CS371: Cognitive Science, Bryn Mawr College

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Douglas Blank, Associate Professor
Bryn Mawr College
Department of Computer Science
Fall 2010


Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of intelligence in mechanical and organic systems. In this introductory course, we examine many topics from computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, mathematics, philosophy and psychology. Can a computer be intelligent? How do neurons give rise to thinking? What is consciousness? These are some of the questions we will examine. No prior knowledge or experience with any of the subfields is assumed or necessary. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

General Information

Course URL: cs.brynmawr.edu/Courses/cs206/fall2010
Instructor: Douglas Blank, 248 Park Science Building, 526-6501
Email: dblank (at) cs (dot) brynmawr (dot) edu
Web: cs.brynmawr.edu/~dblank
Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 1-2pm and by appointment
Course Meetings: Monday and Wednesday, 10:00-11:30am
Lab: Park Science Building, room 337
Lab Assistants: TBA


Mindware: an introduction to the philosophy of cognitive science by Andy Clark, ISBN 978-0-19-513857-3. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science edited by Robert J. Stainton. ISBN 978-1-4051-1305-2. Blackwell Publishing, 2006.


We will be using Python, version 3, for this course. In addition, we will use some custom Python modules that will be available here for downloading.

  1. chess.py - a general chess playing engine

Schedule (approximate, schedule may change)

1 Mon 08/30/2010, Wed 09/01/2008Introduction Read the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Mindware.
2 Mon 09/06/2010, Wed 09/08/2008Meat Machines No classes on Monday, Labor Day. Read Chapter 2 of Mindware.
3 Mon 09/13/2010, Wed 09/15/2008Symbols Read Chapter 4 of Mindware.
4 Mon 09/20/2010, Wed 09/22/2008Connectionism NetTalk, Read Pyro Module on Neural Networks. Lab #1
5 Mon 09/27/2010, Wed 09/29/2008Robots and ALife Lab #2, nnga.py
6 Mon 10/04/2010, Wed 10/06/2008Review Exam
7 Mon 10/11/2010, Wed 10/13/2008Fall Break! No classes
8 Mon 10/18/2010, Wed 10/20/2008Exam and Conclusion of Mindware Chapters 8 and 9
9 Mon 10/25/2010, Wed 10/27/2008Modular Minds? on Wednesday

Animal Behavior:

  1. Ant Cities
  2. Clever birds!
  3. Caledonia Crows
  4. Alex the Parrot
  5. Turtles
  6. Hero Dog
  7. Dogs on the Subway (1)
  8. Dogs on the Subway (2)
  9. Dogs on the Subway (3)
  10. Snow Monkeys
  11. Dolphins!
10 Mon 11/01/2010, Wed 11/03/2008Analogies Read A self-watching model of analogy-making and perception. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 18(3), pp. 267-307. Lab #3
11 Mon 11/08/2010, Wed 11/10/2008Project Proposals Proposals due
12 Mon 11/15/2010, Wed 11/17/2008Developmental Robotics Bringing up Robot: The Quest to Grow an Artificial Mind, Work on project
13 Mon 11/22/2010, Wed 11/24/2008Can a computer do something that it wasn't programmed to do? Bringing up robot: Fundamental mechanisms for creating a self-motivated, self-organizing architecture,
Generalizing generalization = Analogy.
EI, EI, Oh!, Thanksgiving begins after class on Wed!
14 Mon 11/29/2010, Wed 12/01/2008Review and Presentations Presentations
15 Mon 12/06/2010, Wed 12/08/2008Presentations Presentations, with write-up due at end of exam time.

Other dates of interest in Fall 2010:

Monday, August 30 Classes begin at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore
Thursday/Friday, September 2- 3 Confirmation of Registration for new students
Monday, September 6 Labor Day (no classes at Bryn Mawr or Haverford)
Tuesday/Wednesday, September 7 and 8 Confirmation of Registration for returning students
Friday, October 8 Last day to declare a class Credit/No Credit; Fall break begins after last class
Monday, October 18 Classes resume
Friday, October 22 Last Day of 1st Qtr. Classes: all work due
Monday, October 25 2nd Qtr. Classes begin
Monday, November 1-12 Preregistration for Spring 2011
Fri-Sun, November 5-7 Parents’ Weekend
Wednesday, November 24 Thanksgiving begins after last class
Monday, November 29 Classes resume
Thursday, December 9 Last Day of Classes: all written work due
Friday/Saturday, December 10-11 Review Period
Sun-Fri, December 12-17 Examination Period
Saturday, December 18 Winter Break begins (dorms close at 10:00 a.m.)


Final grades will be calculated as a weighted average of all grades according to the following weights:

Written work: 25%
Midterm Exam: 20%
Final Exam: 20%
Class participation: 25%
Project: 10%

dblank (at) cs (dot) brynmawr (dot) edu