Spend Saturday mornings this fall with ‘Science and the Next U.S. President’

This month, University College and the Department of Physics, both in Arts & Sciences, invite the public to join WUSTL professors in exploring “Science and the Next U.S. President” during the biannual Saturday Science lecture series.

These lectures will cover select topics in science and technology that are important for the United States and that should be discussed in this election season.

Each lecture takes place on a Saturday at 10 a.m. in Room 201 of Crow Hall and is free and open the public. Registration is not required.

For more information about the series, contact the Department of Physics at 935-6276.

The schedule

Oct. 4. “Sputnik, Global Warming, Science Literacy, and Science Education” John S. Rigden, Ph.D., adjunct professor of physics.

The Soviet satellite Sputnik brought near panic to the American public. By contrast, global warming induces a yawn from many American citizens. Why the difference? It takes almost no knowledge to appreciate the potential threat of an enemy satellite orbiting overhead. Yet it requires some knowledge of science to decide whether global warming is a significant threat.

The science education citizens received as students failed to give them the knowledge they need to make judgments about issues involving science. It is no better today. The science education of today’s girls and boys will not produce future citizens who are scientifically literate and who are prepared to engage the issues they will face in 21st-century America.

Oct. 11. “Energy — The Challenge of the 21st Century” Michael Ogilvie, Ph.D., professor of physics.

The era of cheap, plentiful fossil fuels is slowly winding to a close. The rising costs of oil — economic, political and environmental — play huge roles in many difficult, interlocking policy issues. Can the United States drill its way to energy independence? Is “no nukes is good nukes” the best policy? Are renewable energy sources enough for a world with rising expectations? Is hydrogen the fuel of the future?

More than laws passed by Congress, the fundamental laws of physics will determine what the next U.S. president will be able to do. The lecture will examine the choices the president will have available and their implications for the United States and the world.

Oct. 18. “Advising the President: What Scientific Advice Does the President Get?” Michael Friedlander, Ph.D., professor of physics and the series’ organizer.

Many political decisions involve scientific knowledge. These decisions range from the use of nuclear weapons to the banning of smoking in public areas to the safety requirements for prescription drugs and many consumer products. At the highest level, the president must make these decisions. How have the presidents selected their advisers, and how has this affected the policy decisions made?

Oct. 25. “Global Warming,” Carl Bender, Ph.D., the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution and mostly in the past century, the activities of the Earth’s human population have caused major changes in the chemical constitution of the planet’s atmosphere.

These changes are causing a warming of the Earth by a process referred to as the greenhouse effect. The consequences of a planet-wide warming of just a few degrees could be catastrophic.