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Course Essay

You are required to turn in an original, 500-750 word typed essay on a topic from the following list, or explicitly approved by the instructor. You must read an original article and attach a copy of the article to your essay. The article should be from a journal published on paper, NOT something you found only on the web (Remember the maxim, 90% of the web is at best not entirely correct, and at worst substantially wrong!).
There are several deadlines for the essay.

  1. Wednesday, March 28: The essay topic, and one paragraph abstract are due in class.
  2. Friday, April 13: The essay outline and main article reference are due in class.
  3. Wednesday, May 2: The final double-spaced typed essay is due in class.

Grading criteria: The essay will be graded on Structure, Science, Analysis, Style, and Originality. A detailed explanation of the grading criteria are given here.

Help with writing is available at
On-line journal articles available through the physics library at
Web site links for topics listed below available here.


  1. Describe an example of bogus or contentious physical science such as cold fusion. Read and summarize at least one original published paper or conference proceeding on the subject. Describe ways the process or contention is supported by science or not. Why has science not resolved the issue? Ref: Topics may be found in archives of What's New or Robert Park's book Voodoo Science and articles such as this.
  2. Describe the mission and success of a big physics project such as CDF at Fermilab, CERN, the Hipparcos satellite, the WMAP satellite, the Chandra satellite, the ICE CUBE neutrino detector, or LIGO. Summarize the science motivating the project, describe a particluar important discovery (or potential important discovery), and explain why it is important. In adidition, you could describe how the project was or is funded and the construction and/or operating budget. Alternate projects may be approved by the instructors. Read and summarize at least one original published article (not a digest from the project homepage) pertaining to results of the project if data has been collected. Check project web sites for references to publications.
  3. Select one of the following subjects: cosmology, astrophysics, global warming, quantum computing, nanotechnology, biophysics, fusion, or elementary particle physics. What are the major achievements of the last 50 years? Focus on at least one major discovery and explain its importance. What is likely to be discovered in the next 50 years? Read and summarize one original published article pertaining to to the subject. What associated technologies might affect our daily lives? How much money per year has the US Federal government dedicated to research in this area? (Check Department of Energy and National Science Foundation websites.)
    Ref: Annual Reviews, Reviews of Modern Physics, IoP)
  4. Choose a winner of the Nobel Prize in physics. Describe the work and importance recognized by the award. Read and summarize at least one original published science article by the physicist. Ref: Nobel, Nobel museum


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