Monday, November 30, 2009

The Colloquy: The Linus Pauling Medal

The NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences Colloquy:

The Prize: The Linus Pauling Medal

Linus Pauling is the most famous and influential U.S.A.-born scientist in world history. He is one of only two people to have won more than one Nobel Prize in different fields, and the only person to win two undivided Nobel Prizes. Pauling was included in a list of the 20 greatest scientists of all time by the magazine New Scientist, with Albert Einstein being the only other scientist from the twentieth century on the list.

Linus Pauling received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances. Also, he received the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in peace and disarmament campaigns establishing The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

When he was 16 years old, Linus Pauling left Washington High School in Portland, Oregon, without graduating (the principal would not waive a civics class) to enroll at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University), from which he graduated in 1922 with a degree in chemical engineering. In 1925, Pauling received his doctorate degree, summa cum laude, in chemistry, with minors in physics and mathematics, from the California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech).

During his career, Linus Pauling applied quantum mechanics to the study of molecular structures and discovered the helix structure in proteins. Francis Crick, who discovered the structure of DNA with James Watson, acknowledged Pauling as “the father of molecular biology."

The physical sciences — chemistry and physics — are considered to be the foundation sciences for the life sciences: biology and its offshoots. Linus Pauling studied chemistry, physics, and mathematics, and then made world-changing discoveries in biology.

Linus Pauling was born February 28, 1901, in Portland, Oregon. He died August 19, 1994, in Big Sur, California. He was a scientist, peace activist, author, and educator. He is especially renowned as one of the most influential chemists in the history of science.

The NAPS Colloquy honors Linus Pauling.

The UO school year has three terms: fall, winter, and spring. Each term is ten weeks long (plus finals week). The colloquy described is designed for that format.

Topic: Morality, Ethics & Society: Science & Technology in the 21st Century
Fall Term: U.S. Constitution Amendment Proposal
Winter Term: World Treaty Proposal
Spring Term: Philosophy of Science and Technology Definition Statement

The Challenge: Experience group effort and productive political compromise

Each term starts with a self-identification of seven different groups with no fewer than four members each who then begin the task of negotiating intra-group to define and develop that term’s proposal or statement. Each group works independently and develops its proposal without regard for any other group’s proposal, and is only limited by the general topic for the term.

At least once every week if possible, a UO professor gives a short presentation on a generally related topic during a class session, and then remains for discussion. At least once every week, each group gives a brief description of its proposal as-is, and responds to three minutes of questioning.

After three weeks, the original seven groups somehow meld into five groups of no fewer than five members each.

After six weeks, the then five groups somehow meld into three groups of no fewer than nine members each.

After eight weeks, all restrictions regarding the number of groups and their size are lifted.

During the two-hour Final session, each remaining group gives a five-minute presentation of its finished proposal or statement to the entire class. After each group has presented, the teachers openly question the proposals in a fitting manner. After the questioning, each scholar casts two anonymous votes: one for the best proposal or statement, and one for the most influential NASA Scholar during the colloquy that term.

The colloquy is Pass/No Pass, except the teachers may award up to seven Linus Pauling Medals at their discretion. The colloquy should be at once both fun and maddening, yet serious and thought provoking. It is intended as a tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize won by Linus Pauling, and serves to reveal the political process through firsthand experience.

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Additional thoughts regarding the colloquy can be read here (scroll down to "One Response").

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