AS.001.105 First Year Seminar: The Science Behind the Fiction

Course Webpage:

Last Updated: December 2, 2021

FALL 2021


We will seek to answer questions including: could you forge Beskar? What would it take to make a light saber? Is "Image, enhance" really possible? What is possible today? What might be possible in the future? And what may never be possible as it violates the laws of nature as we know them? We will take an empiricists approach, gathering data on the needed properties via screenings and related research, and then applying physical principles to reveal (in?)feasibility. The hope is that all of us will learn more about the world and how is works, and the potential for the future.


One goal of the First-Year Seminars is to provide an introduction to our intellectual community, to begin to inculcate the habit of respectful, rigorous communication and exchange, to facilitate interactions between students and faculty, and to provide an experience that can help build camaraderie among first-year students. The seminars will help develop foundational critical reading, writing, thinking, and logical deduction skills that will help you flourish in college and beyond.


We meet twice a week, and also have screenings of select movies/shows. Before coming to class, you will conduct literature research, and contribute topics to be discussed in class. Our weekly conversations will be driven primarily by your questions and by your curiosity.

Class Times: MW 12-1:15 PM Eastern Time
Classroom: Bloomberg 274 (on the campus map)

Prof. Tyrel M. McQueen
Zoom Office: Login to view details.
Office: New Chemistry Building #312 and Bloomberg #301
Office Hours: By appointment or just stopping by ("open door policy")


This course is graded S/U, but note that to get an S you must complete all assigned work and participate in all class meetings.


Most weeks I will be eating lunch on Friday in one of the campus cafeterias. I hope you will join me when interested and able.


We will meet individually several times during the semester to get to know each other and provide individual feedback. Sign up for one slot in each colored region at


"None" (but the supplementary resources will be of value)

Tentative Schedule (can and will change!)
Week 1: Big Picture, Frozen [Frozen, 1-on-1s (6 of 12)]
Week 2: Star Trek: 3 Vignettes [Star Trek, 1-on-1s (6 of 12)]
Week 3: Jules Verne to Mythical Materials (Adamantine, Mithril) [Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Lord of the Rings, 1-on-1s (2 of 12)]
Week 4: Adamantium, Newmatter, Vibranium [1-on-1s (2 of 12), X-Men: Origins]
Week 5: Cloaking and the Technologies of Wakanda [FYS-wide Black Panther Screening]
Week 6: Wormholes and More [Interstellar, FYS-wide Adam Riess & Andrew Motion Event, 1-on-1s (2 of 12)]
Week 7: Real or Virtual? [Ready Player One, 1-on-1s (2 of 12)]
Week 8: From Time to the Mind [The Mote in Gods Eye, Synchronic, 1-on-1s (2 of 12)]
Week 9: From the Mind to Genetics [Ben Ten, 1-on-1s (2 of 12)]
Week 10: Man-Machine Hybrids [Iron Man, Ghost in the Shell]
Week 11: Rise of the Machines, Image, Enhance: Making Up Pixels [Bladerunner, Asimov(?), 1-on-1s (3 of 12)]
Week 12: Prof. Ralph Etienne-Cummings on Computer Vision, Laboratory Tour [TBD, 1-on-1s (3 of 12)]
Week 13: Star Wars Universe: Light Sabers, Beskar, and More [Star Wars, 1-on-1s (3 of 12)]
Week 14: Climate Control, 3D Printing [Hunger Games 2 (book), Designing Reality, 1-on-1s (3 of 12]
Reading Week One-on-Ones (12 of 12)


These will be posted as mentioned in the class.

Lecture Notes

The nature of this course is such that there are no lecture notes. Please come and attend to get the full experience!

Late Adds

Joining the course late is generally accommodateable. Reach out if this applies to you!