American University
ENVS 505-001 [Spring 2024]
Last Updated: 17 April 2024

with Professor Dr. Harold Geller
Updates in progress throughout semester

You may follow me on Twitter @AstroBioProf :: NAS Energy Site :: Earth Picture of the Day


This course will study the scientific concepts associated with energy and the environment. We begin with an overview of the physical concept of energy and the scientific thoughts and processes associated with energy. We then continue to examine the primary sources of energy in use today, including such examples as fossil fuels, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, nuclear energy, and other alternative energy sources. We conclude with a study of the conservation of energy, and how the use of energy on this planet has a synergism with the issue of pollution and it global effects. The labs for the course include computer simulations and a semester long project (with paper) to demonstrate essential features of (i) the physical concept of energy; (ii) the alternative sources of energy; (iii) the nature of nuclear energy; and (iv) global effects including air pollution and energy conservation.
HOMEWORK for 29 JAN 2024:
obtain information from homeowner on their electricity usage
HOMEWORK #1 - Grid to Home Write-Up :: Excel Data :: Fuel Mix Map to be turned in 29 January 2024.

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Energy Fundamentals and Energy Use in an Industrial Society
18 January 2024 - Introduction to Class, Discuss Chapter 1
Introduction to Class

22 January 2024 - Chapter 1 discussion
Lecture #2 Presentation
Slide Rule Simulation

25 January 2024 - Chapter 1 discussion
Lecture #3 Presentation
2008/9 Energy Flow from Source to Use in USA :: Energy Units and Fuel Energy Content

Chapter 2 - Fossil Fuels
29 January 2024 - Chapter 2 discussion
Lecture #4 Presentation
Turn in Homework assignment #1 this date

1 February 2024 - Complete Chapter 2 discussion
Chapter 2 Notes for Gas and Coal

Chapter 1 - Heat Engines, Thermodynamics and Carnot
5 February 2024 - Start discussion
Heat Lecture Notes
Homework #2 - Energy Transformation and Carnot Cycle :: Homework #2 Write-up for Thermodynamics and Carnot Engine :: PHET Simulation for Energy Forms and Changes due 19 February 2024.

Chapter 1 - Heat Engines, Thermodynamics and Carnot
8 February 2024 - Complete discussion of Heat Energy And discuss in-class discussion questions and answers (sample answer)
Heat Lecture Notes

Chapter 9 - Solar Energy
12 February 2024 - Chapter 9 discussion
Regarding Atmospheric Mass
Chapter 9 Notes

15 February 2024 - Complete Chapter 9 discussion (Solar Energy)
Notes for Chapter 9 (lecture 9)

Chapter 7 and 8 - Hydro and Wind
19 February 2024 - Start Chapter 7 and 8 AND collect homework
Notes for Chapter 7 and 8

22 February 2024 - Chapter 5 and 6: Biofuels, Geothermal and Tidal
Notes for Chapter 5 and 6

26 February 2024 - Review for Mid-term Examination
Mid semester recap

29 February 2024 - MID-TERM EXAMINATION

Mid-Term Examination

4 March 2024 - Nuclear Energy
Chapter 3 and 4: Nuclear Energy
Notes for Chapter 3 and 4

7 March 2024 - Nuclear Energy Continued
Homework #3 (due 18 March 2024) - Nuclear Power Plants :: Nuclear Power Plant Simulator Write-Up :: Demo version of Nuclear Power Plant Simulator
Many more notes for Chapter 3 and 4

11 March 2024 - SPRING BREAK - NO CLASS

14 March 2024 - SPRING BREAK - NO CLASS

18 March 2024 Small Modular Reactor Slides

21 March 2024
Webinar (in lieu of guest speaker)

25 March 2024 - Chapter 12: Energy Conservation
Chapter 12 Related - Energy in Transportation
Transportation Lecture Notes
Radiation doses in perspective

28 March 2024
Guest Lecture - James C. Jordan, President & CEO, Interstate Maglev Project LLC
Brief Biography
  • He is a Principal and Chief Executive of the Interstate Maglev Project.
  • He is a former energy research director for the U.S. Navy, a policy advisor for then Senator John C. Stennis, a private business consultant and a business leader of several technology companies.
  • From 1990 to the present, Mr. Jordan engaged in policy analysis and providing strategic advice in the advancement of several private sector businesses seeking develop-ment and utilization of advanced technologies.
  • In his work for the United States Navy, Commander Jordan served on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations as a Program Director for the Navy’s Energy R&D program. He conceived and directed a computer-based world-wide performance monitoring system for logistics; directed Navy public affairs program; developed and implemented executive planning system for Navy headquarters command; planned and implemented a post graduate military educational program; taught behavioral science at post graduate level; managed a primary logistics facility in Vietnam; and directed various ship and shore Navy organizations.
  • During the 1980’s, Mr. Jordan was a senior policy advisor to Senator John C. Stennis, President Pro-Tempore and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In addition, during the 1980’s, he directed the Center for Preservation Policy Studies at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  • He is a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (with distinction, 1977). As a Navy Officer, he also obtained a Masters in Business Administration at Harvard (1970). He graduated in 1959 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    1 April 2024 - Complete discussion of Chapter 7
    More Chapter 12 Transportation Notes

    Abstract and Outline for

    Abstract (~250 words)

    We address the feasibility of having a safe and reliable nuclear power plant generating approximately one gigawatt of electrical power. We present two case studies of successfully implemented nuclear power plants and two case studies of nuclear power plants that failed to provide sustained output. The first case study presents the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan. We review its design and its subsequent failure following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Next, we present the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, USA. We review its design and its subsequent catastrophic failure in 1979. We next present the design and implementation of the Able nuclear power plant in Kahoolawe, Hawaii, USA. Its 30 years of successful operations is reviewed. The final case study is of the nuclear power plant at Cannes, France. It has been in operations for over 40 years without any significant incidents. We conclude our effort by comparing and contrasting the successful and failed nuclear power plants. We offer our conclusions as to how a nuclear power plant can be implemented successfully. As part of our concluding remarks we offer a guideline to insuring the safe operating and implementing of a one-gigawatt nuclear facility with emergency management procedures in place for natural and manmade disasters. We also offer contingency plans that must be in place for the retrieval and removal of nuclear waste. We recommend nuclear waste be collected and removed to a central location for long-term burial at a federally protected waste facility.

    Term Paper Outline:

    Title Page


    References (provide at least 3 sample peer-reviewed papers)

    4 April 2024 - Chapter 12 discussion of Conservation
    More Chapter 12 Notes
    APA Format Writing Guidelines Presentation

    8 April 2024 - More discussion of Chapter 12
    Conservation and collect term paper abstracts, outlines and 3 sample references
    Additional Chapter 12 Notes on energy conservation

    AU Great American Solar Eclipse Viewing Party

    11 April 2024 - Begin Chapter 14 discussions
    Chapter 14 Notes
    Download 'Pollution Jeopardy' Here

    Canceled Guest Lecturer: Michael Wysession
    Energy Needs for Transportation
    Energy Efficiency: Technologies and Trends

    15 April 2024 - More Chapter 14 discussion
    Some Chapter 14 Notes
    The Sustainability of Nuclear Energy [CNBC video]

    18 April 2024 - Discuss Chapter 14 some more
    Chapter 14 Notes on Ozone and Greenhouse Gases

    22 April 2024 - Student presentations
    6 student presentations

    25 April 2024 - Student presentations
    5 student presentations

    29 April 2024 - More Chapter 14 plus final review

    Regarding Examination #2 and Term Paper for Tuesday 30 April 2024

    Other Spring 2024 Semester Information
    Classes begin							16 January 2024
    Spring Break						11 March to 17 March 2024
    Last day of classes						29 April 2024
    Second EXAMINATION for ENVS 505					29 April 2024

    Instructor: Grading Policy for ENVS 505:
    The homework assignments will be worth 30% of your final grade. Class participation (iClickers and in-class) will be worth 10% of your final grade. The mid-term examination will be worth 15% of your final grade. The final examination will be worth 15% of your final grade, and will be comprehensive in nature. The term paper and presentation will be worth 30% of your final grade.
    			Homework assignments					30 %
    			Class Participation					10 %
    			Mid-Term Examination					15 %
    			Comprehensive Final					15 %
    			Term Paper and Pres					30 %
    Honor Code Adherence
    Students are expected to follow the American University rules of student conduct.
    Course Format - Lectures
    Lectures will consist of various forms of presentation material including videos, computer displays, demonstrations and transparencies. Questions are acceptable at any time during the lecture. Students should be alert during the lecture and prepared to answer queries posed as they arise.

    Entry level Competencies
    The course is primarily a conceptual-based course using a small amount of algebra and geometry. Students should have English composition skills.

    Course Objectives
    1. Explain the scientific method and the philosophy of science, as related to the study of energy and the environment.
    2. Describe the physical laws that govern the interaction of matter, energy, time, and space.
    3. Describe how environmentalists utilize physical sciences to gain the knowledge of the mechanics and synergism of energy and the environment.
    4. Appreciate the magnitude of the scientific problem of the envirnoment and the human use of energy on the planet Earth.
    5. Exploration of physical properties of the environment essential to all life on Earth.
    6. The physical, chemical and biological constraints underlying the exploration and exploitation of energy sources on the planet Earth.
    Major Topics to be Included
    1. Fundamental concepts of energy.
    2. Measurement and units of energy.
    3. History and use of petroleum products.
    4. History and use of coal.
    5. History and use of natural gas.
    6. Mechanical energy transformation using engines.
    7. Solar energy.
    8. Hydroelectric power.
    9. Wind power.
    10. Ocean thermal energy conversion.
    11. Geothermal power.
    12. Tidal energy.
    13. Wave energy.
    14. Nuclear energy generation and safety.
    15. Nuclear weapons.
    16. Nuclear fission versus nuclear fusion.
    17. Energy conservation.
    18. Modes of transportation.
    19. The atmosphere and air pollution.
    20. Ozone layer and its depletion.
    21. Greenhouse Effect.

    Additional Topics Regarding Classwork
    As deemed appropriate, the course may be supplemented with additional homework, guest speakers and discussions of new discoveries.