Instructor: Prof Gabriel Kotliar
The energy problem is an interdisciplinary many-facet problem involving
Earth Science, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Political Science, Materials Science and Public Policy
If you have any enquiries about this seminar class contact me via
Office hours: Contact me kotliar-at-physics.rutgers.edu by email to set a time
Grades will be determined on the basis of 1) take home assignments 2) participation in class 3) student’s presentations
No Finals. No Midterm. Lunch will be provided to facilitate informal discussion.
The Students are expected to abide by the code of honor and have signed
Will we run out of energy in the next century? How will nations
deal with the increasing competition for scarce natural
resources ? As the world standard of living and the energy
consumption per capita increases can we avoid destroying our own
habitat ? Is there a technologically viable solution to the
current energy crisis or is the survival of our human species
dependent on technological breakthroughs that have not yet taken
place? How should we prioritize the use of scarce resources ?
We really do not know the full answers to these pressing
questions but we can learn about the physical ideas connected
to the field of energy, and we can discuss the constraints
imposed by the laws of physics when addressing these questions.
In this seminar we will look at these questions from a broad interdisciplinary
perspective. The course will start by asking the question of what is energy . It will then describe the different
forms that energy can take, such as nuclear, solar, chemical,
electrical, chemical and mechanical. We will discuss the issue
of conversion between the different forms energy, how efficient
can this energy conversion be, and what are the effects that
energy conversion has on the environment. The physics that relate
to these topics will be presented at an elementary level.
It should be suitable for a motivated non-science major with a
good high school science education.
The goal of the course is to learn about the topic of energy and elicit
discussions about the current options that we have, as a society,
to deal with the sustainability crisis. These topics involve energy, climate, water, food, national security,
and a basic scientific understanding of the underlying science is prerequisite
for addressing them. The aim of the course will be to develop critical thinking, quantitative thinking,
and the ability to carry out qualitative analysis of complex problems from a broad systems perspective,
using these important topics as motivation.
About the lecturer:
Gabriel Kotliar is a theoretical physicist with interests in materials
science. He is currently a Board of Governors Professor at Rutgers University.
Kotliar received the 2006 Agilent Technologies Europhysics Prize for his
work on strongly correlated electron materials.
He was also a recipient of a Presidential Young Investigator,
a Guggenheim and a Sloan fellowship. He is actively engaged in basic research
in theoretical physics and education, two activities which are key for the future of society.
His research interests are in the theory of materials. The goal in this area
of research is to develop the concepts, methodologies, algorithms and
computer programs to understand and predict the properties of complex
materials. Particularly interesting materials are the strongly correlated
electron systems (materials which have extraordinary properties due
to the strong Coulomb correlations among the constituent electrons),
which require a new framework beyond band theory for
their description. For this purpose he uses quantum field theory methods, algorithms and
The results of basic research will speed up the discovery of materials with useful properties, just
in time to meet the sustainability challenges of the twenty first century.
Additional Reading Materials:
Conservation of Energy : Richard Feynman
Skepticism on effects of global warming: Freeman Dyson
Plans for Energy Independence in the US T. Boone Pickens