Course Web Site and Preliminary Syllabus

Energy in Physics and Society

Core Science 221, Section 1, module 2, 3 cr: University of Idaho: 2009 Fall

Don't Panic

The course motto: very reassuring I think.


  1. Instructor Information and Preliminary Schedule
  2. Syllabus Items
  3. Tentative Schedule
  4. Links, Resources, and References for Energy and Society
  5. University Sites of Relevance

Warning: This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class as well as made on this page.

M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and Moon

  1. Syllabus Items
    1. Jump in with QUESTIONS at any time, of course.

    2. Course Web Site: The course web site URL is

      which is the page you are maybe viewing right now. This page is the preliminary syllabus and includes Syllabus Items and Tentative Schedule.

      This page is/will be/may be linked from the official physics department course web page.

    3. Place and Time:

      1. Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) 223, TR 9:30--10:45 (Core Science schedule)

    4. Tutoring Help Available: This is in EP 309 according to the TA Office Hours. For this course, you may not have much need---but maybe.

    5. Prerequisites: As specified in the online core science description if it existed. If you are here, somebody let you in.

    6. Breaks: There may be 5-minute breaks at the 45 minute mark or so depending on how things go.

    7. Textbook: No textbook.

      For this course, online lectures constitute all the readings: see Tentative Schedule below.

    8. Nature of the Course:

      The title of this course is Energy in Physics and Society.

      It is a core discovery course of the Core Curriculum with online official description.

      The course proposal (slightly edited) gave the following description:

        Energy is a scientific concept of central importance. Energy is also important in modern society and the world is facing an energy problem. This coursee will discuss energy from the perspective of physics and will also consider the role of energy in society.

      The course is a bit of hybrid with the DOUBLE FOCUS of energy in physics and energy in society: the two foci are obviously related, but each one extends off into realms that relate to each other only in certain senses.

      The choice of topics is still evolving.

      But one must point out there is lots of relevance:

      There is some math in this course and I will be teaching some of the necessary tricks.

      How much math is not yet fully determined.

      Alien consigning math to the flames Not quite.

    9. Wikipedia and the Course:

      Now we've all heard horror stories about professors who just lecture from Wikipedia.

        Caption: "Film poster for the 1932 film TheMummy."

        Credit: ``Employee(s) of Universal Pictures, attributed to Karoly Grosz.''

        Image linked to Wikipedia.

        Public domain at least in USA.

      Well be prepared to be horrified---a bit anyway.

      I can duke it out with one or two Wikipedia contributors, but Wikipedia is a legion and I just can't beat it for material and figures.

      Resistance is futile (as the the Borg used to say): usually high-grade information just a keyword and a mouse click away.

      If you try comparing Wikipedia articles on energy resource matters and the online resources of the Department of Energy (DOE) or their subsidiary the Energy Information Administration, there is a whole mindset of difference.

      Wikipedia gives high-grade summary information.

      DOE may give such information, but it is well hidden.

      Mostly, it seems at DOE, one finds very detailed information that is useless to the average person and likely of very ephemeral value even to experts in those details: e.g.,

      But, of course, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia:

      1. It is not a final source.
      2. Some articles may be mediocre or poor or wrong.
      3. Even good articles may have errors.
      4. Articles can be defaced by jokers who insert junk of one kind or another. Overwhelmingly most Wikipedia contributors are responsible people---who have way too much time on their hands---but there are few bad apples. It seems the junk gets erased quickly. Probably the person who really wrote the article rides herd on it.
      5. Then there is the tendency to lose focus and meander. For example, did you know that ...

    10. Notes: I hope to obviate the need for students to take any detailed notes.

      I usually won't allow time for that.

      The module lectures are online on Tentative Schedule below.

      Students are usually expected to download the lectures before class.

        The students can write supplementary notes on the printed lectures if needed.

        Things are different in other parts of the world.

      But wait till the instructor says the lectures are ready.

      Some don't exist yet and all of them are subject to updating.

        Updating is a neverending process.

      Occasionally detailed notes might be needed if the lectures arn't ready---but I don't think that will happen anymore.

      The online materials (mine or Wikipedia) are a lecturing tool.

      Students will have to get used to not reading most of the on-screen words.

      For the lectures to be complete, there are more words than you can read---and so don't read them all or be mesmerized by them---resist, RESIST.

      Alien mesmerized by words Alien mesmerized by words.

      We will focus on keywords and images when using the BIG SCREEN.

    11. Attendance: Attendance is taken in this course via a short daily quiz.

      Attendance counts for 5 % of the module grade.

      But there probably won't be quizzes everyday.

    12. Quizzes: The nearly daily quiz may be given at the start, before the break, or at the end of the period.

      The quizzes are intended to be easy.

      The quizzes count for 5 % of the module grade.

    13. Homeworks: There will be homeworks: with each lecture topic.

      They are/will be posted along with their due dates online on the Tentative Schedule below.

      The due dates are subject to adjustment during the semester. Such adjustments will be announced in class as well as on the Tentative Schedule.

      All multiple-choise questions will be marked, but any full-answer questions may or may not be. There probably won't any full-answer questions.

      The solutions will be posted on the Tentative Schedule eventually after the due date.

      Homeworks will count 30 % or more or less of the module grade.

      All homeworks count the same no matter what they are marked out of.

      Handed in homeworks should be stapled at an upper corner if they have more than one page.

      Since I will be using a lot of multiple-choice questions which may reduce all/some homeworks to hand-ins of an answer table.

      SUPERSECRET username and password are needed to access the homeworks and solutions.

      The instuctor will provide those right now.

    14. Book Review Essay: For the essay, the student will review some NON-FICTION BOOK dealing with ENERGY and SOCIETY.

      It must be a book, not an article.

      But don't buy a book. The UI Library is full of suitable books.

        Library of Alexandria

        Caption: Artist's conception of the Library of Alexandria.

        Just what it's like in the UI Library---we're a little behind the times.

        Credit: Unidentified artist.

        Image linked to Wikipedia.

        Public domain at least in USA.

      The book topic is very open.

      The book could be on a grand theme (e.g., the whole energy future) or a modest one (e.g., installing solar panels on a roof).

      The instructor would like to see a diversity of book topics.

      The student does NOT have to read the whole book, but must read its introduction and conclusion and look at any other parts the student judges to be important.

      The essay is meant to be a review, NOT a summary.

      A review should answer certain questions:

      1. What's the book about?

        But remember any summary of the contents of the book should be comparatively brief and it is best to integrate summary points smoothly into the main argument of the essay.

      2. Is the book readable and organized? Are the tables and figures useful? Short quotes of important statements can enliven the review and emphasize the author's style.

      3. Is the book authoritative? Is it trustworthy? Are the blurbs justified? Is it a high-grade source?

        To some degree this can be judged by internal criteria: does the author present evidence and give arguments? Obviously, a popular book can't give detailed evidence or arguments, but one can at least ask oneself do the arguments and evidence presented really support the conclusions at all and are they proportionate to the conclusions---as Carl Sagan used to say ``Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.''

        And what's left out? Authors can just neglect to mention contrary evidence and arguments.

        There are also external sources to judge the authority of a book by: other reviews in magazines or at Amazon books, Wikipedia, other books, the reviewer's own expertise.

        The reviewer must try to consult some outside source.

        The student should also consider the reputation and standing of the author and publisher.

        For example, a book published by Cambridge University Press, may not be more authoritative than one published by a small, unknown publishing house, but it's not likely to be junk.

        What's the book's year of publication? Books on issues of energy and society date very quickly. An excellent book from 1970 on solar power will tell you some useful things, but it's not a high-grade source anymore---authoritativeness of some kinds of books inevitably declines with time.

        The student should try to be authoritative too---what you've decided, why you've decided it.

        The point of this exercise is to learn something from the book and to develop critical judgment about sources.

        In the modern age, we are inundated with sources of information. Some are very bad, some are outstanding. But most fall in between in the so-so category. Frankly, time is limited and on any issue an ideal is to zoom in immediately on the authoritative sources at the level you are prepared to deal with.

      4. Authors have values. Nothing wrong with that, but those values are factors in the conclusions. Just to give an extreme example: the author may be against all government on principle---that view is likely to influence their conclusions.

        Try to identify the author's philosophy.

          Draft of the declaration of independence

          Caption: "English: John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda."

          Credit: John Trumbull (1756--1843).

          Image linked to Wikipedia.

          Public domain at least in USA.

      5. What's the bottom line?

        Most authors of popular books on energy and society have some vision for the future, some program they support.

        What is it?

      The essay should be NO longer than 2 pages with single spacing and 12-point font---note 2 pages, not 2 sheets.

      The essay could be shorter than 2 pages, but the essay needs some room to develop its theme and a level of authoritativeness.

        A few pedestrian sentences is NOT enough.

      The approximate marking scheme for the essay will be:

        1. summary of book content: 3
        2. judgment of authoritativeness based on internal and external evidence: 3
        3. discussion of bottom line of book which could also be called the author's vision of what is to be done: 3
        4. style which includes grammar, punctuation, cogency of writing: 3

          Total marks possible: 12

      For models for the essay, the students could read the book reviews in, e.g., Nature or Science.

      The essay must be the student's own work aside from short quotes.

      As is always implicitly the case, your name on the work is your word of honor that it is your own work.

      BUT on the other hand this course is supposed to have a collaborative and participation component which is a real challenge with up to 40 students and an auditorium classroom.

      So the class will divide into discussion groups of 2 to 4 person---you can choose your friends.

      The groups can discuss the topics of the essay (or anything else) in the course.

      The members of the group will read the other members essays before hand-in and give the author feedback: suggest minor corrections and/or constructive criticism.

      This is entirely the group's own affair.

      I will ask for the names of the group members on the quiz on the second day of the course---it's a marked question.

      The essay in HARDCOPY is due a week after the Energy and Physics Module ends: i.e., it's due on 2009 November 6 Friday 5:00 pm.

      I will accept late essays, but there will be a penalty.

    15. Exams: There will be an in-class exam on the last day of course module.

            Exam        Date     Solutions (posted post-exam)
            Exam 1      Oct29 R  Module 2 Exam  solutions
      About 50 % to 70 % or more of the exam questions on the exam will be drawn from the homeworks.

      The questions might be tweeked a bit.

      The in-class exam may (or may not) consist of all multiple-choice questions. NO scantrons are needed.

      Cell phones MUST be turned off and be out of sight.

      Make-up exams are possible, but students must ask for them promptly and avoid knowing anything about given exams.

      There is no final exam as should be indicated---but apparently is not---on the online overall course syllabus.

    16. Evaluation and Grading: The 5 grading categories for this module, their weightings, and their drops are:
            attendance                  5 %                     1 drop
            quizzes                     5 %                     1 drop
            homeworks                  30 % or more or less     no drop
            essay                      15 % or more or less     no drop
            in-class exam              45 % or more or less     no drop
      If a student has some special problem like illness, then there will be some accommodation.

      There are absolutely NO extra credits.

      The module instructors will each assign GPA-like grades to a student and take the average to determine the final letter grade for the course.

      This module instructor will assign the GPA-like grade following the UI catalog---which allow instructors some freedom of interpretation.

      The instructor uses a curve to automatically assign letter grades during the semester---if there are enough students to make a curve meaningful---if there arn't the instructor just decides on letter grades. There is NO fixed scale.

      The curve average is set to a GPA of about 2.7.

      Remember you can be curved down as well as up.

      The final module grades are decided on by the module instructor directly---the curve is NOT used, except as a guide.

      Students can always ask the module instructor for their current mark record and letter grades in the module. Queries by email are probably best for this.

      The instructor of record will submit midterm grades and final grades as scheduled in the academic calendar.

      Remember that after an instructor has submitted FINAL GRADES, any adjustments (except for purely clerical errors) are NOT allowed by university policy.

        See Policy on Grades from the UI Catalog. Note that E-6 states that grade changes after instructor submission are only allowed for clerical corrections, not for reweighting or additional work. There is another avenue for grade emendation: the Academic Hearing Board (1640.02 C-4) can have a say on grades---but it's not very promising.

      Students should make any queries about their final grades before the instructor of record submits them.

      The instructor of record for the course is Prof. David McIlroy who teaches the 1st module.

      Aliens and Grades Beware of aliens bearing grades.

  2. Tentative Schedule
  3. No dated schedule has ever been adhered to by the instructor.

    So there are no dates in this tentative schedule for the course module.

    We have 5 weeks and 10 lecture periods.

    The numbered lectures below correspond to topics, not lecture periods.

    1. Lecture 1: The Concept of Energy in Physics: An introduction to the concept of energy in physics. This is sort of the philosophical-poetical-tragical-historical-comical-pastoral lecture.

    2. Lecture 2: Kinetic Energy and Potential Energy.

      This lecture is omitted.

      But there is a homework nonetheless.

    3. Lecture 3: Scientific Notation, Energy and Power Units, Some Energy and Power Examples, The R/P Ratio

    4. Lecture 4: Thermodynamics

    5. Lecture 5: Heat Engines, Refrigerators, and the Carnot Cycle

      This lecture is omitted.

    6. Lecture 6: World Energy Resources and Consumption

    7. Module Exam on 2009oct29, Thursday.

      Under Construction Below

    8. Lecture 6: Oil: The Long Goodbye

    9. Lecture 7: World Energy Resources and Consumption I will lecture Wikipedia's World Energy Resources and Consumption---resistance is futile (as the the Borg used to say).

    10. Lecture 8: Solar Power: The Long Afternoon on History?

    11. Module 2 with Prof. Berven starts on 2007sep27, Thursday. Consult the Course web site for further details.

    12. Lecture 10: Fluids Bloomfield 138--164.

    13. Lecture 11: Oscillation, Resonance, Waves Bloomfield 263--301.

    14. Topic 6: Bloomfield, Chapter 10: Electricity: We will probably only due a subset of this chapter.

    15. Topic 7: Bloomfield, Chapter 11: Electromagnetism and Electrodynamics: We will probably only due a subset of this chapter. The key points are to consider electrical energy generation and electrical motors.

    16. Topic 8: Oil and the future. A short topic.

    17. Topic 9: Old King Coal. A short topic.

    18. Topic 10: Wind Power A short topic.

    19. Topic 11: Solar Power A short topic.

    20. Topic 12: Nuclear energy: fission. A short topic.

    21. Topic 13: Nuclear energy: fusion. A short topic.

    22. Topic 14: Energy and climate change. A short topic. We might not get to this and, in any case, you've probably heard a lot already.

  4. Links, Resources, and References for Energy and Society
    1. Articles on the 3 E's: Economy, Energy, Environment They are listed in reverse time order.

    2. Charles A. S. Hall (circa 1945--) An exponent of biophysical economics (AKA thermoeconomics. He's the opponent of mainstream economics---in his view, a failing paradigm.

      1. Charles A. S. Hall's biophysical economics course materials Seems to be an intro course appropriate for non-science students.
      2. Charles Hall - Energy Returns A video.
      3. Charles A. S. Hall's Global Environment and Evolution of Human Culture video lectures You need iTunes.
      4. Charles A. S. Hall's own site
      5. Next Generation Energy Initiative by Charles A. S. Hall et al. Courseware for teaching about biophysical economics, etc.

    3. IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change These are the boys and girls in charge of giving consensus reports on climate change and especially how humankind is affecting it.

    4. James Gustave An energy guru.

    5. Thomas Friedman Not an energy guru usually. But today, everybody's an energy guru.

    6. Vaclav Smil An energy guru. He is a Canadian of Czech origin---how more authoritative can you be.

    7. Wikipedia articles on Energy and Related Themes. (A few non-Wik articles have crept in---but I won't let that happen again.) Since they are Wik articles, they may be relatively current. Note that these articles often have references to more detailed/better sources.

      1. Biochar Black earth, good earth?
      2. Biofuel Fuel or food?
      3. Carbon dioxide in the Earth's Atmosphere It's really good---but just the right amount.
      4. Climate Stablization Pierre Friedlingstein, 2008, Nature, 451, 297. A nifty little article.
      5. Coal Old King Coal.
      6. Dubai Rolling in it---but not so much from petroleum and natural gas it turns out surprisingly.
      7. Energy
      8. Energy Security What price?
      9. Energy Storage
      10. Energy Units
      11. Fort McMurray, Alberta Energy boomtown.
      12. Fuel Cells Will we drive them?
      13. Gas Turbine Used in jet engines and increasingly for electricity generation. How important for energy generation will they get?
      14. Geothermal Power
      15. Hydrogen Economy
      16. Hydropower
      17. Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) The ICE is king---but are its days numbered?
      18. Malthus, Thomas (1766--1834) The author of An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798, and later revised editions).
      19. Natural Gas Dominant fuel of the future, but not the long future?
      20. Nuclear Power
      21. Photovoltaics
      22. Oil Reserves
      23. Oil Shale Reserves Fool's gold?
      24. Peak Oil Are we there yet? Here a subpage User:Tomruen/PeakOil on peak oil. It seems to be just an amateur effort, but the professional ones seem to avoid giving the big picture relentlessly.
      25. Peter Ward Prophet of doom: see Under a Green Sky.
      26. Petroleum
      27. Shale Oil Fuel or fantasy?
      28. Solar Power
      29. Solar Power Grand Plan Zweibel et al. 2008, Scientific American, January, p. 64. The plan is to make solar power the dominant power in the US by 2050.
      30. SuperGrid Solar and wind power are intermittent---but if you could transmit them world wind, Wind Power
      31. World energy resources and consumption