Physics, Science, and Pseudoscience

I. Course description

Physics: the Science and the Pseudoscience is a discussion-based course in the “rights” and “wrongs” of physics. The emphasis is on critical analysis of the ways in which scientific fact is misrepresented. The intent of the course is to provide the scholars the skills with which they can address fallacies that arise with regards to the science that is physics.

II. Instructor:  Mike O’Brien
  • BS, University of Texas at El Paso, 1987.  Master of Educational Administration, Lindenwood University, 1999.
  • Current employer: The Fort Zumwalt School District, Fort Zumwalt South High School, 8050 Mexico Road, St. Peters, Mo. 63376
  • E-mail:
III. Rationale for inclusion in a program for gifted students:

Physics is a challenging science which most Missouri Scholars will eventually pursue in their home high schools. Physics: the Science and the Pseudoscience gives these talented students an opportunity to engage in critical analysis of physical concepts. These young people are particularly well informed on the physical world but even they too may harbor scientific misinformation.

IV. Major topics covered
  • History of Physics
  • Newtonian Dynamics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Pseudoscience
  • Paranormal Phenomena
  • Relativity
  • Metaphysics
  • Science Fiction and Physics
  • Physics in Entertainment
  • The Physics of Sports
  • Communication
  • Education
V. Pre-requisite knowledge

The scholars are in no need of any training in physics but it is expected that they be proficient in algebra.

VI. Learning objectives

The scholars should be prepared to address critical questions involving the topics for discussion as outlined previously.

VII. Primary source material
  • Various articles culled from the internet.
  • MU Physics Demo Book-Lee Carlson, University of Missouri Press, 1996
  • College and University Physics Lab Manual-C.W. Tompson and H.W. White, University of Missouri Press, 1995
  • Fundamentals of Physics-David Halliday and Robert Resnick,  John Wiley and Sons, 1988
  • Conceptual Physics-Paul Hewitt, Addison Wesley, 1992
VIII. Supplementary source material
  • Journey Through the Universe-Jay Pasachoff, Saunders College Publishing, 1992
  • Physics: Principles and Problems-Paul Zitzewitz and Robert F. Neff, Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 1990
  • Universe-William F. Kaufmann III, W.H. Freeman and Company, 1968