Interdisciplinary 101:  Does Anybody Really Know What Time, Day, Month or Year It Is?

Fall 2007


Bill Gohlman        Jeff Johannes

Section 2    T 12:45-1:30p    Fraser 104  

Office Hours:
                Johannes:                                                         Gohlman:
                Mathematics Department                                 History Department
                South 326A  x5403                                         Blake C 8 x5735
                Monday 1:30 - 2:30p                                       Monday 10:30 - 12:30p
                Tuesday 1:45- 2:45p                                        Wednesday 10:30 - 12:30p
                Wednesday 4-5p                                              Thursday 12:45 - 2:30p
                Thursday 8-9p                                                  by appointment and visit.
                Friday 1:30 - 2:30p
                by appointment and visit.

    Marking TimeThe Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel (paperback, hardback and also available as an e-book)

      In this course we would like to learn a bit about the following:
Furthermore, we hope to do that in the most comfortable and relaxed environment possible.  

    Our current calendar has influences from a wide variety of cultures including (at least) the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hebrews, Norse, and Romans.  There are also astronomical realities about the sun-earth-moon orbits that must be considered.  In this seminar we will discuss some of the following questions:  Why do we have twelve months?  Why do they have different numbers of days?  Why are the months Sept-ember, Octo-ber, Nov-ember, and Dec-ember not the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months?  Why are there 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour?  Why do we need leap years?  Why wasn't 1900 a leap year, but 2000 was?  Why do our calendars change every year?  Do they need to?  Aside from our current calendar we will consider various historical and non-Western calendars including the Mayan and Islamic, as well as the French and Soviet revolutionary calendars.  We will also explore a few proposed alternatives to our calendar and explore cases where, for cultural reasons, the mathematically best calendar has not been adopted.  
    Aside from all that, we will begin each class by discussing any thoughts and reactions to your first-year experiences at Geneseo.  

    Nothing we read in this class will be a traditional mathematics or history book.  The course will be much more designed around reading and discussion.  There should be all sorts of reactions from the reading . . topics to discuss, reactions to stories, questions about the mathematical content, etc.  Each day you are required to bring reading reactions to class.  These reading reactions must include reactions to at least five topics in the reading.  They must be written in intelligible English.  Each one will be evaluated out of 5 points, with points deducted for fewer than five points being addressed.

    Since most of the class is discussion, deriving the same benefits by merely examining someone's class notes or reading the textbook would be impossible.  If you are present for a discussion you will receive one participation point that day.  If you also participate to the class as a whole (answer a question, present a solution, ask an insightful question or offer important relevant commentary - even sharing about your first-year experience) you will receive two participation points for that day.  Present each day and never speaking in class will earn 80%.  Speaking every other day will earn 95%.  Scores between will be scaled linearly.     

   Your grade in this course will be strictly the average between your reading reaction score and your participation score.  
   Note:  101 courses are very special.  You may drop at any time with no consequence.  So, if nothing else, please stick around and come visit us.  

    Occasionally you will be given anonymous feedback forms.  Please use them to share any thoughts or concerns for how the course is running.  Remember, the sooner you tell me your concerns, the more we can do about them.  We have also created a web-site which accepts anonymous comments.  If we have not yet discussed this in class, please encourage me to create a class code.  This site may also be accessed via our course page on a link entitled anonymous feedback.  Of course, you are always welcome to approach me outside of class to discuss these issues as well. 

Religious Holidays
    It is our policy to give students who miss class because of observance of religious holidays the opportunity to make up missed work.  You are responsible for notifying me no later than September 11 of plans to observe the holiday.  

    There are lots of gaps here.  On September 4, after students have read Chapters 1-2, we will discuss what other chapters to read.  At that point we will be able to plan our semester more fully.

August 28            Introductions

September 4         Chapters 1 - 2

September 11       Chapter 3 

September 18       Chapter 4

September 25       Chapter 6

October 2             Chapter 7 

October 16           Chapter 12

October 23           Chapter 17

October 30           Chapter 19

November 6         Chapter 20

around November 13        visit to George Eastman House and University of Rochester library.

November 20       Chapter 22

November 27       Chapter 23

December 4            Wrap up and finale.