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Princeton University Press
Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know

Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know

by Richard A. Muller
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Physics and Technology for Future Presidents contains the essential physics that students need in order to understand today's core science and technology issues, and to become the next generation of world leaders. From the physics of energy to climate change, and from spy technology to quantum computers, this is the only textbook to focus on the modern physics affecting the decisions of political leaders and CEOs and, consequently, the lives of every citizen. How practical are alternative energy sources? Can satellites really read license plates from space? What is the quantum physics behind iPods and supermarket scanners? And how much should we fear a terrorist nuke? This lively book empowers students possessing any level of scientific background with the tools they need to make informed decisions and to argue their views persuasively with anyone—expert or otherwise.

Based on Richard Muller's renowned course at Berkeley, the book explores critical physics topics: energy and power, atoms and heat, gravity and space, nuclei and radioactivity, chain reactions and atomic bombs, electricity and magnetism, waves, light, invisible light, climate change, quantum physics, and relativity. Muller engages readers through many intriguing examples, helpful facts to remember, a fun-to-read text, and an emphasis on real-world problems rather than mathematical computation. He includes chapter summaries, essay and discussion questions, Internet research topics, and handy tips for instructors to make the classroom experience more rewarding.

Accessible and entertaining, Physics and Technology for Future Presidents gives students the scientific fluency they need to become well-rounded leaders in a world driven by science and technology.

A restricted instructor's manual is available to teachers. Contact the publisher for more information.

Leading universities that have adopted this book include:

  • Harvard
  • Purdue
  • Rice University
  • University of Chicago
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Notre Dame
  • Wellesley
  • Wesleyan
  • University of Colorado
  • Northwestern
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
  • Fordham
  • University of Miami
  • George Washington University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691135045
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 05/02/2010
Pages: 536
Sales rank: 1,067,861
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Richard A. Muller is professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a past winner of the MacArthur Fellowship. He is the author of Nemesis (Weidenfeld & Nicholson) and Physics for Future Presidents (Norton).

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Physics Is the Liberal Arts of High- Tech ix

An Ideal Student x

Physics for the Future Leader xi

CHAPTER 1: Energy and Power and the Physics of Explosions 1

Explosions and Energy 2

Power 19

CHAPTER Review 31

CHAPTER 2: Atoms and Heat 38

Quandaries 38

Atoms and Molecules and the Meaning of Heat 39

Temperature 43

Chapter Review 65

CHAPTER 3: Gravity, Force, and Space 72

Gravity Surprises 72

The Force of Gravity 73

Push Accelerates—Newton's Third Law 75

Orbiting the Earth, and Weightlessness 75

Escape to Infi nity 81

Air Resistance and Fuel Efficiency 83

Momentum 89

Rockets 92

Airplanes, Helicopters, and Fans 95

Convection—Thunderstorms and Heaters 98

Angular Momentum and Torque 99

Chapter Review 101

CHAPTER 4: Nuclei and Radioactivity 108

Radioactivity 108

Fission 138

Fusion 138

Back to the Beginning 143

Chapter Review 143

CHAPTER 5: Chain Reactions, Nuclear Reactors, and Atomic Bombs 152

A Multitude of Chain Reactions 152

Nuclear Weapons Basics 165

Nuclear Reactors 176

Nuclear Waste 182

Chapter Review 193

CHAPTER 6: Electricity and Magnetism 201

Electricity Is . . . 201

Magnetism Is . . . 201

Electricity 202

Electric Power 209

Magnets 212

Electric and Magnetic Fields 216

Electromagnets 217

Electric Motors 221

Electric Generators 221

Transformers 225

Magnetic Levitation 226

Rail Guns 227

AC versus DC 228

Chapter Review 231

CHAPTER 7: Waves Including UFOs, Earthquakes, and Music 239

Two Strange but True Stories 239

Waves 241

Chapter Review 272

CHAPTER 8: Light 282

High- Tech Light 282

What Is Light? 283

Color 286

Images 292

Mirrors 295

Slow Light 299

Lenses 305

Eyes 306

Telescopes and Microscopes 309

Spreading Light— Diffraction 310

Holograms 311

Polarization 312

Chapter Review 316

CHAPTER 9: Invisible Light 324

An Opening Anecdote: Watching Illegal Immigrants Cross the Border in Darkness 324

Infrared Radiation 326

UV—"Black Light" 336

The Ozone Layer 338

Electromagnetic Radiation—an Overview 341

Medical Imaging 346

Ultrasound—Sonar (Bats and Submarines) 351

Chapter Review 353

CHAPTER 10: Climate Change 363

Global Warming 363

Solutions 390

Chapter Review 397

CHAPTER 11: Quantum Physics 404

Electron Waves 405

Laser—a Quantum Chain Reaction 409

The Photoelectric Effect 416

Quantum Physics of Gamma Rays and X-Rays 419

Semiconductor Transistors 420

Diode Transistors 421

Transistors 423

Superconductors 425

Electron Microscope 426

Deeper Aspects of Quantum Physics 427

Tunneling 433

Quantum Computers 435

Chapter Review 436

CHAPTER 12: Relativity 443

A Dialogue 443

Events—and the "Fourth Dimension" 444

Time Dilation 445

Lorentz Contraction 448

Relative Velocities 448

Energy and Mass 450

General Relativity— a Theory of Gravity 458

Questions about Time 459

Chapter Review 460

CHAPTER 13: The Universe 467

Puzzles 467

The Solar System 467

Galaxies 469

Looking Back in Time 474

Expansion of the Universe 474

Dark Energy 476

The Beginning 476

Theory of Everything 481

Chapter Review 482

Epilogue (a poem) 489

Index 493

What People are Saying About This

David Goodstein

Richard Muller has written an amazing and very entertaining book, not only for future presidents but for just about everyone else. It's written in a nonmathematical style, but includes tidbits that will amaze even working physicists. This is a great book that should be read by everyone.
David Goodstein, California Institute of Technology

Vadim Kaplunovsky

Physics and Technology for Future Presidents provides a new answer to an old problem: how to teach physics to nontechnical students. Richard Muller does not 'dumb down' the technical aspects of physics; he skips them altogether and focuses on physics results rather than methods. Fun to read and accessible to general readers, this book presents a lot of interesting physics facts.
Vadim Kaplunovsky, University of Texas, Austin

Frank Wilczek

Modern science and technology have the power to shape the world we live in, for good or for evil. Muller, himself a brilliant, creative scientist, has distilled the most important scientific principles that define our choices, and has presented them clearly and objectively. To make wise decisions, not only future presidents, but future business and community leaders, and thoughtful citizens generally, need the information in this book.
Frank Wilczek, Nobel Prize--winning physicist

A. Zee

Anyone who aspires to be president (of any enlightened organization)--or for that matter, anyone who would like to be led by an informed president--should read this book. Extraterrestrials would surely be amazed that the citizens of the most powerful country on earth routinely elect presidents who proudly profess to know nothing about science and technology. We can only dream that one day presidential debates will include a quiz based on this book.
A. Zee, author of "Fearful Symmetry"

From the Publisher

"Clear, inviting, and humorous, this is the first nonquantitative book I've seen that covers all the topics of physics. The introduction of current social and political issues is excellent. Students will want to read this book from cover to cover. It could increase scientific literacy significantly."—Mark Oreglia, University of Chicago

Mark Oreglia

Clear, inviting, and humorous, this is the first nonquantitative book I've seen that covers all the topics of physics. The introduction of current social and political issues is excellent. Students will want to read this book from cover to cover. It could increase scientific literacy significantly.
Mark Oreglia, University of Chicago

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