Physics Behind the Headlines
This course is an introduction for non-science majors to select topics in the modern physics of quantum mechanics and relativity with the goal of understanding recent technological advances, scientific breakthroughs and social events related to science as they appear in the news. These range from the discovery of the Higgs boson and dark energy to developments in lasers or superconductors. Social events in the news where science played a large role such as the Roswell “UFO” event in 1947 or the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011 will also be discussed. Students will learn about the scientific method and scientific reporting; the conceptual aspects of the structure of matter from atoms to quarks, waves, energy and light; quantum mechanics and its applications to high tech such as computers and lasers; relativity E=mc2, nuclear forces, gravity and the Big-Bang theory. Particular emphasis will be put on learning the scientific standards for a hypothesis to be truly established as a working theory and how the simple laws of physics apply broadly to many different systems. This class will emphasize conceptual aspects and there is no mathematics prerequisite. This course is for non-science majors.