as usual there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on May 29 (Lewis and Clark).

May 29: Lewis and Clark

We will talk about the expedition that opened the West of the USA.

Mandatory reading: 

Quiz: there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on April 22 (Watson and Crick).

April 22: Watson and Crick

We will talk about the cut-throat race that led to the greatest post-Darwin discovery of life science: the molecular structure of DNA.

  • Here are the Watson and Crick lecture notes.

  • A talk by an James Watson.  Watson, now in his 90's, is still one of the world's foremost life scientists.  He is the director of the Cold Spring Harbor laboratory and head of t he Human Genome project.

  • A video showing protein assembly. The narrator says that you see the process "in real time" but of course this just a animated simulation of the real thing.

Mandatory reading: 
  • The Double Helix (excerpts) , by James Watson.  A scattered collection of texts from the Double Helix, Watson's hilarious personal account of his role in making the most stunning scientific discovery of the 20th century.  

Quiz: there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on May 15 (Darwin).

May 15: Darwin

This week will be devoted to Charles Darwin's journey around the world, during which he made the most important discovery in life science. 

  • Darwin lecture (large file, as usual)

  • First chapter of a TV Series moderated by Richard Dawkins, an Oxford professor and one of the world's foremost modern evolution scientists.  You are well advised to seek and watch more clips of  Dawkins, who is a brilliant speaker.

  • A talk by Douglas Adams about his wonderful book "Last Chance to See". this is a very long video of bad quality, so you don't really have to watch it.  However, maybe you will be intrigued to watch some of it and introduce yourself to one of my favorite writers.  There are numerous inspiring and funny clips on the web by Richard Dawkins, Douglas Adams, and Stephen Fry, a trio of good buddies, devout atheists, and staunch evolutionists.  
Mandatory reading: 
  • A selection of texts about Darwin taken from the book "The Beak of the Finch" by Jonathan Weiner.  The book tells the story of Rosemary and Peter Grant, a couple of life scientists from Princeton, whose 1980 study of the Galapagos Islands revealed that evolution progresses in a much faster pace than previously thought.  The text also contains an excellent and passionate introduction to evolution and Darwin's legacy.

Quiz: there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on May 8 (Magellan).

May 8: Magellan and the Age of Exploration

Mandatory reading: 
  • Magellan. This text is from "The Exploration of the Pacific" by J.C. Beaglehole. This is a compact overview of several early explorers of the Pacific Ocean, including the discoveries of Magellan's Strait, Australia, and New Zealand, with special emphasis on James Cook.

Quiz: there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on April 24 (Shackelton and the Endurance).

April 24: Shackelton and the Endurance

Mandatory reading: 

Further (and optional) reading: Endurance, by Alfred Lansing: the story of Shackleton's incredible rescue.

Quiz: there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on April 3 (The Race to the Pole).

April 3: The Race to the South Pole

This week we'll  join two great explorers on a desperate race to reach first to the South Pole.

Class Notes:
Mandatory reading: Amundsen and Scott.  This text is taken from "The Last Place on Earth", by Roland Huntford.

Quiz: there may be a quiz about the mandatory reading assigned on March 27.

Further (and optional) reading: The Last Place on Earth, by Roland Huntford: about the epic race of Amundsen and Scott to the South Pole.

March 27: Polar Explorations

In the first class we'll give a course overview and introduce some polar exploration fundamentals. This background information will come handy in the first three lectures in the course.

Class Notes:

Mandatory reading (which you have to read after the lecture, and before the next lecture):

  • First Attempt to the South Pole (PDF file): this text is taken from the book "Shackleton" by Roland Huntford. The first section in the text describes some general details about diet and dogs in polar explorations. The rest of the text describes an early attempt to reach the south pole, in 1902. The team included Scott (leader), Shackleton (a young ambitious explorer who will become the hero of a later lecture in this course), and Wilson, a highly competent polar explorers. The text illustrates the problematic character and leadership style of Scott, and describes the unique British approach to polar exploration.

Further (and optional) reading:

  • For a  light introduction to the art of exploration: take a look at this expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro.

  • The Worst Journey in the World (by Apsely Cherry-Garrard): a detailed and authentic account of Scott's three years on the ice, written by a junior explorer who began the journey as a young unknown man and ended it as a celebrated hero. 

  • Farthest North (by Fridjtof Nansen): written by the pioneer of modern polar exploration, this book describes an early attempt to reach the North Pole.

  • Kabloona (by Gontran de Poncins): the author spent several years among the Inuit (Eskimo) people of the Arctic, and wrote an empathic rendition of the Inuit lifestyle, courage and stamina. This is a rare book, available only from used book sellers. However, it is a wonderful gem. If you buy it, try to purchase the hardcover version, which includes beautiful water color paintings by the author.

  • The Last Gentleman Adventurer (by Edward Beauclerk Maurice): if you read one book about life with the Inuit people, this is it. A funny and heart breaking memoire written by an Englishman who, at age 16, was sent to man a trading post in one of the most remote places on the globe. This book is also available in Hebrew.

Copies of all the books mentioned in the mandatory course reading section are available at the IDC Library.

March 27: Welcome to Great Explorers!

This general elective course is open to IDC students from all schools, programs, and years. The language of instruction is English. The course meets on Mondays, 15:45 - 17:15, at room L101 of the Arison-Lauder building, IDC campus in Herzliya.  First meeting is on March 27, 2016. To find what lies ahead, read the course syllabus.