Session S1a (Sunday, 2pm, Thomas 215)

P2: The Science of Terrorism

Laura Eisen (The George Washington University, USA)

Non-science majors often complain that required science classes are abstract and irrelevant. The “Science of Terrorism” course uses case studies to provide a context for learning important science concepts. The course is divided into three units: Elements of Terror, Explosions, and Bioterrorism. We begin by exploring the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. Students learn about atomic structure and periodicity by studying thallium, and about nuclear chemistry in connection with polonium-210. Chlorine and phosphorus are used to introduce chemical reactions and energetics. The Oklahoma City bombing and recent attempts to blow up commercial airliners, along with the controversy over Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear material, shift the focus to chemical and nuclear reactions and thermodynamics. Biological agents are presented via the movie Contagion and the anthrax letters. The laboratory includes simple problem-solving activities and introduces students to some of the methods of modern biotechnology that are described in the readings.


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