It’s always thrilling to watch/listen to a teacher who clearly loves his subject, and that’s what you get with UC Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller who teaches Physics for Future Presidents AKA Physics 10: Descriptive Introduction to Physics - website – iTunes – feed. Muller says that he is serious about the title — this is the physics that he wants every future president to know, and he hopes that he has a future president sitting in his class listening to his lectures.
Muller mixes the science with economics, current events and policy debates. For example, here’s a sampling of what I learned in the first two lectures:
- The biggest foreign supplier of oil to the United States is Canada.
- The country with the biggest known reserves of fossil fuels (including coal) is the United States. For a listing of known reserves by country, see this handy table.
- Global warming is not a current problem, but a future problem. No solution to the problem of greenhouse gases will succeed if it does not include the huge production of greenhouse gases by India, China and the developing world. For example, China is building a new coal-fired electric plant every week. (The Kyoto treaty does not include the developing world.)
- To build a coal power plant costs about one dollar per installed watt. Thus a gigawatt power plant costs about $1 billion to build. Solar power currently costs about $3.50 per installed watt or 3.5 times the cost of coal fueled power plants. Solar power will not be economically feasible until the cost is competitive with the cost of hydrocarbon fueled plants.