A quantitative understanding of our
world's energy is central to our future.
Environmental Physics is a distillation of the key
problems facing us as we move through the early years
of the 21st century. I encourage you to come
join us in preparing yourself to deal effectively with
this quantitative world.
P310/P510 Environmental Physics (3 cr)
Professor of Physics
Blood Hill, Norfolk, UK
Goals of the course: With increases in
world population and in per capita energy use, we must
understand the physics of energy and the consequences of our
uses of this energy. Avoiding serious problems both at
the global level (acid rain, and global climate change) and at
the local level (urban air and water pollution) places great
demands on all of us.
Your Role: Scientists and educators are on the front line in coming to grips with these problems. Solving environmental problems is essentially always an interdisciplinary effort and the discipline of physics is a major player in this effort. As with most problems of science, a quantitative understanding is essential to their resolution. Environmental Physics P310/P510 is designed to enhance your quantitative capabilities.
If you are an Undergrad: Students from
essentially all majors have taken Environmental Physics
P310. Many of the physical and biological science majors
also take this course including majors from SPEA,
Geology, Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry, Mathematics,
Computer Science, & Physics.
If you are a Science Education
major: this course should
be of great value because of the highly interdisciplinary
nature of secondary school education and the connections to
If you are a Physics major:
this course provides a wealth of applications of the
theoretical laws of physics to these very real and demanding
problems of the environment.
If you are a student with interest in the environment: the course will broaden your base of attack strategies for this exciting array of problems.
If you are a Graduate Student: Environmental Physics P510 is
designed specifically for graduate students outside of
Physics. The course requirements
are identical to P310 with the exception of a final
presentation accompanied by a 10 page research paper on the
same topic. In recent years graduate students in Education
have found this course most useful. The course has also
been offered as a distance learning course for students who
are not on the
Prerequisites for P310/P510 Environmental Physics: Students will have taken a minimum of a semester of elementary physics at the level of P201 or P221, and a semester of calculus at the level of M119 or M211.
The Content of the Course: Environmental Physics divides itself into four energy related areas, the identification of our current energy resources, the conversion of energy from less useful to more useful forms, the utilization of energy, and finally, the environmental consequences of our energy use. We list these here with example sub topics.
of our current energy resources:
- Fossil fuels, methane hydrates, hydroelectric, wind, geothermal
- Nuclear, solar and tidal energies
- The first and second laws of thermodynamics.
- The generation of heat from fuels, geothermal, nuclear fission, nuclear
breeders, nuclear fusion, solar thermal processes.
- Heat pumps, refrigerators, internal combustion engines, turbine engines.
- Photovoltaics, magneto-hydrodynamics, battery development.
- Heat management with cogeneration, and waste heat disposal.
- Energy transmission, superconductivity.
- Efficient use of energy in industry, transport and heating.
consequences of energy use:
- Global climate change.
- Tropospheric and stratospheric ozone.
- The physics of El Nino.
- Air and water pollution.
- Nuclear radiation.
- Heat and micro climate.
Physics Minor with an
P301 Modern Physics (3
P309 Modern Physics Laboratory (2 cr)
P310 Environmental Physics (3 cr).