Energy and The Environment (last updated 25 Aug 2018)

Physics 207

Fall 2018


Dr. Brian Clark, best to go through Reggienet, can do

Office Hours:

As an online course, there are no set office hours. Course content and concept related questions are to be posted on the course discussion site. If you need to speak about your grade or other administrative issues, please email me and include a phone number.

Class Meetings:

Online: Please access the course through Reggienet

Audio Link:


Text: Energy, Environment, and Climate (2nd edition by Richard Wolfson). The 3rd edition of the book is also acceptable. The only real changes between the editions are updated data figures. The data figures in the online presentations are reasonably up-to-date. You may find that the online notes and discussion are sufficient so that you think that you do not need the book. I highly recommend that you have access to the book. I will assume that you have ready access and have read the appropriate material. Most of the online notes are an outgrowth of notes originally provided by Dr. Daniel Holland. Some are completely updated or new. This material is very comprehensive, but I would not rely on it as a textbook. Most of the online notes have links to short lectures (most are between 3 and 20 minutes in duration) that I have recorded.

Course Objective: A significant problem facing humanity for the foreseeable future is how do we meet our energy needs. Additionally, we have to make decisions regarding the impact of energy usage on the earth's climate. Fossil fuels will be the primary energy source in the near term, but the quantity of these fuels is finite and we will need other sources. These sources include solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear, for example. Fossil fuel usage is linked to pollution and undesirable climate change. How do we mitigate the damage caused by pollution and climate change linked to fossil fuels? Are other sources of energy more or less polluting? Does their use represent a threat to the planet? The objective of this course is to provide students with the ability to make informed judgments about energy usage. To do this we review the physics required to understand the technical issues related to energy consumption on a local and planetary scale. Then we look at fossil fuels as our primary energy source and the impact of their use. Afterwards, we look at alternative energy sources and their potential impacts on the planet.

Grading: Your grade is determined by a combination of tests, homework, and online performance. There will be three tests throughout the semester, an online homework nearly every week, and online discussions nearly every week. You are expected to complete all of the assigned work. In general, there are no make-up times for any of the assigned work. If a test is missed then your right to a make-up is determined on a case by case basis. It is better to let the instructor know in advance if you will miss a test. Short of major illnesses, there are very few reasons why the work cannot otherwise be completed, since you will have ample time to complete each task. Several short writing assignments may be substituted for weekly homeworks or discussion credits as instructional needs dictate.




300 pts (3 x 100 pts)

Weekly Quizzes

60 pts (12 x 5 pts)

Weekly Discussions

60 pts (12x 5 pts)


The final grade for the course is determined based on total earned points out of a possible 420 points. The following grading scale may be relaxed part way through the semester.

Final Grade

Total Required Points (%)


378 (90)


336 (80)


294 (70)


252 (60)

Homework/Quizzes: As you can see there will be one homework and one discussion assignment each week that does not have a test, with the exception of the last week. The 13th discussion is ungraded. A good way to study is to work together. That is part of what the online discussions are for. That does not mean post solutions to weekly homeworks. But you can provide guidance on how to approach a homework question for all to see. If you post a solution, you receive no credit for that week's homework or discussion. You cannot expect to do well on the three tests if you cannot work the homework questions leading up to the tests. Homeworks will likely be activated by Wednesday, but this may change based on class discussions. Assume the due time will always be Friday at 8:00 pm with an automatic grace period extending to Saturday at 11:55 pm.

Tests: Tests will be timed and you are on your honor not to have anyone helping you with the test or using the internet, book or any other source as an aid, without my permission. Simply having a correct answer on the test is not sufficient. You must be able to justify it in a conversation after the test to receive full credit.

Discussion/Participation: Your participation is expected and required during the weekly discussions. You must post one relevant thoughtful comment or meaningful contribution to the class discussion each week before the weekly homework is activated. Asking a due date or other trivial question is not meaningful. Agreeing with a previous post is not a thoughtful or meaningful post. Asking a question that leads to a meaningful discussion of a relevant topic or providing guidance on a relevant topic will qualify as a meaningful contribution. Ideally, I would like the discussion forum to look more like a conversation. In the ideal conversation, you will think about ideas or topics that you might have otherwise missed. Participate in the online conversation and you should earn the weekly credit. The instructor determines the quality of the contributions. One comment is the minimum acceptable contribution but does not guarantee full credit for the week. Quality counts.

Course Outline: The following is a tentative list of material to be covered, homework problems, and tests. Go to Regginet to access Test, Discussion and Quiz (homework) sites






(estimated due week)


1. 8/20



Earth - A Changing Planet

Disc 1


2. 8/27


High Energy Society

Disc 2


3. 9/3


Motion 1, Motion II

Disc 3


4. 9/10

5 & 6

Fossil Fuels 1, Fossil Fuels 2

Disc 4


5. 9/17

5 & 6

Fossil Fuels 3, Fossil Fuels 4

Disc 5


6. 9/24


Test 1

Transportation, Thermodynamics

7. 10/1


Electricity 1-3

Disc 6


8. 10/8


Electricity 4, Electricity 5

Disc 7


9. 10/15

12 & 13

Light, Earth's Temperature

Disc 8


10. 10/22

13, 14, & 15

Global Warming, Climate Change

Disc 9


11. 10/29


Test 2

Solar Energy, Solar Electricity

12. 11/5


Wind Power, Hydropower, Biomass

Disc 10


13. 11/12


Nuclear Radiation

Disc 11


14. 11/26


Nuclear Power, Nuclear Waste

Disc 12


15. 12/3

8 & 16

Geothermal/Tidal, Conclusion

Disc 13

16. 12/10


Test 3


Final Note: You are responsible for all material covered in the course, regardless of your level of participation. Only your own work will contribute toward your grade. You are obligated to follow the Illinois State University Code of Student Conduct. Failure to do so may result in failure of this course.