"Physics for Future Presidents:
The Science Behind the Headlines," by Richard A. Muller
The Maroon Edition book selection for 2013 is "Physics for Future Presidents:
The Science Behind the Headlines," by Richard A. Muller, a professor of physics
at the University of California-Berkeley. We hope that all of next fall's
incoming freshmen--and many of you--will read the book before the fall semester
begins and participate in related activities planned for next academic year. We
hope to have Professor Muller on campus during the fall.
"Physics for Future Presidents," published in 2008, is a highly readable,
non-technical discussion of the science behind several major issues that will
confront future presidents and other government and business leaders at all
levels, and that certainly includes future graduates of Mississippi State.
Major topics are terrorism and the different forms that attacks could take in
the future; energy, with discussions of oil, coal, and solar power; nuclear
weapons and nuclear power plants; space, including exploration, spy satellites,
and GPS systems; and global warming--"perhaps the most difficult issue to face a
You don't need a science background or knowledge of mathematics to understand
and enjoy this book, which is both entertaining and enlightening. The focus is
on key information that a "future president" needs to know--assuming that he or
she can leave most of the scientific details to the experts. Almost anyone who
reads this book will learn a lot, and probably "unlearn" some things that many
people assume to be true, but aren't.
Did you know that, pound-for-pound, gasoline packs 15 times the energy of TNT?
(Or that chocolate chip cookies have eight times as much?--which helps explain
why losing weight can be so hard.) Did you know that nuclear power plant waste
isn't nearly as dangerous as most people believe? That robots are better than
astronauts for exploring space? That hybrid cars will become the norm in our
lifetimes? Those are among the facts and predictions that populate every page of
"Physics for Future Presidents."
Professor Muller is a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory, as well as a physics professor at the university. The book we will
be reading grew out of a popular course for non-science majors that he taught at
Berkeley for years. The author is also a past winner of a MacArthur Foundation
Fellowship, popularly known as the "genius grant."
All of our incoming freshmen who attend an Orientation session this spring or
summer will receive a copy of "Physics for Future Presidents." It will be
available to everyone through Barnes & Noble on campus and from many other
bookstores and on-line booksellers.