Physics 303V (Energy and Society)

Physics 303V, Energy and Society (SPRING 2018)

Department of Physics

College of Arts and Sciences

New Mexico State University

Required Materials 

Date and Time: Online asynchronous

Updates will be done on Fridays

Location: Online only
Instructor: Dr. Edwin Fohtung

Office: Gardiner Hall Room 259A

Phone: 575-646-5631

Email: Use Canvas Discussions or Conversations

Office Hours: TENTATIVE


Or by appointment

Course Information & Syllabus for Physics 303V, Energy and Society (SPRING 2018)

Course Number and Name: Physics 303V, Energy, and Society

Credits and Contact Hours: 3 credits (online asynchronous 150 minutes each week); an additional contact hour each week (during online office hours)

Instructor:  Dr. Edwin Fohtung

  • Phone: 575- 646-5631(NMSU-Physics); 505-667-8252 (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
  • Email: (Please use Canvas mail.)
  • Office hours: TBD or by appointment (through canvas)

Textbook:  Roger A. Hinrichs, Merlin H. Kleinbach; Energy: Its Use and the Environment

  1. a) other supplemental materials: Online Journals and articles


Specific Course Information:


  1. a) catalog description: Traditional and alternative sources of energy. Contemporary areas of concern such as the state of depletion of fossil fuels; nuclear energy, solar energy, and other energy sources; environmental effects; nuclear weapons; and health effects of radiation. Discussion of physical principles and impact on society. Focus on scientific questions involved in making decisions in these areas. No physics background required.
  2. b) prerequisites or co-requisites: None

Specific Goals of the Course:


  1. specific outcomes of instruction: In this course, we will discuss topics as diverse as Home Energy Conservation, Solar Energy, Energy from Fossil Fuels, Air Pollution and Energy Use, Global Warming and Thermal Pollution, Electricity from Solar, Wind, and Hydro, Nuclear Power: Fission and Fusion, Biomass: From Plants to Garbage, and Geothermal Energy.
  2. related ABET Outcomes: f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility; h) the broad education necessary to understand impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental and societal context; i) a recognition of the need for, and the ability to engage in lifelong learning; j) a knowledge of contemporary issues.


Quizzes: There will be 20 online quizzes, with the lowest five quiz grade being dropped. The quizzes are administered online after every lecture

Exams:   There will be an online midterm exam and an online final exam with every student


IMPORTANT DATES (strictly enforced):


Instruction Begins                                                                   January 17th, 2018

Late Registration                                                                     January 17th, 2018

Last Day to Add a Course without Instructor’s Permission     January 18th, 2018

Last Day to Add a Course (Instructor’s Permission Required)     January 26th, 2018

Last Day to Drop Course with “(Except courses carrying designated dates)                                                                                                                                                  March 25th, 2018

EXAM WEEK                                                            Monday – Friday, May 7 – 11


Grading Weighting:  The final grade will be determined by the following weighing:

Quizzes                                                                            25%

Midterm Online Exams (Due February 20th)               25%

Final Online Exams (Due May 8th)                               50%

TOTAL:                                                                           100%


Grade Scale: Grades at NMSU are expressed in letters, which carry grade points used in calculating your cumulative grade-point average (GPA). You can look up how grades are converted into grade points at in my course will be allocated according to the following schedule:

90 – 100%                    A

75 – 90%                      B

60 – 75%                      C

45 – 60%                      D

0  –  45%                      F

Class participation, and quizzes: You are expected to read the syllabus and schedule on canvas regularly. There is a fair amount of material covered in this course, so we generally move fast. We will not necessarily cover all the material in the chapters, but we will go over the more difficult parts. You will be responsible for all assigned material, however. In order not to fall behind, you must watch the online lecture slides and participate in quizzes.

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course traces problems of Energy, Society, and the environment across four realms. These include:

~75% of material:

  1. Natural-scientific principles needed to understand energy and environmental processes.  These include kinetic and potential energy; the First and Second Laws of thermodynamics; forms of work; of heat transfer including radiation, conduction and convection; heat engines and refrigeration; combustion; fuel cells; batteries; solar cells; phase transitions; the forces of nature; a conceptual understanding of atomic systems and of nuclear fission, fusion and of the sun; and the use and storage of energy by plants.  The geological origins of fossil fuels and their uneven global distribution and depletion rates; the scientific principles governing wind, biomass, water-tidal, geothermal and solar energy.
  2. Technological-engineering systems for the extraction, processing and the end-use of energy.  Systems include coal, natural gas and uranium for the generation of electricity and electrical distribution grids; and the use of oil in transportation; alternative energy systems and their engineering limitations. We also study heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration systems, as well as lighting for public and residential buildings; and basics of control systems.~25% of material:
  3. Social and environmental consequences of fossil fuels, including the greenhouse effect and global warming, acid rain; the hazards and disposal of radioactive wastes; traffic congestion, urban sprawl; and social-economic inequalities in the access to energy and transport services are stressed throughout.
  4. Political-economy and public policy issues as concerns energy resources and their exploitation.  We compare automobile- and oil-centric societies with alternative models using mass-transit, fast-trains, and pedestrian mobility. Special attention is paid to the realities of the global oil industry.  U.S., Chinese, European-Union and Japanese policies, global contention over energy sources and their distribution, especially oil. US involvement in the Caspian Basin, the Persian Gulf and Iraq, Latin America and the South China Seas is discussed, etc.

WARNING: Quantitative measures are stressed, but without calculus, at the level of high school algebra and perhaps trigonometry, i.e., ‘university physics’ level. Some students find particularly challenging multiple-step and ‘story’ problems, which involve quantitative and/or logical reasoning skills. There will be regular multiple choice quizzes online to be taken after every lecture slides. Questions will be taken from the textbook and elsewhere which students are required to participate.

While this is at a level for which all NMSU students are presumed to be prepared; nevertheless, all students are required at the start of the course to acknowledge that they have been alerted to the aforementioned quantitative character of the work which will be expected of them.

Course Outline

The course covers material from Chapters 1-19 of Roger A. Hinrichs’ and Merlin H. Kleinbach’s book: Energy: Its Use and the Environment.

  1. Introduction.
  2. Energy Mechanics.
  3. Conservation of Energy.
  4. Heat and Work.
  5. Home Energy Conservation and Heat-Transfer Control.
  6. Solar Energy: Characteristics and Heating.
  7. Energy from Fossil Fuels.
  8. Air Pollution and Energy Use.
  9. Global Warming and Thermal Pollution.
  10. Electricity: Circuits and Superconductors.
  11. Electromagnetism and the Generation of Electricity.
  12.  Electricity from Solar, Wind, and Hydro.
  13. The Building Blocks of Matter:
  14. Nuclear Power: Fission.
  15. Effects and Uses of Radiation.
  16. Future Energy Alternatives: Fusion.
  17.  Biomass: From Plants to Garbage.
  18. Tapping the Earth’s Heat: Geothermal Energy.
  19. A National and Personal Commitment. 


Lecture slides/videos and quizzes will be uploaded periodically online every week. There will be an online midterm exam (Due February 20th) and an online final exam (Due May 8th) by the end of the semester.

Students with disabilities: If you have, or believe you have, a disability and would benefit from any accommodation(s), you may wish to self-identify by contacting the Trudy Luken in the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office located at Corbett Center, Room 244 (646-6840; to register. If you have already registered, please make sure that your instructor receives a copy of the accommodation memorandum from SSD within the first two weeks of classes. It will be your responsibility to inform either your instructor or SSD representative (in a timely manner) if services/accommodations provided are not meeting your needs. If you have a condition that may affect your ability to exit safely from the premises in an emergency or that may cause an emergency during class, you are encouraged to discuss your concerns with the instructor or the director of Disabled Student Programs. If you have a general question about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), call 646-3333. All medical information will be treated confidentially.

Academic and non-academic misconduct:

Misconduct is discussed at (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Any form of cheating or plagiarism is prohibited, and (if caught) the particular work (exam, quiz, etc.) will be graded with a zero.  Exams may be scanned or copied by the instructor before returning them to the student. Students should not modify exams and then return them to the instructor to avoid a misunderstanding. All appeals must follow the NMSU academic appeals policy (see catalog). Such appeals need to be in writing.

Excused Absences:

If for a good reason (NMSU-sponsored event), a student cannot make the due date for a homework assignment or she/he misses a test or exam, the student should inform us beforehand to discuss other arrangements, if possible. If the student’s absence is due to an emergency, the student has to get in contact with us at the earliest possibility following that assignment. We reserve the right to request proof for the occurrence of the emergency (doctor’s note, police accident report, etc.)


Students with disabilities: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) covers issues relating to disability and accommodations. If a student has questions or needs an accommodation in the classroom (all medical information is treated confidentially), contact:

Trudy Luken, Director

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) – Corbett Center, Rm. 244

Phone: (575) 646-6840


Website: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

NMSU policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, retaliation, serious medical condition, sex, sexual orientation, spousal affiliation and protected veterans status.

Furthermore, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination to include sexual misconduct: sexual violence (sexual assault, rape), sexual harassment and retaliation.

For more information on discrimination issues, Title IX, Campus SaVE Act, NMSU Policy Chapter 3.25, NMSU’s complaint process, or to file a complaint contact:

Gerard Nevarez, Title IX Coordinator

Agustin Diaz, Title IX Deputy Coordinator

Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) – O’Loughlin House, 1130 University Avenue

Phone: (575) 646-3635


Website: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Other NMSU Resources:

NMSU Police Department: (575) 646-3311

NMSU Police Victim Services: (575) 646-3424

NMSU Counseling Center: (575) 646-2731

NMSU Dean of Students: (575) 646-1722

For Any On-campus Emergencies: 911

Academic and non-academic misconduct:   

Plagiarism is using another person’s work without acknowledgment, making it appear to be one’s own. Intentional and unintentional instances of plagiarism are considered instances of academic misconduct and are subject to disciplinary action such as failure on the assignment, failure of the course or dismissal from the university. The NMSU Library has more information and help on how to avoid plagiarism at