Physics

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines

The Presidential campaign to this point has been waged so devoid of issues that one might think that there is nothing to discuss other than lipstick and the number of houses the candidates own. Beyond such trivialities as foreign policy, health care, immigration and the war(s), there a few minor issues that have something to do with science.

Home Photovoltaic Systems for Physicists

The July 2008 isue of Physics Today has a special focus: "Energy Today and Tomorrow". It features three articles of interest to chemists and physicists, "Grand Challenges in Basic Energy Sciences" by Graham R. Fleming and Mark A. Ratner, "Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment" by Leon Glicksman, and this one by Thomas Murphy Jr.

The Sky is Falling

How likely is it that an asteroid or a comet of significant size will impact the earth, and what would be the consequences? It is now widely accepted that the dinosaurs were wiped out by such an event, and recent research suggests that previous estimates of the number of asteroid impacts may have been much too low.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments

Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.

The Copernican Myths

When asked by one of our students about the significance of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his revolutionary (pun intended) theory of the solar system, most of us would recite the folkloric tale. A brilliant astronomer, dissatisfied with the inaccuracies of Ptolemy, devised a completely new model for the solar system.

Four Laws That Drive the Universe

This little book is a gem. I have to admit that most of the students who have completed my first physical chemistry semester, which is all about thermodynamics, would benefit from reading this wonderful explanation of the central place that these topics play in every aspect of life.

Einstein: His Life and Universe

What were personal qualities of the greatest scientist of the twentieth century that differentiated him from his contemporaries? I have read a lot of books about Albert Einstein, who was one of my childhood heroes (along with the Lone Ranger).

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

I am old enough to remember the 1954 hearings in the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, but I was too young to understand that there was more to this story about a supposed Communist in the nuclear weapons program than was being reported in the Los Angeles newspapers of the time.