CSC 175 Creative Computing Seminar


Course: CSC 175/275 Creative Computing Seminar
Instructor: Randal C. Nelson
Office hours: by appointment, Wegmans Hall 3009
Time: WF 10:25 - 11:40
Room: Meliora 205

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Do you have any atoms in your body that were once part of Julius Caesar? If so, how many? How much fossil fuel has been burned by humans over the entire course of history? Is the resulting CO2 mostly still in the air? How much would it cost to build a mile-high skyscraper? Can you figure an easy way to directly verify the distance to the moon? Can you answer these questions without looking anything up? or by looking up only a few basic facts? Can you do the computation in your head?

This course is designed to exercise quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and creative problem solving skills with respect to real-world issues that have a computational component. Technical skills emphasized include facility with approximation, "back-of-the envelope" calculation, assumption vetting, multi-method consistency checks, plausibility tests, and cross-checking of information. Basic concepts of numbers, information, measurement, and computation are also included. And there are numbers about the world that everyone should know.

The course will include some presentations by the professor on basic concepts, but otherwise will consist primarily of individual and group problem-solving exercises, where the answer is not necessarily known by anyone (including the professor) beforehand. Assumptions, information sources, procedures, and results will be vetted through in-class presentations and discussions. Some of the exercises will be based on out-of-of class asignments; others will be done within the context of a classroom session. There may be occasional short quizzes involving numbers everyone should know.

Attendance is mandatory. Participation in discussions is an essential part of the experience. Class may begin with a short quiz that can include any material covered to date. Quizzes also serve to document attendance.

Remember: Three orders of magnitude changes everything.


Curiosity about how to figure things out

Let's put it this way: There is a lot of room outside the box.

Course Text Books

There are no required texts. However, the following are good reading, in whole or in part.


Some combination of:

As a first approximation, 20% each. However, class participation and presentations can only occur in class, and much of the project work and organization will occur in class, hence most of the grade is dependant on attendance. If you do not attend class regularly, you cannot pass this course, and missing more than a session or two will seriously impact your final mark.
If you cannot avoid an absence, contact or email me IN ADVANCE.

The contents of the following may be expected to change regularly. You are responsible for keeping up-to-date on assignments posted here.

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