Most of us take our everyday knowledge for granted. We know that the Earth is round, that the Sun is 1030 kg and that light travels at 299,792,458 ms-1 in vacuum. But when asked how we know that, our answer is usually not quite satisfactory: “I read that somewhere.” I have been guilty of taking these statement of facts in textbooks and in Wikipedia as ultimate truth without understanding how we come to know these facts. This realisation got me started on something: I began a project to reconstruct human knowledge, by understanding how come to know certain scientific facts—whether by demonstration, by inference or by experiments. Unlike Descartes, who began his philosophical investigation with a hyperbolic doubt, tossing everything he held to be true—even the laws of mathematics—out of the system, I begin with a less pedantic problem: suppose I am transported 3000 years back in time to a primate civilisation; how can I convince the people in that time that my modern scientific knowledge is true?
This is the basis of my course I taught at Yale SPROUT, an educational organisation that gets anyone in Yale University (undergrads, graduate students, administration, and professors) to teach a course on any topic that they want to middle school students in Connecticut state. I volunteered to teach when I was at Yale for my semester abroad programme. The slides below are an edited version to better suit an online viewing.
This was my first time teaching to middle school kids and was quite the experience for me. The class was generally well-received, but I had many complaints of “too much math”. I got some amusing feedback from my students, particularly:
”Jerrick is very smart. I don't even know what my notes mean. He's nice and informative. He speaks kinda like my dad (IN A GOOD WAY).— Student (Anonymous)
The slides below are what I used for the class.
(Last updated: 27 Dec 2018)