I have provided you with several pieces for you to read. I would like to have a class discussion of the content of these pieces as well as whatever else comes to mind as we talk. To prepare for that discussion I would like you to take a little time to answer a few questions. Type up your answers and submit them through the Google Classroom assignment prior to the day of our discussion. Answers should be no more than about 500 words.
Roald Hoffmann sees creation and discovery as different things. Typically, art is understood to involve an act of creation while science simply discovers what already exists. In this essay Prof. Hoffmann describes the creativity involved in the synthesis of new molecules. Also, he makes the case that the act of discovering how plants make an important precursor to chlorophyll is in fact the result of the creative powers of the chemists involved.
In this article we see a small part of the interaction between a theoretical chemist (Roald Hoffmann) and an experimental chemist (Margarita Rybinskaya). Hoffmann is intrigued by an idea for an extension of Rybinskaya’s work. He proposes a collaboration but problems of communication make for an interesting outcome.
Primo Levi was a chemist and a survivor of Auschwitz. His writings combined a sensitive observer of the human condition with deep scientific understanding and knowledge of the limits of that understanding. In this essay he imagines the history of a single atom of carbon and thereby reveals the deep connections between all living things and their environment.
This piece is part of the 11th chapter of the book Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier by Jeffrey A. Lockwood (Basic Books, 2004). It follows a detailed look at the history, sociology, economics, biology, and ecology of the swarms of locusts that formerly blotted out the sun and covered the landscape for hundreds of square miles, eating everything above ground. The writer is a grasshopper biologist at the University of Wyoming. He has a particular passion for the creatures responsible for the plagues of locusts that regularly swept over the west and mid-west in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The effects of the plagues were devastating and much was undertaken to stop the swarms but nothing helped. Then suddenly there were no more plagues. Though this was a big deal it was overshadowed by the events of World War I and since not appearing is a literal non-event, there was not much reporting about it. It was this mystery that most interested Prof. Lockwood.
There are a few things for which the whole book provides context but which are missing in the text of this chapter. For one thing, there are two similar species of grasshopper which were often confused for one another: Melanoplus sanguinipes and Melanoplus spretus. It is spretus which is the Rocky Mountain Locust, a fact established in part based on work by Prof. Lockwood. Species of grasshoppers can be difficult to distinguish with the only feature separating species often being the shape of the male genitalia. Despite descending onto human-inhabited areas in swarms of literally trillions of insects very few individuals were added to museum collections. Once the creatures disappeared it became nearly impossible to study them. Prof. Lockwood wanted to follow up on reports of glaciers in the Rocky Mtns. in which large numbers of frozen grasshoppers could be found. The glaciers are remote and accessing them would require mounting an expensive expedition.
Here are a few questions for you to consider after reading this chapter.