Held Monday, January 24, 2000
Today, we begin our consideration of computer science by considering
the subject of computer science: What is it? What do computer
scientists study? We also go over some administrative issues.
Question for today's class: What is computer science?
Question for the next class: What computing knowledge do you hope to get from this course?
- Assignments: (due tomorrow)
- Read the introductory handout
- Fill in the introductory survey
- Scan through
Getting started in the MathLAN.
(It will make much more sense once you're in front of a computer.)
- Send me an answer to ``What computing knowledge do you hope to get from this course?''
- Computer Science
- Social Issues
- Course Issues
- I like to begin each class by considering our initial perceptions
of the subject matter of the course. One way to do so is to elicit
- What is computer science?
- Take a few minutes and write down a definition. I'll then ask you
to read them aloud.
- Some typical definitions:
- A fancy term for computer programming.
- The science of computers or computing
- What is science?
- A method of studying (typically studying the natural world) based
on observation, postulation of hypotheses, and support of those
hypothoses by experimentation.
- What is computing?
- The solution of problems by the application of a fixed method?
- Does computing require a computer?
- Arguably, no. We can apply instructions by hand even if we don't
understand the logic behind them.
- However, computers are particularly good at doing lots and lots of
- Many computer scientists consider cmoputer science to be the study
of algorithms, formal sets of instructions for completing
taks. (Note that our definition of computing emphasizes these
sets of intructions.)
- Computer scientits write and analyze algorithms.
- Some are implemented in physical devices (hardware).
- Some are expressed in ways the hardware can run them (software).
- Computer scientists write languages in which to express algorithms.
- Computer scientists study whether or not algorithms can be written
for all problems, and how efficient those algorithms can be.
- Computer science draws upon a number of other fields for its
intellectual foundations: science, mathematics, and engineering.
- Increasingly, computer science is also drawing upon psychology.
- From mathematics, we get formal approaches to solving problems
and verifying solutions.
- From science, we get experimental approaches to solving problems
and evaluating solutions.
- From engineering, we get techniques for building and analyzing
- From psychology, we get techniques for understanding (and improving)
the interaction between computers and people.
- It is also clear that computers are having a significant impact
upon modern society (particularly modern American society).
- Many computer scientists consider it important to consider the
ramifications of their work and fields.
- In this course, we will try to balance algorithmic and social
issues as we consider a variety of topics.
- This is my three-course semester, and two of those courses are
new to Grinnell. Hence, expect me to be stressed out and behind
in work all semester.
- Please refer to the course web site and
the introductory handout
- Teaching philosophy: I support your learning
- Work: Many small assignments; nothing large
- Do the reading in advance of each class
- One-paragraph answer to a question
- Read the risks digest
- Three narratives
- Attendance: I expect you to attend every class. Let me know
when you'll miss class and why.
- Grading: I'm a hard grader. I don't grade everything.
- Course web
- Computer science has a mathematical underpining. Some of our
readings will be mathematical. Try not to glaze over the math.
- This is the first time this course has been taught. I expect that
many things will change over the semester.
- The syllabus