Sophomore Seminars

Energy Options for the 21st Century

In this seminar, we will look at choices that can be envisioned for meeting the future energy needs of the United States and the rest of our planet, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. We'll explore the basic physics of energy sources, the technologies we might employ, and some of the intertwined public policy issues. The first half of our course will survey possible energy technologies and develop an appreciation of the underlying physics to provide some quantitative estimates of the tradeoffs. In the second half of the course, the seminar members (individually or in groups) will be asked to prepare a discussion and paper on a selected technology or on a related public policy choice. An inquiring mind, but no previous expertise or course prerequisites, is required. We hope that you will learn to appreciate the need to bring quantitative estimates to the policy options in order to make rational choices for a sustainable world energy economy. We will use both lecture and discussion formats. We are arranging local field trips to see some of the energy technologies and learn from local experts. This seminar is most immediately accessible for sophomores with some science background, but we are particularly interested in a balanced class with a mix of technology and public policy interests. Interested and motivated first-year students are also encouraged to sign up.

Meet the Instructor(s)

John Fox

John Fox is a senior scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a consulting professor in applied physics. His research interests center on particle-beam dynamics and high-speed signal-processing systems. His technology interests include energy and transportation technologies. He is also interested in how societal desires and value (in land use, urban design, and architecture) influence the demand for and choices of energy. He has received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching and is a fellow of the American Physical Society.