Social Justice, Monuments, Museums, and Heritage
Richard M. Leventhal, Penn Cultural Heritage Center assisted by Charlotte Morris Williams, Penn Museum
Wednesdays, 5:00 – 7:00pm
Monuments, museums, and heritage are all critical parts of the world that we create around us. These are the things that define who we are today, where we have come from, and where we are going. We use them to teach young people about both the past and how we understand the present social and cultural systems. In recent years, social, racial, and economic justice movements have pushed us to rethink the function of monuments, museums, and heritage. We need to reconsider the ways we represent our colonial past. Here in Philadelphia, the city grappled with monuments of Frank Rizzo and Christopher Columbus, and with collections of human remains at the Penn Museum. How can heritage and the commemoration of the past force us to think about the present and the future? How can monuments and museums change meanings over time? And how can our heritage landscape better represent who we are today – including both our history and our aspirations for the future?
What Makes Something a Number?
Henry Towsner, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Penn
Thursdays, 5:00 PM-7:00 PM
This course will look at rules for the various kinds of numbers students encounter over the course of their education – the natural numbers and integers, the rational numbers and real numbers, and then the imaginary and complex numbers. There are so many kinds of numbers because they represent different kinds of quantitative data we encounter in the real world. Algebraic rules let us manipulate numbers formally, but when we lose sight of which rules make sense in a particular setting, we can end up talking about fractional people, negative lengths, and other kinds of nonsense. The class will explore where these rules come from by experimenting with what happens when we change them. By breaking some of the usual rules of algebra, we will discover new kinds of numbers suitable for other tasks, like adding hours, rotating a ball, or describing how long a computer program will take to finish. This will let us answer some of the vexing questions about the usual number systems: if infinity isn’t a number, what is it? What happens if 0.999…. doesn’t equal 1? Can we invent a new number for when we divide by 0?