Please enable Java in your browser's "Options" (or "Preferance") menu to view this page Concordia's Thursday Report____________September 9, 1999

New courses explore the universe without, and the worlds within us

by Sylvain Comeau

Two new Science College courses launched this academic year will be open to all Concordia students -- except those enrolled in science programs.

From Particles to Galaxies, by Physics Professor Calvin Kalman, will be offered in the fall term, while Psychology Professor Michael Von Grunau is presenting From Neurons to Consciousness in January. Both are starting in advance of the upcoming General Education Requirement, which will require students to take 12 credits outside of their discipline.

These courses will allow students specializing in subjects like the fine arts and humanities to get a taste of two fundamental areas of science without too many technicalities.

"My course will provide some background on physics because that is necessary for a basic understanding of the course material," Kalman explained, "but there won't be any equations or mathematics -- and certainly no lab work -- so that eliminates the main obstacle that someone who's not scientifically literate would face."

Students will not be required to split the atom. (It's been done). Rather, the course will be more philosophical, dealing with the ideas underlying the science.

"The course will address how the universe came into existence, and how it evolved," Kalman said. "A student who is not going into the sciences wants to understand concepts, not calculations. For example, physics does tell us a lot about the nature of the universe; it works on a consistent scientific basis. It is not a place of magic or chaos, and there is a simplicity underlying the surface complexity."

Von Grunau's From Neurons to Consciousness will look at human psychology through a focus on the incredible human brain.

"The course will look at the process by which neurons talk to each other, and how this results in human consciousness. It will also ask the question, Why do we have self-consciousness at all? Why are we not robots simply acting on instinct?"

The course will also ask whether human consciousness could ever be mechanically reproduced.

"If we could reproduce the brain exactly in a robot, would it become conscious, or is there something more in humans that transcends the physiology of the nervous system? This course will raise more questions than it answers, but that will provide lots of material for class discussion."

Kalman said that several Science College students have asked to be admitted to the courses "because they would like to get down to basic concepts and ideas, rather than math formulas." Science students who feel they are missing out are welcome to sit in on the classes.


Take it at home

Personal Finance (COMM 499F) is a new three-credit elective course. What makes it really different is that it's online.

The course, which deals with credit, investments, insurance, pensions and other aspects of personal finance, has no classroom component, although instructors are ready to answer questions, either virtually or by appointment.

An online course permits students to learn at their own pace -- in the middle of the night, if that suits them. On the other hand, they must have the self-discipline required to learn the material and complete their work on their own, too.

For more information, check out /comm499f, or contact Professor Arshad Ahmad at

Copyright 1999 Concordia's Thursday Report.