A general physics survey course should not be merely a list of topics. Instead it should have a unifying theme, and there is no better unifying theme than the most fundamental and useful idea in physics: energy. A course organized around energy will naturally make frequent contact with students' everyday lives, with current events, and with the rest of science. Students will also develop their numeracy skills, through meaningful calculations that require no higher mathematics. To teach such a course successfully, however, we must resist two opposing temptations. On one hand lies the risk of digressing into too many physics details, in a vain attempt to teach students all of physics in a single course. On the other hand lies the risk of spending too much time on environmental or political issues, thus losing contact with the physics.
Last modified on 5 April 2002.