Perhaps one of the most relevant issues tackled in the course is the difference between nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs. As talks naturally turned to North Korea, students discussed radiation and fallout while learning how more advancements have been made in relation to war efforts than energy harnessing.
“Less funding is going to nuclear because of fear,” says Coyle, “so it’s more important than ever to educate people on the scientific possibilities that are actually out there.”
Another key assignment was to find an article in a popular newspaper that used the words “power” and “energy” correctly. The students had to evaluate if the writer was trying to be colloquial or scientifically accurate and why that difference is so important. To be skeptical of media, to think critically about the content that inundates us each day, to tune into why, as a reader, we are persuaded or dissuaded by an author—these are the big-picture concepts Coyle hopes the students take away from this course.
It wouldn’t be a physics class without a lab. When we dropped by, students were hard at work performing an optics lab, learning about light and how it interacts with certain materials while using lasers, lenses, and mirrors to see reflections and study focal length.