Skip to main content

A DIALOGUE BETWEEN PHYSICISTS AND POETS

Michael Gold, mgold@unm.edu

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

The traditional "physics for poets" course is aimed at teaching students the introductory college physics curriculum but at a simplified level with the aim of teaching students to do simple physics problems. The aim of this course is quite different. Here we focus on key concepts in physics (e.g. relativity, chaos, uncertainty) that have found there way into our literature (poems, stories, plays, novels) and the broader culture (e.g. visual art). These ideas also have major implications for our society that have been explored in particulare in literature.
The course consists of guided discussion on major ideas physics at a conceptua level, and discussion of these ideas as elucidated in the reading assignments. We focus on ideas that have resonated broadly in our culture as reflected in literature. The concepts will be introduced through readings from two of the greatest teachers of physics to general audiences: Gamov and Feynman. These concepts are paired with literature that explore the implications for culture and society. The overall theme will be the relation between physics and culture and the responsibility of physicists to society.
Topics: gravity, relativity, thermodynamics, chaos, quantum mechanics, cosmology
Readings and Texts: see Syllabus
Requirements: three papers, final presentation.
Grading: participation in class discussions, tests, final paper and presentation.

READINGS AND TEXTS

'Ode to Newton', Edmund Halley (poem)
Gravity, Gamov
Six Easy Pieces, Feynman (ch 1-5)
Galileo, Brecht (play)
Mr. Tompkins in Paperback, Gamov (short stories)
Cosmicomcs, Calvino (short stories)
The Crying of Lot 49, Pynchon (novel)
Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (play)
Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory, Gamov
Six Easy Pieces, Feynman (ch 6)
QED, Peter Parnell (Play)
Copenhagen, Frayn (Play)
trouble-with-quantum-mechanics, Weinberg (essay)
Cats Cradle, Vonnegut (novel)

 

FILMS AND OTHER COURSE MATERIALS

Several documentaries, where Holocaust survivors tell their stories.

 

COURSE FEE (if applicable) & BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HOW FEES WILL BE USED

none

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

three papers, final presentation.

 

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Professor of Physics
Department of Physics and Astronomy Albuquerque, NM 87131
Email: mgold@unm.edu
Professional Preparation
1986 Ph.D. Physics, University of California, Berkeley 1979 B.A. Physics, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
Magna Cum Laude with High Honors in Physics,
The Bertman Prize for Physics, Phi Beta Kappa Appointments
2004–Present 1997–2004 1991–1997 1987–1991
Professor, University of New Mexico
Associate Professor, University of New Mexico Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico, Research Associate, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
Michael S. Gold
Research Interests
High-energy particle physics; Dark matter searches; Neutrino physics; Particle-physics instrumen- tation; Liquid argon detectors; tracking; advanced data analysis techniques