Virtually all of our environmental problems arise from having chemicals in the wrong place: noxious and reactive gases in our atmosphere, insecticides and toxic metals in our ground and drinking water, and spilled nuclear wastes. Many of these problems are also a direct consequence of energy production. This course -- designed for students without experience in other university-level science courses -- explores the chemistry behind some of our more pressing environmental dilemmas. Topics include some consequences of fossil fuel combustion (the greenhouse effect, acid rain, urban smog), the ozone hole, nuclear energy/wastes, and ground water contamination. The emphasis is on the science behind these problems, what we know about how the problems have come about, and what we can do, if anything, to mitigate the problems. This course is for the student who has not taken college-level chemistry, but is concerned about our threatened environment.Students who successfully complete this seminar will satisfy the Scientific Perspective core requirement.
Ephraim Woods is a physical chemist, and his current research involves the chemistry of aerosol particles in the atmosphere.