HONR 228Q People and Particles: Nuclear Physics and Society
Tuesday/Thursday 2:00-3:15 p.m.
Dr. Richard E. Berg, Department of Physics
This course, involving atomic and nuclear physics, is designed for students without strong backgrounds in science and math.
Over the last fifty years nuclear physics has come to play an increasingly important role in our society. Applications of nuclear physics are important in such diverse fields as medical diagnosis and treatment, food preservation, and production of electric power. The effects of nuclear radiation are relevant in understanding the possible harmful effects of smoking and radon gas.
This course has two primary goals: (1) to introduce various aspects of nuclear physics, including natural radioactivity and the nuclear decay chain, nuclear radiations and their properties, and detection of nuclear radiation, and (2) to apply these concepts to contemporary problems involving nuclear physics. Because this course is aimed at non-technical students, we will also discuss appropriate topics in mathematics, such as exponential decay and statistical analysis. A unique feature of the class is that it involves a large number of hands-on activities illustrating experimentally the concepts involved.
Work for the course will include a number of readings and class discussion thereof, hands-on experimentation during class meetings, and debates in which class members will choose sides and argue the issues involved from both a scientific and a public policy viewpoint. Grading will be based on class participation, a test, and a research paper.
Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics
Bernard L. Cohen, Before It's Too Late
Other readings to be selected for the particular topics involved.