Cluster 2 -- Physics & Engineering: From the scientific method to technological applications

The Foundation of Modern Science

This section will explore the evolution of man's understanding of the rational world, from the ancient Greeks to Newton's equations of motion. We illuminate how simple observations can produce remarkable revelations of the world around us, and how theoretical abstractions can be combined with observations to provide reliable and important explanations and predictions that can be used in science and technology. We will investigate the foundations of western scientific techniques in physical science; explore how and why we have come to develop the "scientific method" of proving and disproving hypotheses; what it means to do basic and applied research; and how the principles of Newtonian mechanics, quantum mechanics, and special relativity are directly linked to the centerpiece of the Cluster: The relationships between observation/experiment, physics models, and technology.

Nuclear Materials and their Applications

As an important application of the interplay between science and technology, we review the workings and technological opportunities of nuclear materials. Based on high-school curriculum in mathematics and physics, students are presented with a straightforward understanding of important concepts, such as fission and fusion as well as critical mass and enrichment of fissile materials that lead to applications, e.g., in nuclear power on both very long and very short time scales. Through this, we also discuss the necessities of a multiple of physical principles, from classical to quantum and relativistic mechanics, and the inevitability of the different theories is clarified through direct calculations and physical reasoning. We anticipate visiting relevant locations, including McClellan Nuclear Reactor facility in Sacramento.

Electro-optics and Optical Communications

Electro-optics, the branch of science dedicated to the study of the effect of electric fields on light and on the optical properties of substances, has enabled unparalleled speed and reliability for every day communications. As it names implies the discipline combines the utilization of optics and electronics.  In this cluster, we will investigate the theory and practice that enable the transmission of information through a fiber-optic communication link. Lecture time will examine the fundamentals of propagation of electromagnetic waves, reflection, refraction, waveguides, interferometry and lasers.  In addition, lectures will provide a review of the fundamentals of analog and digital circuits.