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Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines Hardcover – August 17, 2008


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Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines + Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines + The Instant Physicist: An Illustrated Guide
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393066274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393066272
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Should be required reading for all informed citizens, as well as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain." ---Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Richard A. Muller is a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the best-selling author of Physics for Future Presidents and The Instant Physicist. He and his wife live in Berkeley, California.

Customer Reviews

This very well written and easy to read book has been written for the lay audience.
Thomas M. Loarie
I enjoyed this book so much that I lent the copy I borrowed from our local library to my husband, who promptly purchased a copy midway through reading the book.
Hilarie
If you have an opinion on any of these topics, read this book; you'll find facts that will either back you up or change your mind.
Bob Greenwade

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 111 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on September 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What drew me to this book was not so much its title, although it is quite intriguing, but its author. I had read a couple of Professor Muller's books in the past and found them to be very engaging as well as models of clarity. This book is no exception. Using logical scientific reasoning, the author addresses various topics that a future president would likely need to deal with. The topics are: terrorism, energy, nuclear matters, outer space and global warming. Removing any mythology and misinformation that may be associated with these issues, the author carefully analyzes them from a physics perspective; this is to help any future presidents in making solid well-informed decisions. The contentious matter of global warming is dealt with particularly well; in fact, it is one of the fairest and most level-headed discussions of this matter that I have read thus far. A set of notes at the end of the book contain a few simple calculations that complement some of the statements in the main text. However, a reader who is math-phobic need to not worry since the notes are not essential to fully appreciate the book's content. The writing style is very clear, accessible, authoritative, friendly and quite engaging. This informative book can be enjoyed by anyone, especially those interested in the use of a logical scientific approach to address important world issues.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Paul W. Keaton on November 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is not for the casual reader, but it is a must-read for those who pride themselves on being well informed in any one of the five important issues discussed in this book: Terrorism, Energy, Nukes, Space, and Global Warming. The author has ordered the subject matter according to what he believes are the most pressing issues that will confront the new President. While passionate about the subject material, the author is refreshingly detached in reaching his conclusions, as a physicist should be.

When I recommend this book to my better-informed friends, the most frequent question I get back is, "What does he say about Global Warming?" Those who are looking for pithy sound bites will be disappointed. Those who fear a boring professorial-type lecture will be pleasantly surprised. Dr. Muller presents well thought-out rationales for each section, and his delivery has been refined in the classroom by teaching non-physics students at the University of California, Berkley.

I appreciate Dr. Muller's respect for his readers (and future Presidents.) He does not try to impose a hidden agenda upon us. Dr. Muller clearly states his premises and the physics of his findings flows nicely from them

Here is a sketch of my views, as a physicist, on what the reader can expect.

Terrorism: Dr. Muller discusses the high energy content in the jet fuel carried by each hijacked airplane that hit the towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He later describes the likely limitations of a terrorist's dirty bomb. He reminds us that Jose Padilla, an American with extensive al-Qaeda training, proposed to build a dirty bomb. Padilla was directed instead to blow up two apartment buildings using natural gas.

Energy: Dr.
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80 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We don't expect our presidents to be literal rocket scientists (though it would be nice if one of them every so often was at least a metaphorical one), but we ought to expect them to know enough about science to surround themselves with the very best advisors. The troubling truth of the matter is that presidents, like most Americans, know little about science, even though public policy is increasingly dependent on scientific expertise. So author Richard Muller, who teaches science to nonscience majors at UC-Berkeley, has written his Physics for Future Presidents not only for future presidents but also current citizens.

The book isn't an easy read, and there are enough graphs and equations to set aflutter the hearts of even the most intrepid of nonscientists. But Muller recognizes this possibility, and recommends that nonscientific readers go for the big picture, not allowing themselves to get bogged down with details that might be too complicated on a first run-through. And the big picture--or rather big pictures--he wants us to understand are the science behind bombs and biological weapons likely to be used by terrorists (chapters 1-4), the fossil fuel crisis (chapters 5-7), nuclear energy and nuclear weapons (chapters 8-14), space technology, including space weapons (chapters 15-19), and global warming (chapters 19-25). Especially helpful are the "Presidential Summaries" in which Muller offers convenient wrap-ups of each of the five topics he discusses and some quick public policy recommendations.

My guess is that many readers will find his section on global warming the most interesting and contentious. Muller concludes that global warming is a reality, but one which has been exaggerated in certain ways.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kent Gordon on October 31, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I find it highly comical that the negative reviews come from obvious progressive environmentalists and global warming alarmists. The author is a Prius driving Berkeley professor, not a conservative of any stripe. There is a lot of "physics for poets" level of education on the science behind important areas of policy concern, largely related to energy, the military and the environment. It is sound and level headed, with great effort on the part of the author to stick to the science and avoid political bias.

That isn't to say he avoided policy entirely or was necessarily correct everywhere. His section on global warming points out some of the big exaggerations of the Al Gore alarmist crowd, including for example the suppression of the Medival warming period in the infamous hockey stick chart hoax. The author states his belief that global warming is a real problem, but worries that the hyperbole will cause loss of credibility when the public figures out it was duped in a number of areas. I don't think the author fully appreciates the potential danger for destroying the credibility of science in general rather than just in this particular policy area. Until there is a deeply serious, intellectually honest top to bottom reassessment of the science behind global warming this risk remains. It is the equivalent for science of the sex scandals for the Catholic church. Very damaging in a fundamental way to an otherwise worthy institution.
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More About the Author

Richard A. Muller is professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a past winner of the MacArthur Fellowship. His book "Physics for Future Presidents" is based on his renowned course for non-science students. His book "The Instant Physicist" uses humor and paradox, but has true content lurking behind the wonderful art of Joey Manfre. He and his daughter Elizabeth founded the "Berkeley Earth" project to evaluate the science and evidence for global warming.

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Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines
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