College Of Arts And Sciences | Energy Issues in Our Future
E105 | 0200 | Bacher


Topic: The Application of the Physics of Energy to our Uses of Energy and
their Environmental Consequences
11:15-12:05 MWF SW 007
As we prepare to enter the twenty-first century, it is appropriate to
examine how our energy-intensive society chooses to meet its energy needs.
We take our present level of energy use for granted and have grown
accustomed to lifestyles that depend on the availability of plentiful and
inexpensive energy sources.  Yet one dramatic view of our Planet Earth from
the space program has created a lasting visual image that the world we
inhabit is beautiful, but fragile and finite in size.  This finite size of
Planet Earth places important limits on the continued growth of our energy
use.  Public concern about environmental issues will require that these
issues be taken more seriously in developing plans for our use of energy in
the future.

The choices that we make to meet our energy needs in the future will have an
important impact on our lives during the next century.  In this course we
will consider our uses of energy and their environmental consequences from a
scientific point of view.  Physics is a major player in the energy game and
the physics of energy will provide a basis for our considerations.

We will begin with an overview of the role of energy in our lives and an
introduction to the physics principles that will guide our study of energy
issues.  Since we live in an era of fossil fuels, we will consider their use
in electric energy generation and transportation.  Environmental issues,
such as acid rain and global warming, will arise naturally as we examine the
measured effects and projected impacts of our dependence on fossil fuels as
our energy source.  Options for the future that we will consider include
nuclear energy (fission and fusion, effects of radiation, accidents, waste
storage), solar energy (space heating, electric energy generation), and
other renewable energy resources (hydro, wind and biomass).  The last part
of the course will be devoted to developing an energy plan for the future
which starts with conservation and energy-efficiency issues and concludes
with a consideration of the technological advances that might impact the
long-term future.  Since energy policy evolves in an arena where there are
many other players, we will consider the tradeoffs that occur as choices are
made.

The course will consist of lectures, interactive discussions of current
events, and use of the World Wide Web to access current information and
data.  Grading will be based on weekly exercises, a short research paper and
several exams.  While there are no formal prerequisites, the material of the
course requires a working knowledge of high school algebra and some previous
exposure to science at the high school level.