American Drama: New Course at CVEC

Continuing our effort to illustrate for our public not just our plans, but also our actual classroom scenes, we bring you these photos from the class now underway at the Senior Center on Wednesday mornings.    It’s entitled American Drama, and is being taught by Ruth Weiner, who is the Class of 1944 Professor of Theater and the Liberal  Arts at Carleton.

This quote is taken from her outline:     “The purpose of these classes is to read, read aloud, study and discuss a selection of important twentieth and twenty-first century pays.  The premise of these classes is that these play defined American drama from the first half of the twentieth century to the present.   By studying these plays we will gain understanding of the culture that produced them and the links that connect this culture to the transformative events of the century.”

The looks of contentment seen in the faces of her students  (and of the teacher herself) strongly suggests how well this class is going.      Ed

Albert Einstein visits Northfield (sort of)

Another science course  (see the report below on DNA) is now underway in the winter term, namely a review of the work of Albert Einstein by Rich Noer, retired professor of physics at Carleton.  You can well imagine the complexity of understanding the work of Einstein;   but this is what Rich (and all our other faculty) is very good at, presenting complex topics in plain English, and answering questions in the same way. 

Rich is using models from the physics laboratory  (a large magnet, a coil of wire, and an electric meter) to show the effect of a magnetic field when a coil of wire passes through it and an electric current is generated.   This understanding of “fields” is an essential part of understanding the work of Einstein.  -  Edward Lufkin

CVEC Winter Term is Off and Running

All of us involved with planning of the winter term of the Elder Collegium are pleased with the fine array of courses now underway, and the good registration for these courses, which perhaps is not surprising.    We have a number of new courses underway, and I hope to present short photo reviews of each.    Here is the first, entitled “DNA Basics”, taught by Mary Caroline Henry on  Tuesday afternoons at  VOC.   She has taught biology at a girls’ school in Cairo and basic biology at a women’s college in Tehran.   Later she taught neurobiology at Carleton College and animal physiology and neuroscience at St. Olaf.

DNA stands for “desoxyribonucleic acid”,   and is the marvellous group of chemicals which make up the bulk of chromosomes, the controllers of inheritance in all of biology, whether plants, animals, humans, or even bacteria.   Moving from top to bottom,  we first see Mary Caroline  explaining how the two purines,  adenine and guanine, and the two pyrimidines, cytosine and thymidine, are combined with ribose phosphate and linked into long, two-stranded chains, or helixes.

In the next photo Pai Yang is learning how to extract DNA from  (believe it or not) strawberries.    Strawberries are a rich source of DNA because, unlike humans, who have 46 chromosomes in each cell,  the larger varieties of strawberries may have up to 70.   Pai is squashing some strawberries in a plastic bag in order to expose the cells more easily to fluids, which come next.

Next Mary Caroline is adding some simple substances available in a supermarket, such as table salt and detergent, to the mashed strawberries, to release DNA from the cells.  Richard Von Korff gives it his close attention.

The last photo shows that after the mix is filtered and extracted with isopropyl alcohol, a cloudy material rises above the red residue.    This cloudy material is the extracted DNA,  which can now be analyzed in a bewildering variety of ways to detect such things as parentage, susceptibility to diseases, connection with certain crimes, origin of epidemics, susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics, and many other applications.

Let us know of other topics of interest to you, and we’ll do our best to address them.             Ed