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 (ISIS 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 ISIS 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.
The beginning of a three-semester sequence in Physics, this course will concentrate mainly on mechanics with applications to astronomy. Topics will include kinematics and dynamics in one and two dimensions, planetary motion, conservation of energy and momentum, rigid bodies and rotation, and relativity. The course is calculus-based and makes heavy use of computer modeling to develop realistic examples. It is highly recommended that students take calculus in the same semester that they begin this course. Weekly laboratory/field work is required. The labs are grouped into three major projects. Evaluations will be based on class participation, problem sets, and laboratory project reports. Co-requisite: Calculus I
Students in Learning Activity Projects (LAP) compile lists of learning activities based on their independent work during the semester. Each student will write a title, description and self-evaluation for every learning activity to be officially recognized for LAP credit. The student must also secure a signed evaluation of the work, written by someone familiar with both the subject matter and the student's course of study. The subjects of the learning activities need not be restricted to a particular discipline, school of thought, or arena of creative work. Students are encouraged to collaborate with others in their courses of study, for example, by joining student-led Experimental Program in Education and Community (EPEC) courses or informal learning groups. LAP uses a self-evaluation outline that has proven to be helpful for all narrative evaluations; this year we will experiment with an innovation -- a suggested checklist for evaluators.
If Science is not 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 with 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 ISIS institute (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.
This course investigates the structure of a powerful intellectual influence of our times: modern theoretical physics. Using two-state systems including electron spin and photon polarization, we develop the actual quantum theory in its matrix mechanics form. That theory underlies our current understanding of atoms, particles, and virtually all physical processes: it is fundamental to all modern physics including Quantum Teleportation, Computation & Information, AND has important philosophical consequences as well. Quantum mechanics underlies all chemistry and molecular processes, including biology. The course has three themes: quantitative approximations to interesting phenomena; formal use of mathematics to describe observations; the philosophical and cultural significance of interpretations of physical theory. Students contact course material in ways parallel to physicists approaching nature. How to formulate questions, including how to make them into solvable puzzles, how to work cooperatively -- utilizing both learned and created concepts -- and how to master formal reasoning are all learned by experience. Students are expected to attend an additional 1.5 hours "lab" time for problem solving TBA at the first class meeting.
How things work is a first-year Physics course, using easier mathematics (algebra through pre-calculus) to study the full range of its topics. It introduces students to college physics, projects, and science through study of ordinary objects. Principles flow from everyday applications in mechanics, electricity & magnetism, electronics and optics. We steadily build an individualized project, learning stages of research and write-up that are needed for any intellectual investigation. This course covers the five elements of a complete Natural Science experience, including quantitative and verbal skills, the methods of scientific inquiry, and the importance of social context, all as applied to the topic of each student's choice, thereby addressing crucial first-year program goals.