A First Year Seminar
Fall 2011

Classes meet Tuesdays 1:30 - 4:00— Room 104 SC

Nancy H. Kolodny

Sakai Conference: EXTD-105-01 FA-11

Library page: Library/Research/Classes/exp105.html

Since the discovery of nuclear fission in the 1930s, the potential of nuclear energy both for war and for peace has presented an ongoing challenge to humanity. Daily newspaper accounts of developments in Iran, North Korea, and Japan and of the need for sources of energy other than fossil fuels highlight the importance of understanding the potential of the nucleus. This course will examine the development of nuclear weapons and the treaties limiting them, as well as the ongoing danger of nuclear terrorism. It will also examine peaceful uses of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity and for medical diagnosis and treatment, as well as the waste disposal problems that result from these uses. Course materials will include primary and secondary historical documents, literature, music and films.

"The Nuclear Challenge" will meet once a week for 150 minutes. There will be a 10 minute break in the middle of the class period. Classes will be in a discussion format. Guest lecturers from the Wellesley faculty and beyond will share their expertise on such topics as the historical background leading to the development of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons as seen through drama and music, nuclear disarmament treaties, and electricity production. We will visit the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.

Assignments will include two or three short papers during the semester and a final paper/presentation. Quizzes may be given to encourage mastery of factual material.

Your grade in EXTD 105 will depend on:

Papers and quizzes 40%
Class participation 20%
Final project/presentation 40%


  1. Introduction

  2. The science of the nucleus: radioactivity, nuclear fission and fusion

  3. Setting the stage: Europe and Asia between World Wars I and II

  4. The Manhattan Project; the development and use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. in Japan

  5. The Arts and nuclear weapons: “Copenhagen” and “Doctor Atomic”

  6. Post-WW II atomic weapons development and controversy

  7. Nuclear non-proliferation treaties

  8. Peaceful uses of nuclear energy: generation of electricity; nuclear medicine

  9. Nuclear waste disposal

  10. Nuclear terrorism

Course Resources
*subject to change

Books we will read extensively:

Other books and journals from which we will read chapters and articles are on e-reserve on our course conference.

Research Resources: Ms. Betty Febo of the Clapp Library has prepared an extensive Research Resource page that includes documents, websites, etc. It may be accessed through the Library home page, Research Resources by Subject, Library instruction class guide, EXTD 105 or at



Class Date Topic
1 9/9 Introduction
"Nukes in the News"
Science of he nucleus
2 9/16 Asia in the 1930's and 40's
Guest: Professor Y. Tak Matsusaka
Europe in the 1930's and 40's
Guest: Professor Quinn Slabodian
3 9/23 The Manhattan Project: Nuclear weapons development
"The Day After Trinity"
4 9/30 The Arts and nuclear weapons: “Copenhagen” and “Doctor Atomic”
Guests: Professors Nora Hussey & Diego Arciniegas
5 10/7 Debate on President Truman’s Decision
Nuclear proliferation/Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaties
Guest: Professor Robert Paarlberg
  10/14 No class
6 10/18 Make-up class (for pre-Thanksgiving cancellation): “Doctor Atomic”
Guest: Professor Rebecca Cypess, New England Conservatory of Music
7 10/21 Electricity Generation & Distribution in U.S.
Guest: Mr. Jeremy Newberger, National Grid
Nuclear energy: science/technology/politics/economics
8 10/28 Development of student survey on nuclear issues;
Introduction to research resources
Guest: Ms Betty Febo
9 11/4 Visit to Seabrook Nuclear Power Station
10 11/11 Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl and beyond
Discussion of results of student survey on nuclear issues
11 11/18 Nuclear Medicine; Nuclear Waste Disposal; Nuclear Terrorism
  11/25 No class (rescheduled above)
12 12/2 Student Presentations: Global Nuclear Energy
13 12/9 Student presentations: Global nuclear energy