Note: This assignment was extremely difficult for most Science One students, because it was the first time they had been asked to work with deep abstractions. Asking them to consider in the same conceptual framework a snake (which they consider intelligent) and a bacterium (which they consider without any intelligence), forced students to re-consider their mythologies of intelligence and navigation and build explicitly mechanistic ones. Because the problem is so clearly geometric, the difference in size of the organisms made the assignment difficult mathematically. The students whined a lot about this assignment, and we had to spend lots of time counseling them, but they loved it. And in the end they demanded to do it again on another subject. A variation on this theme, with different content, worked well in Singapore, and we used it last fall in ISCI 311. Several colleagues, at UBC and elsewhere (e.g. Swarthmore), have used it in several courses at several levels. Two members of the Arts One review committee said that they would try it next fall (Asian Studies, Stanford; Linguistics, Duke). Its greatest utility is that because papers are so readable by the time we see them, we can evaluate them quickly. This allows our students to write much more than we normally think possible. See letter from Josie Hughes.
USE OF INFORMATION IN NAVIGATION AND ORIENTATION:
An Exercise in Thinking, Writing, Editing, and Re-writing
Mobile organisms move, by definition. But where do they move and how do they know where to go? How do they get the information they need, and how does this depend on their own size in relation to the information they require to decide? Write a short paper on this topic, based on the article "Why snakes have forked tongues" and the example of bacterial chemotaxis that we will discuss in class. The paper is not about snakes or bacteria, but about something more general than that: the problem of gaining and using information. Use examples about snakes, bacteria, or any other organisms including yourself, but the object is to discuss the general problem.
All scientists must write, but few are "born writers". Nearly everyone must go through at least several drafts, and sometimes first drafts of brilliant papers are horrible! In Phase One you will produce a first draft. In Phase Two an assigned editor will prepare comments on your paper to help you improve it. In Phase Three you will submit a final draft. Both "authors" and "editors" will be marked on their contributions.
Suggestions for editors. The most useful editorial comments are both critical and supportive. They refer both to concepts and to details of writing. They are specific enough that the author knows exactly what you refer to and how you think the passage could be improved. Begin with a paragraph of general remarks on the author's approach to the problem (how effective you think the approach is, and how it might be improved). For minor grammatical, spelling, and other mechanics, write right on the author's draft. Put more substantive detailed comments in a numbered list in your own paper, keyed to small circled numbers that you write in the author's draft. Important: your object is not to show off how smart you are, but to help the author do well. Your mark will reflect how well you meet this objective.
Sept. 20 Author completes first draft (title page + 2 pages maximum; double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins). Title page includes title, a subtitle: "First Draft", your name, and the date. Save your draft on diskette; editing is much easier than re-writing from scratch!. On the sheet in the office, check that you've completed and hand your paper to the assigned editor.
Sept. 22 Editor completes comments (title page + 2 pages). Title page includes the title, "COMMENTS ON THE PAPER BY: (Author's name, author's title), your name, and the date. On the sheet in the office, check that you've completed and hand the original draft and your comments (stapled together) back to the author.
Sept. 27 Author submits final draft, with new title page. Stapled package includes (top) Final Draft, (middle) Editor's Comments, and (bottom) First Draft.
Note: See Neil if you don't have access to a computer with word processing program. He will arrange access on campus and show you how to begin.