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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Roy Schwitters

Professor

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T C 357 • Physics Of National Security

42870 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 930am-1100am RLM 7.112
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This course has a writing flag.

Description:

This new Plan II junior seminar concentrates on the physical principles that underlie technical issues in national and global security.  The course is aimed at students interested in security matters who have a background in quantitative methods.  The relevant physical principles will be developed in class and reading, and applied to modern security problems involving such topics as nuclear weapons, space, surveillance, and communications.  The purpose is to provide analytical tools and experience for students to understand and to be able to critically evaluate the technical facts that underlie important national policy issues.

Scientific topics to be covered include:

  • Applications of Newton's laws to rockets, earth-bound satellites and missile defenses
  • Applications of Einstein's special relativity to clocks, radar, the global positioning system and nuclear energy
  • Other topics as time permits

Familiarity with calculus is recommended.

 

Readings:

Readings will include reports on specific national security matters, such as the recent American Physical Society report on missile defense (http://prola.aps.org/abstract/RMP/v76/i4/p1307_1), the AAAS report on new nuclear weapon designs (http://cstsp.aaas.org/files/RL32929.pdf), the Garwin Archive at the Federation of American Scientists (http://www.fas.org/rlg/) and textbooks such as Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller and Megawatts and Megatons: The Future of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons by Richard L. Garwin and Georges Charpak.

 

Assignments:

The seminar will consist of lectures and discussion with regular problem assignments and quizzes on the physics material developed in class.  The second major effort in the seminar will be the preparation of a term paper and a class presentation on the scientific basis, credibility and outstanding questions related to some national security issue or technical approach that could be applied to national security.  50% of the grade will be based on the term paper, presentation, and participation in class; 25% will be based on problem assignments and 25% on quizzes.

 

About the Professor

Dr. Roy Schwitters, S.W. Richardson Professor of Physics, received his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971.  He currently works in experimental high energy physics and large scale detectors.

T C 357 • Physics Of National Security

43810 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 1100-1230pm RLM 7.112
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TC 357 – Plan II Junior Seminar in Applied Science
The Physics of National Security
General Information
Class Meetings:  Tues, Thur. at 11 AM – 12:30 PM in RLM 7.112
Unique #:  43810
Purpose: This seminar concentrates on the physical principles which underlie technical issues
in national and global security.  The course is aimed at students interested in security matters
who have a background in quantitative methods.  The relevant physical principles will be
developed in class and reading, and applied to modern security problems involving such
topics as nuclear weapons, space, surveillance, and communications.  The purpose is to
provide analytical tools and experience for students to understand and to be able to critically
evaluate the technical facts that underlie important national policy issues.
Instructor:  Professor Roy Schwitters        
Office: RLM 9.320, tel. 471-9962
email: schwitters@physics.utexas.edu
Office hours: Tuesdays 9 - 10:30 AM, Wednesdays 10:30 AM - noon. 
Class web info.: UT Blackboard 
Texts: “Innumeracy” by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang, 2001.
“An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise”, Second Ed.
by John R. Pierce, Dover Publications, 1980.
“Physics for Future Presidents: the Science Behind the Headlines” by Richard A.
Muller, W.W. Norton, 2008.
“Principles of Data Analysis” by Prasenjit Saha, which is available for free on the
web (http://www.physik.uzh.ch/~psaha/pda/) or can be purchased in book form as:
ISBN 1902918118
 
Web resource: The Garwin Archive at the Federation of American Scientists:
http://www.fas.org/rlg/
Lectures and Discussions:  Each class period will typically be divided between lecture and
discussion.  The goals of the discussion period are to clarify lecture material, explore the
relevance of lecture material to specific national security issues, and to develop ideas for the
term paper and presentation.
Term paper and presentation as alternative to final exam:  Each student will prepare a
term paper on some technical subject related to national security and present the results of the
paper to the class for discussion.  

Homework:  A total of seven homework assignments will be given during the term. 
Typically, homework problems will be given out at the Thursday lecture and they will be due
the following Thursday at the beginning of class.  Late homework will be accepted for one
additional week.  Late homework will receive a maximum of one-half credit; homework more
than one week overdue will receive no credit.
Exams:     Two quizzes will be given during class hours.  No makeup tests will be given. The
quizzes will be closed-book; a single 8 1/2” x 11” page of  your notes and calculators may be
used.  
Grading:  The final grade will be based on work performed during the semester according to
the following weights:
  Term paper and class presentation 50%
  Two quizzes    25%
  Homework assignments  15%
  Class participation   10%

TC 357 Class Schedule
 
 
Class  Date  Topic 
Homework 
Assigned Reading
1 Th 27-Aug  Introduction   
2 T 1-Sep  Quantifying the world  
Paulos:
"Innumeracy"
3 Th 3-Sep  Describing the world:  1 Einstein handout
4 T  8-Sep  Space, time, and events  
Pierce: "Info.
Theory"
5 Th 10-Sep  What is information?  2 
6 T 15-Sep            "   
7 Th 17-Sep  How we sense the world:  3 Handouts
8 T 22-Sep  Photons and more   
9 Th 24-Sep  Quiz 1   
10 T 29-Sep     
11 Th 1-Oct 
Quantifying uncertainty (Term
paper proposal due)  4
Saha: Principles of
Data Analysis
12 T 6-Oct  Energy   
Muller: "Physics for
Future Presidents"
13 Th 8-Oct  contd.  5 
14 T 13-Oct  Nukes   
15 Th 15-Oct  contd.  6 
16 T 20-Oct  Getting to space   
17 Th 22-Oct  "Navigating" when up there  7 
18 T 27-Oct  Review   
19 Th 29-Oct  Quiz 2   
20 T 3-Nov  Applications   
21 Th 5-Nov  More applications   
22 T 10-Nov            "      (First draft of term paper due) 
23 Th 12-Nov            "   
24 T 17-Nov            "   
25 Th 19-Nov  Student presentations   
26 T 24-Nov            "   
27 T 1-Dec            "   
28 Th 3-Dec  General discussion (Term paper due) 

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