The Science Institute at Summer Classics

Spend Your Summer Exploring Cosmology and Topology

The Science Institute draws on St. John’s College’s long tradition of studying science through the discussion of original texts, emphasizing hands-on involvement and experiments. Each weeklong session is an intensive immersion in landmark topics and texts, with twice-daily seminars centered on discussion among participants.

Rather than viewing science as an edifice of facts, we encounter it through the living questions it poses and, in so doing, reenact the experience of scientific discovery. By encouraging each other to express and engage with those questions, we open ourselves to the wonder of inquiry into the mysteries of nature.

Join us this summer to look up into the sky. Study the unfolding revolution in modern cosmology: the expanding, accelerating universe. Finally, explore the surprising and wide-ranging insights provided by the mathematics of topology.

The Science Institute is open to those who want to delve more deeply into the questions
raised by science and mathematics.

Mr. Pesic, tutor emeritus and musician-in-residence at St. John’s College, Santa Fe, is the director of the Science Institute.

Two weeks of seminar offerings run concurrently with Summer Classics. Two sessions daily: 10 a.m.–noon and 1–3 p.m. MT.

Week 2 | July 12–17

Modern Cosmology

Phil LeCuyer and Peter Pesic

We begin with the discovery of galaxies beyond the Milky Way and the expansion of the universe through the observational work of Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble, and others. Using the current framework Einstein’s general relativity gives us, we study the observations and arguments that imply the existence of dark matter and dark energy. Yet what these really are remains completely unknown at present though they comprise about 95% of the universe, compared to the remaining 5% composed of ordinary matter and energy. Though we have not yet discovered this wider universe, we now know it is there.

See the full Week 2 Seminar Schedule

Week 3 | July 19–24

Topology: From the Seven Bridges to the Brouwer Fixed-Point Theorem

Guillermo Bleichmar and Peter Pesic

One of the most important, surprising, and delightful fields of modern mathematics, topology investigates the properties of geometrical objects that remain unchanged under continuous deformations. We study topology’s beginnings in Euler’s analysis of the problem of the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. We then use the strategic board game Hex to understand the Brouwer fixed-point theorem, a seminal result. We apply this theorem to Nash equilibrium in game theory and economics. Finally, we study how Henri Poincaré used the fixed-point theorem to argue that a given physical state may recur endlessly. Participants should like to play with mathematical concepts and not be afraid of equations.

See the full Week 3 Seminar Schedule