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Physics for Poets

Andrew Fraknoi


2005 is the 100th anniversary of Einstein's "miracle year"- when the scientist named "Person of the Century" by Time Magazine published his first ideas on the theory of relativity and put forward other notions that would revolutionize our understanding of the universe. Special events and public programs are being scheduled throughout the world.

To help celebrate, Foothill's astronomy instructor Andrew Fraknoi is offering a Physics 12: "Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein's Work but Were Afraid to Ask", on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 8:30 P.M., April 5 to June 21, 2005.

This non-technical course introduces students to some of the most exciting areas of modern physics, with a focus on Einstein's contributions. The approach is non-mathematical, with humor, analogies, and demonstrations. No background in science or math will be required; the instructor specializes in explaining scientific ideas in everyday language.

The course emphasizes key ideas that form the basis of our modern concepts of space, time, matter, and energy:

* The theory of how atoms work
* Energy, heat, and the arrow of time
* The special theory of relativity: what happens when you travel close to the speed of light)
* The general theory of relativity: gravity, space-time warps, and black holes
* Quantum mechanics: the bizarre rules that govern the world inside the atom

In addition to examining the physics and physicists involved with these areas (including a survey of Einstein's life and some myths about it), the course will also look briefly at the effects that such physics ideas have had on the humanities, including poetry, fiction, music, and the public view of scientists. It concludes with a look at the work of Stephen Hawking, whose innovative ideas combine work from many of these areas and take some of Einstein's ideas to the outermost limits of cosmic possibility.

For registration information for the Spring Quarter at Foothill College in Los Altos, see . On-line registration begins March 14th, which just happens to be Einstein's birthday. Anyone can register for Foothill evening classes. For a course syllabus in pdf format, see: .


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