Professor of Physics
Bernstein is actively engaged in innovative education, especially a variety of efforts to go beyond course-based learning. His current vision includes a modernized version of Dewey’s “transformative” education and means for implementing the paradigm shift from teaching to learning at all levels of education. This work connects directly to his philosophically-based socially relevant efforts through Hampshire’s institute for science and interdisciplinary studies (IS&IS institute).
Bernstein holds a B.A. from Columbia and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at San Diego, all in physics. He was a post-doctoral member of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, where he is now emeritus on the alumni board of trustees, an organization for which he served as nominating chair for two decades. The American Physical Society cited Bernstein's broad impact on science when electing him APS Fellow in 2003. Their citation mentions pioneering work at the start of two fields of physics and unique contribution to the understanding of science-and-society issues through the Institute for Science at Hampshire. He is a co-founder of the Anacapa Society, a national professional association of research theoretical physicists working at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions.
Bernstein was a Mina Shaughnessy Scholar, a Kellogg National Leadership Fellow, and recipient of a Sigma Xi Science Honor Society award (with Victor F. Weisskopf's 1984 Procter Prize). He is a Five College "40th Anniversary" professor and winner of their (academic year 2013-4) Jackie Pritzen Prize for public scholarship. He also holds the Hampshire Oscar award for Best Adviser and received the 2015 Gruber Award for advising.
His teaching and research interests include science and society; the effects of modern knowledge; quantum communication: interferometry, information and teleportation; and theoretical modern physics. He is president and chief scientist of IS&IS Institute at Hampshire, the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies.
His unique and distinguished approach to the sciences is best represented by the history of the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies, reflected in its website. The projects on military waste cleanup; quantum teleportation; Amazon ecology; and genomics and the ongoing Bohm Scientists' Dialogue have implemented the Institute's philosophy as outlined in Muddling Through.
During a recent sabbatical Professor Bernstein split his time on two coasts as a visiting professor, UCSB (University of California at Santa Barbara), and a visiting scholar in the Draper Program at NYU (New York University). He is author and co-author of two books; many, many scientific papers; and holder of a U.S. patent.
In fall 2019, our Faculty presciently adopted a planning framework: "liberal education to address global problems, foreseen or unforeseen, whose solutions exceed current disciplinary knowledge or performance." For economic, social, physical, environmental or health problems the arts & sciences are society's most important tools. But science is not purely objective and art never just "for Art's sake." And aesthetics, meaning-making & sciences also proliferate side effects -- ranging from toxic military pollution, through unforeseen biological disruption, to global warming and political backlash. Do we need "new ways of thinking" to address the personal/political problem of going beyond existing disciplinary knowledge for social good? Participants study reconstructive knowledge and "heuristics"- mathematics' term for problem solving schema & techniques. We examine techniques from arts, social enterprises, sciences, math & the law: "letting the medium/materials speak," cross-examination, word-problem formulation, turning problems into projects & puzzles. Real-world efforts at The Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Study, including newest Compassionate Knowledge initiatives help launch discussion of our own efforts including sample & practice problems of individual choosing. Key Words: Thinking, Science, heuristics, solutions, creativity, math
Quantum & Classical Mechanics with Lab: Physics I teaches the fundamental principles of quantum physics including requisite classical mechanics concepts. Topics cover the essence of measurement, properties of elementary particles and the full-fledged "Quantum Mechanics for the Myriad." Using two-state systems including electron spin and photon polarization, we develop the actual quantum theory in its matrix form: theory underlying our current understanding of atoms, particles, and virtually all physical processes. Quantum mechanics is fundamental to nuclear applications, electronic devices, and lasers. Of all technical subjects it may be THE most relevant to "education for global problems whose solutions escape current disciplinary knowledge;" it has major philosophical implications. The math is serious and taught within the syllabus, especially using linear algebra, complex numbers and trigonometry, but only a minimum of calculus. Course is for all who seek a basic understanding of fundamental laws of physics: STEM-focused students, those on pre-professional tracks, and students who have science-philosophical interests. Key words: Reality, Physics, Quantum, Pre-Medical, Teleportation
If Science is not purely objective and art not just for "Art's sake" what are we to do? From energy systems, to economic crises, to protection against terrorists; from supplying new food organisms, to drone warfare in the Middle East, to exploring meaning with all kinds of creative human endeavors, our modern society turns to the arts & sciences for solutions. But the sciences also proliferate side effects -- ranging from toxic military pollution, through unforeseen biological disruption, to global warming and political backlash. Do we need "new ways of knowing" to address the personal/political problem of combining disciplinary excellence for social good? Participants study reconstructive knowledge and APPLY it to their own work. We will together develop the reading list, and update it: we read the instructor's two books and those of Foucault, Keller, etc., to help reconstruct what we each DO as knowledge workers -- our projects, concentrations and theses. The real-world efforts at The Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Study help launch discussion of our own work. This course has remarkable effects on divisional work, graduate school, even professional lives beyond. Opportunity to help Update course readings, including the newer Institute effort towards compassionate knowledge will occur in Fall'19 as preparation.