The URL of this page is
  • PHYS 3333 satisfies a Physics elective requirement.
  • CFB 3333 satisfies a General Education Curriculum Cultural Formations requirement. Students can appeal for honors or diversity credit at the General Education Office after making arrangements with the lecturers.
  • KNW 2333 satisfies Ways of Knowing, Proficiencies & Experiences/Writing (we are still waiting to hear about Proficiencies & Experiences/Information Literacy)


This course will provide you with an understanding of the scientific method sufficient to detect pseudoscience in its many guises: paranormal phenomena, free-energy devices, alternative medicine, intelligent design creationism, denial of human-induced climate change, propaganda, science-based-medicine denialism, misuse of data and statistics, and many others. You will learn to think critically and to question outlandish claims, hype, and outright BS.

Your writing will improve. You will be able to distinguish credible sources of information from nonsense; you will become an intelligent consumer of information. Expect to do a lot of reading, writing, and, most of all, thinking.

Learn more by reading about the course Goals/Objectives/Learning Outcomes

Course Details

  • Lecture Times and Place: MWF 11:00-11:50am in room 153 Fondren Science
  • Lecturers: Professor John Cotton and Professor Randall J. Scalise
  • Office Hours:
    • Cotton: Wednesday and Friday after lecture and 2:00-3:00pm in room 7 Fondren Science (lower floor).
    • Scalise: Monday and Wednesday after lecture in room 107 Fondren Science and by appointment.
  • Contact:
    • Call or leave a message at
      • Cotton: (214)768-4096
      • Scalise: (214)768-2504
    • Leave a note in the Physics Department Office - 102 Fondren Science, or
    • send email to
  • Course Work:
    • Weekly reading, reading quizzes, discussion, homework, in-class writing assignments
    • Two 3-page book reviews from the Auxiliary Reading list (feel free to suggest other titles subject to instructor approval)
    • One 7-page (minimum) research paper
    • One 15-page (minimum) research paper
      One paper is due at midsemester; this paper can be rewritten for a higher grade. The other paper is due at the end of the semester.
    • Physics 3333 and Honors CFB 3333 students will present orally the last week of class
    • Written final examination
  • Check to see if we received your papers, book reviews, or homework -- it is YOUR responsibility to check!

The book reviews and research papers must be turned in electronically. We will not accept paper copies. Mail your assignment to or turn in a CD. Accepted digital formats: ASCII (plain) text, PDF, RTF, or MS Word format (.doc not .docx): double-spaced, 12-point type, Times New Roman (nonbold) font, 1-inch margins. We can not read WordPerfect or Macintosh files.

Required Course Texts:

Syllabus -- Includes lecture notes and assignments

Homework Assignments

Suggested Auxiliary Reading

Grading, Extra Credit, Incompletes

Attendance Policy, Classroom Environment

Grade Summary - All the individual student grades arranged
by four-digit code number

A Note on PLAGIARISM -- Very important!

Notes on Writing Research Papers

Suggested Research Paper Topics

Excellent Past Student Research Papers (password protected)                    

Criteria for a Successful Experiment

The Baloney Detection Collection
Complete list of subjects available

Problems of Fuzzy Thinking

Relevant Web Sites

Other Resources -- Video, periodicals, etc.


Previous Incarnations of this Course -- with lecture notes

Seminars and Presentations

Students with disabilities, medically excused absences, absences in general

Anonymous Feedback

Things you should already know, but...

University Holidays

Official University Calendar


Fighting ignorance since 2003 - pace Cecil Adams (he's not a real person, anyway)