"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, January 14, 2012

'Physics for Future Presidents' and/or Dummies

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the HeadlinesPhysics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of several books I learned of by listening to NPR. It is based on a popular class the author teaches. And having now read the book, I'd love to take the class.

Dr. Muller tackles all of the hot button topics that utilize scientific inquiry: the environment, energy policy, space exploration, etc. His chief goal is to compile a handbook of rudimentary knowledge a President ought to have at his/her disposal when making policy decisions. Think about it. Should homeland security be governed by someone who has no practical knowledge of how "dirty bombs" work? (And why most terrorists don't bother trying to make them.)

Another of Dr. Muller's goals is clearly to point out popular and deeply flawed notions the public has about issues like nuclear power and the environment. As it turns out, we all know many things that 'just ain't so.'

My only gripe with this book is Dr. Muller's pessimistic take on human space exploration. Of course he is against it. None of the research he is doing requires it. It serves his academic passions to focus solely on robotic space probes. Still, I think the book is great. And it is a sad certainty that the people who need to read this book the most, won't.

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