BOOM! Who's Afraid of Atomic Radiation?

HPSC-X206 — Spring 2022

Jordi Cat
Psychology 111
Days and Times
Monday/Wednesday 4:10P-6:40P
Course Description

This is a second 8 weeks course.

Who isn’t afraid of atomic weapons, nuclear plants, radioactive materials or X-rays? But, why? The course offers an introductory look at the uses and fears of atomic radiation and nuclear power. We will examine the multi-disciplinary history of uses and fears of nuclear power and radiation. We will begin starts with the discovery of radioactivity, the origins of nuclear research, the first radiation craze and the development of the atomic bomb. We will also discuss scientific challenges and advances, risks and benefits of nuclear power and radioactivity (also in the age of climate change), alternative power sources and medical technology. We will explore the methodological, political, moral challenges of judging risks and making decisions about human health and environmental safety. And, finally, will look at examples of how some of these issues and anxieties have been featured in public messages and popular culture (cartoons, novels, movies, TV shows and videogames).

The course will combine lectures, readings, movies and discussion. Technical knowledge of physics is not a requirement, but some familiarity with very basic concepts will be helpful and will be provided.