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ISC6416 - History of Physical Science and Cultural Connections

This course is designed for graduate students in science, engineering and math who wish to know something about the “who, how, why, when and where” of physics. It assumes they know something of the “what” of physics in order to be graduate students. I trace the developments leading to today’s physics considering when and where they happened, who took part, what they contributed to our thinking processes and how the work led to other discoveries. I also look at the impacts science had on society and conversely, how societies affected their science. There will be a discussion of ethical problems that a scientist/engineer might encounter.

Credit hours

  • 1.0


  1. Discussion of what is science, what is a culture, what is the Culture of Science, what are scientific ethics, what can go right/wrong – some comments on fraud and pathological science.
  2. How did science get started?
  3. The Copernican Revolution and the Newtonian Synthesis
  4. Scientific Controversies
  5. Conservation Laws, Thermodynamics and the Arrow of Time
  6. Electricity, Magnetism and Electromagnetics – Maxwell, Symmetry and Unification
  7. Measurement, Relativity, Einstein and Everything Else
  8. Quantum Mechanics – Part I
  9. Quantum Mechanics – Part II
  10. Quantum Mechanics – Part III
  11. Five Experiments that Define Modern Optics
  12. Time and the Past and Future Histories of the Universe
  13. The Miracle of Stars and Why We Are
  14. Patents and Intellectual Property Issues

One of the great issues in science is weapons related research. This is exemplified by the development of nuclear weapons during World War II. To study this issue, one evening we will view and discuss the play “Copenhagen” which deals with Werner Heisenberg’s visit to Niels Bohr during the Nazi occupation of Denmark and the conflicts both experienced. We will also view and discuss a dramatization of the court fight between Intelligent Design and Science entitled “Judgment Day”.