Education

Physics class targets future presidents

Thursday, August 28, 2008
Professor Richard Muller

A look inside one of the most popular classes at UC Berkeley this fall. (ABC7) (KGO Photo)

Classes for the fall semester began Thursday at UC Berkeley. One course in particular drew a packed house, with dozens more students on a waiting list to get in. It is a physics course designed for non-science majors, with a message aimed at future leaders.

Professor Richard Muller takes a hands-on approach in his course entitled "Physics for Future Presidents."

"Many issues, certainly global warming, energy independence, even nuclear proliferation, many of these issues have high-tech components to them, and if you misunderstand the high-tech components, you'll make a wrong decision," says Muller.

The idea is to present the science behind the topics that dominate current political discussion.

"I want you to understandthat there may be conspiracies with gasoline and oil, but there's a physics reason, too," Muller tells his students.

Everything from America's dependency on oil to the empirical data behind the concept of global warming.

"This is the main evidence for global warming, the temperature's been going up," he tells his class.

Muller's class is packed with 512 enrolled and 80 more on a waiting list.

"I have great students. I love my students," says Muller.

They seem to love him, too.

"He definitely keeps you captivated. I mean, it's not a boring lecture. It's not the typical kind of thing where he writes on the board and you just write down the notes. The demonstrations were really cool," said student Sarah Dever.

Besides the 500 students sitting in his lecture hall, Professor Muller reaches many more people around the country and the world because all of his lectures are available on the Internet.

He has also written a new book aimed directly at the two men now poised to become the next president.

"I know the book has gotten very close to them. Tight now they're very busy with politics. I'm hoping if they don't read it now, I hope that they will before whichever one becomes president. In any case, it will end the lecture," says Muller.

You can find Professor Muller's courses online, at no charge.

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