HPS 0410 Einstein for Everyone Spring 2007

Term Paper

An Amazing Idea

Due by final recitation, Tuesday April 17, Wednesday April 18
Submit in electronic form
1000 words

Topic selection
Due in recitation, Tuesday April 3


This course is a parade of amazing ideas, things that would never occur to us ordinarily: that there may be no fact as to whether two events are simultaneous; that energy and matter are the same thing; that gravity is just funny geometry; that time had a beginning; and more. What makes these all the more amazing is that they are not conjurings of fiction. They are our best attempts to describe how our world really is and scientist can tell us a cogent and compelling story as to why we should believe them.

For your term paper, you are to identify and describe an amazing idea. Your text should contain:
1. A clear explanation of the amazing idea.
2. An account of the evidence and arguments used to support the idea.

Your amazing idea must be drawn from standard science. The goal is not to report on wild speculation that someone, someday thinks might become regular science. You are to seek an amazing idea that has already become regular science. If you are unsure whether an amazing idea is drawn from standard science, ask if it has experimental or observational evidence in its favor. If it doesn't, it is speculation!

Your paper must present material not already covered in lectures and recitations. For this reason you are best advised to write about an amazing idea not already covered in the class. If you do choose one we have covered in class, note that your grade will depend entirely on the extent to which you go beyond class material.

Selection of Topic

A brief statement of the amazing idea selected is due in the recitation, Tuesday April 3. Submit it as one paragraph, on paper. 1/10th of the term paper grade is assigned for submitting a suitable statement on time. (These are easy points earned just for being on time!)

Consult with your recitation leader if you are uncertain over the idea or need assistance in locating a suitable one.

Preview of text

If you are unsure whether your paper answers the question well, you can ask us to preview and comment on a trial version. We will accept previews up to one week prior to the date due for the paper, i.e. up to Tuesday April 10. A paper submitted for preview must be complete and suitable in form as it stands for submission as the final essay.


The paper should be headed with your name, the title of the paper and the course to which it is being submitted. The paper should have an introduction and conclusion and be divided into appropriately headed sections. A standard system for footnoting and for referencing your sources must be adopted and used consistently throughout. Consult a guide on writing term papers if you are unsure of such systems.

We expect your writing to be clear and simple. That applies both to the thoughts expressed and the words used. The thoughts should develop naturally in small, clear steps. The wording should be plain and direct and the sentences short. There is no gain in a big word, when a little one will do. We expect proper grammar and correct spelling and will penalize major excursions.


Your paper is to be submitted to us in electronic form via turnitin.com, a plagiarism prevention web resource. Here are the instructions for submitting your paper:

1. Visit http://turnitin.com.

2. Click “New Users” in the upper right corner.

3. Please contact either John Norton or Eric Hatleback to obtain the appropriate Turnitin Class ID number and Class Enrollment Password.

4. Finish the registration process.

5. Click on the “Einstein for Everyone” class link.

6. Click on the “Submit” icon in the row marked “Paper.”7.Upload your paper.

Acceptable formats for your paper are MS Word, WordPerfect, PostScript, PDF, HTML, RTF, and plain text. You should also submit your extra credit paper, if you choose to do one, by clicking on the “Submit” icon in the row marked “Extra Credit Paper.” All papers (including extra credit papers) must be submitted by midnight on Wednesday, April 18.

Use of Sources

As is standard in all academic writing, the wording of your paper should be your own; it should not be copied or paraphrased even loosely from another source. If you are uncertain over the correct use of sources, see this Guide.

(Revised April 10, 2007)