The primary aim of the course is to educate the future decision makers of tomorrow on critical issues facing the society. We will deal with technical aspects, as well as, sociological aspects of the problems. The central issue will be the energy problem.

Only algebra-level math knowledge is required for the course.

The course starts with the concept of work, energy and power as defined in Physics. Then we move to the development of energy use during various levels of development of human society from the primitives to the industrial and post-industrial society.

We examine the origin and use of fossil fuels in our society. We perform intelligent estimates of the amount of oil and coal reserves remaining on the earth and how long they can supply our needs at the present rate of consumption.

We examine the workings of heat engines from the thermo dynamical point of view and learn how to estimate their ideal efficiency. There will be a discussion of the waste heat problem during the generation of electricity and; the reverse operation of heat engines as heat pumps or refrigerators.

We will examine the energy worth of human labor in terms of fossil fuels and how these values relate to the abolishment of slavery after the industrial revolution.

We will discuss nuclear energy, including the structure of atoms and nuclei, as well as, the forces of nature that hold them together and the stability of nuclei. Additional topics include: nuclear nomenclature; the reasons for the shape of the binding energy per nuclei curve; and how we can make use of this curve to obtain energy via fusion or fission. How the sun and the stars make use of it in generating energy.

Basics of the operation of a nuclear power reactor and the present day status of nuclear energy plants and the  future of  fusion reactor; we supplement the class-work with visits to the UW experimental reactor and the Madison Symmetric Torus (MST) where fusion research is being carried out.

Biological effects of ionizing radiation will be discussed to appreciate the safety aspects of Nuclear Energy,these will be compared to the harmful effects of coal powered plants.

Alternative renewable sources of energy such as hydroelectric, wind and solar energy will be covered. The coverage of solar energy will include solar passive heating.

Pollution of the atmosphere via carbonmonoxide, oxides of nitrogen and aerosols will be covered including a lecture on the ozone hole problem.

Photosynthesis and food production problem will be covered and examined in terms of the world hunger problem;  there will be class discussions on the problem of urban-sprawl and genetic engineered food under this issue.

We examine the origin and the amount of oil and coal reserves remaining on the earth and how long they can supply our needs at the present rate of consumption.

The detailed Syllabus will be distributed at the first class.

The course grade will be based on:

1) Term-Paper

2) Hour-Exams

3) Weekly problem sets.

Syllabus for Fall 2005

Course Library Reserves

Check the Physics Library Course Reserve Web page for additional information on Physics 115.

Last update of this page May 7, 2002