FRS 170: Scandals and Blunders in Science

Winter 2007

Course Description: This course will explore how science works and what can happen when things go wrong. Sometimes individuals falsify data or artifacts. Sometimes individuals overinterpret patterns at the limit of detection. Through the process of science, both kinds of problems can be discovered and the record set straight. Cases to be examined include Cold Fusion, Piltdown Man, and Polywater.

Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Muzyka, Olin 214, 238-5413,

Office Hours: 10:30-11:00 M-F, 2:30-3:30 M-F and by appointment.

Required Textbooks:

Participation 20%
Presentations 30%
Papers 30%
Final exam 20%

Attendance is expected at every class meeting, and will be monitored.

Participation. Your active engagement in this course is important to help you learn the material. Another aspect of your participation grade will be how well you work with other team members when we work in groups.

Classroom Behavior. Students are asked to exhibit classroom behavior that is respectful and considerate of the others in the class and not distracting or disruptive. Please arrive on time, turn off cell phones, and do not wear hats in the classroom. In addition, you should not leave and reenter the classroom in the middle of class (save in cases of dire necessity).

Student Disabilities. Students with physical impairments and learning disabilities will sometimes need accommodations to help them have an equal opportunity to learn. It is the student's responsibility to inform the College of any disabilities for which he or she seeks accommodation. If you wish to seek any accommodations for disabilities, you must initiate the process at the beginning of the term, for relief cannot always be granted at the last minute and will not be granted after the fact. Students should contact Dr. Mary Gulley, the Assistant Dean for Advising, in the Office of Academic Affairs. She is charged with reviewing all documentation for disabilities and with coordinating any accommodations offered to students.

Academic Honesty. Students are reminded of the regulations governing academic honesty, especially with regard to plagiarism and other forms of cheating. Copying the work of another student or using outside sources without proper attibution are serious breaches of academic honesty. These regulations are found on pp 22-23 in the Student Handbook.

Tentative Class Schedule
Wednesday January 3, 8:50 am Introduction
Wednesday January 3, 12:50 pm Mentoring and Relationships in the Laboratory, Video and Discussion
Thursday January 4, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapters 1 & 2
Thursday January 4, 12:50 pm False Prophets, Chapter 3
Langmuir's Rules (online reading)
Davis & Barnes (outside reading)
Mitogenetic Rays
Friday January 5, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 3
Allison Effect (outside reading)
Scotophobin (outside reading 1, 2)
Friday January 5, 12:50 pm Scotophobin, continued
False Prophets, Chapter 4
Newton (outside reading)
Burt (outside reading 1, 2)
Monday January 8, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 4
Millikan (outside reading)
False Prophets, Chapter 5
Monday January 8, 12:50 pm Scientific Misconduct Video & Discussion
Tuesday January 9, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 6
Darsee (outside reading 1, 2)
Long (outside reading 1, 2)
Tuesday January 9, 12:50 pm Case 1 Group Project Presentations
Wednesday January 10, 8:50 am no class meeting in the morning
Wednesday January 10, 12:50 pm lunch at Dr. Muzyka's house, 11 am
Thursday January 11, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 7
Thursday January 11, 12:50 pm Authorship & Collaboration Video & Discussion
Friday January 12, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 8
Swaminathan's superwheat
Case 2 Assignments:
  • 2.1 Truth or Consequences
  • 2.2 O, What a Tangled Web We Weave!
  • 2.3 Preliminary Data
  • 2.4 Student Publishes
  • 2.5 Making the Grade
Friday January 12, 12:50 pm False Prophets, Chapter 9
Piltdown Man outside reading
Monday January 15, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 10
Monday January 15, 12:50 pm Intuition Parts I and II
Tuesday January 16, 8:50 am Intuition Parts III
Tuesday January 16, 12:50 pm Intuition Part IV
Wednesday January 17, 8:50 am Intuition Part V
Wednesday January 17, 12:50 pm Case 2 Project Presentations
Thursday January 18, 8:50 am False Prophets, Chapter 11
Intuition Part VI
Thursday January 18, 12:50 pm Cold Fusion (online reading)
Executive Summary
Physics Web article
Friday January 19, 8:50 am Centre College Policy for Responding to Allegations of Scientific Misconduct of Federally-Funded Research
Statement on Research Integrity in Centre's Faculty Handbook
Friday January 19, 12:50 pm Cantor's Dilemma Discussion
Monday January 22, 8:50 am Cantor's Dilemma Discussion
Monday January 22, 12:50 pm Review and Optional Case 3 Presentations
Case 3 Assignments:
Tuesday January 23, 8:50 am Individual Presentations on Final Projects
Tuesday January 23, 12:50 pm Individual Presentations
Wednesday January 24, 8:50 am Final Exam