On December, 2 1942, in a lab at the University of Chicago, scientists created the first self-sustained controlled nuclear chain reaction.
Seventy five years later, the university is engaging in a thought-provoking reflection and examination of this event with events throughout the community and via excellent resources posted on their website.
One of the most compelling is the public art installation of Nuclear Thresholds which is integrated into Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy.
The seventy five foot long black cords lay in a messy heap next to Moore’s well contained forms, leaving the viewer uneasy, unsure of what to make of the thin black materials.
For sure, this piece will generate conversation and hopefully a deeper reflection on the role this technological advancement has played in our society.
If you missed the actual anniversary last month, I believe a well thought out thematic unit can still explore the numerous questions evoked by this anniversary. A great video resource produced by UChicago Creative is a must see for all secondary educators interested in using this topic for critical reasoning and discussion-Nuclear Reactions-a Complex Legacy.
How are you teaching about this significant historical event?
It seems like following the inspiration of University of Chicago and approaching it with a multidisciplinary perspective might be a wonderful way to engage your students and discuss a topic whose relevance is as timely as ever. The video concludes with a call for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the world’s biggest problems and asks, “What is your contribution going to be?”
A great question to reflect upon as we begin this new year.
Questions for Discussion following the video:
- What is your reaction to the quote by University of Chicago president, George Wells Beadle in 1967?
- What was the initial reaction to the development of the atomic bomb?
- How did the University of Chicago faculty respond to the development of the atomic bomb?
- How was nuclear technology used to benefit people?
- The video asks,” How do we get to a world without nuclear weapons?”
For a great look at using economics attempting to solve environmental problems, read Vicki Ekstrom High’s article on University of Chicago professor Ryan Kellogg’s research.
Kellogg has developed an approach to using a “market” approach to developing fuel efficiency standards, based on the cost of gasoline. So, when the cost of gasoline is higher, the fuel efficiency standards would go higher with the assumption that consumers would purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.
If the gas prices are lower, the fuel efficiency standards will go down as consumers are likely to purchase larger “gas-guzzlers.” The assumption then is that it would not put undue burden on auto makers to develop cars that might very high standards.
Based on Kellogg’s research the market will develop an optimal response to this that maximizes fuel efficiency in times of high gas prices while not straining the auto makers in times of low gas prices to achieve high emissions standards that are mismatched to consumer preference.
Kellogg suggests that this “Fuel Efficiency Index” approach (my nomenclature) provides a better response than the current system which is based on wheel base size and does not require congressional legislation.
According to Kellogg”…. it provides the maximum benefit to consumers and the general public by reducing greenhouse gas pollution at the lowest possible cost.”
Teachers of Economics, Ecology, Automotive Engineering would find this research worth sharing with their students.
Questions for Discussion
- Why does Kellogg’s research provide a better solution than the current system?
- What assumptions are imbedded in Kellogg’s research?
- What data do you think professor Kellogg used to develop his new solution?
- What are the fluctuations in gasoline prices noted in the graph in this article?
- Over what period of time would this Fuel Efficiency Index need to cover to be practical for automakers and consumers?
- How would this solution be implemented?
- If you were a policy maker, what other data would you want to analyze before agreeing with professor Kellogg’s Fuel Efficiency Index?