Physics 30: Science and Pseudoscience
 Section 1, Tu/Th 10:30 - 11:45 AM

Professor: Chris Taylor                                                                                           Office: 524 Sequoia Hall

Phone: 278-6480                                                                      Office Hours: M/F 1:00 - 1:50, D 3:00 - 3:50
E-mail: ctaylor (at)                                                                                           also by appointment 

Class announcements

Aug. 29
First Day of Class! A printable copy of the syllabus is available.
Sept. 14
The first essay is assigned.  Two copies of your essay are due in class on Sept. 19
Sept. 19 Exam 1 is scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 26.  A list of review topics is available.
Oct. 10 The answer key for Exam 1 is available.
Oct. 12 The second essay is assigned.  Two copies of your essay are due in class on Oct. 17
Oct. 27
Exam 2 is scheduled for November 7.  A list of review topics is available.
Nov. 8
The third essay is assigned.  Two copies of your essay are due in class on Nov. 14
Nov. 30
The answer key for Exam 2 is available.
Nov. 30 A list of review topics is available for the material covered after Exam 2


Material Covered:                                                              Readings:

1) What is science?                                                            Ben-Ari, Chapters 1, 2, and 3
2) Case Study: Astrology                                                   Ben-Ari, Chapters 5
3) Critical Thinking Basics                                               Vaughn, Chapter 1
4) Credibility                                                                     Vaughn, Chapter 4
Case Study: Cold Fusion                                               Ben-Ari, Chapter 6
6) Rhetoric and Fallacies (2 weeks)                                  Vaughn, Chapter 5
Case Study: UFOs                                                         Vaughn, Chapter 10
8) Varieties of Argument                                                   Vaughn, Chapter 3
9) Deductive Arguments                                                   Vaughn, Chapters 6 and 7; and
                                                                                           Ben-Ari, Chapter 11
10) Inductive Arguments                                                  Vaughn, Chapter 8; and
                                                                                           Ben-Ari, Chapter 10
Case Study: Peer Review and Scientific Journals
12) Case Study: Dark Matter                                              What is the Universe Made of?

Additional Course Information:

Course Goals:

  1. To learn the basic skills of reasoning, including the types and structures of arguments, common fallacies, and critical evaluation of evidence.

  2. To understand the scientific thinking process.

  3. To understand the difference between science and pseudoscience.

  4. To understand the difference between good science and junk science.

Required Texts:

Vaughn, Lewis,  The Power of Critical Thinking, 4th edition
Ben-Ari, Moti, Just A Theory

Both of these books are available at the Hornet Bookstore.

Your final course grades will be based upon 2 exams, 1 final exam, class participation, an essay portfolio and essay evaluations.

Exam 1
Exam 2
Class participation
Essay Portfolio
Essay Evaluations
Final Exam

Essays will be turned in every other week on Tuesday. Two copies must be turned in at that time. One copy will be read by me and returned with comments, and the other will be read by a classmate as an essay evaluation and then returned with their comments. Essays must be no longer than 2 pages, double spaced, in a 12 point font, with 1 inch margins, and they may be shorter as long as you satisfactorily complete the assignment. At the end of the semester you will pick your two best essays, revise them, and turn them in for grading as your essay portfolio.

Essay evaluations will be one page, double spaced, in a 12 point font with 1 inch margins. You will read a classmate's essay and criticize (which means mention both good and bad aspects!!) the critical thinking and reasoning used in the essay. I will grade your evaluations on a credit/no credit basis, if I judge you have made an honest effort in your evaluation. You must be in class on Tuesday when essays are turned into collect an essay for evaluation. Evaluations are due the following Tuesday, in between Tuesday when essays are due.

Extra credit may be earned by bringing into class examples of psuedo-science being passed off as real science in the popular press. Examples may come from newspapers, magazines, books, etc.... Only printed materials are allowed no web sites!!! no TV shows!!! no movies!!! The example must be a case where someone is taking the pseudo-science seriously sarcastic or satiric examples do not qualify. With each example you must submit a one page, double spaced write up in a 12 point font with 1 inch margins. The write up will critically evaluate the pseudoscientific claims being made, pointing out specific weaknesses in the arguments used.

Letter grades will be assigned as follows:

less than 55%

Contacting Me
The best way is by e-mail, since I don't check my voice mail very often.  Coming to office hours is also good, and any time my door is open, please come in.

Make up Exams:
I will announce exam dates at least 2 weeks in advance of the exam.  If you have a conflicting activity that cannot be rescheduled, you must see me at least 2 days before the exam. If you don't, there will be no opportunity to make it up. You must bring me documentation of your conflicting activity (i.e. if you have jury duty that day, show me the form they sent you.  If you have a brain transplant scheduled, bring me a note from the surgeon).

Cell phone:
Please turn your cell phone to vibrate before class starts.  Cell phones that ring in the middle of class are disrespectful to your fellow students, and to me.  If your cell phone goes off in class and it is a call you must take, please go into the hallway to answer it.

The faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy do not tolerate academic dishonesty.
Falsification of data, copying, unauthorized collaborations, plagiarism,
alteration of graded materials
or other actions (as described in, but not necessarily
limited to the CSUS Policy Manual) will be
promptly reported to the Office of Student
Affairs. The offending student will be penalized on the
assignment in question. 
Serious infractions will result in course failure and a recommendation for

Students with disabilities:
Please see me before the end of the first week of class.

Chris Taylor :  ctaylor (at)