University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Phys 1907.001

The Physics of Warfare

Session: Spring 2018 (1/16-5/04)
Instructor: Allen Goldman (e-mail: goldman @
Time: 0905 T
Location: Civil Engineering Bldg 213

Throughout history and even today, military leaders contemplating war, or involved in it, are always looking for some advantage over their enemies. Most have searched for a new type of wonder weapon, one that the enemy does not have. It is frequently physics that provides a path to this new weapon. Physics and science and technology in general have been of tremendous value to contemporary military leaders. They have given them an understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum so that radiation can be used in various military applications. They have also given them an understanding of rocketry and jet engines, and knowledge of the secrets of the atom so that it is possible to engineer weapons of mass destruction. This course will provide an overview of most branches of physics and in the process of doing so will show how physics has been used for military applications. It will to some extent provide a summary of the history of warfare from the first bows and arrows and chariots, through contemporary weapon systems. Students enrolled in this seminar will learn some physics, and hopefully they will take away enough understanding of contemporary military technology to be informed citizens on issues that command such a large fraction of the national budget.

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