Paul T. Hosmer
Physics

Paul T. Hosmer

Chairman and Professor of Physics
“Nature, being inherently harmonious, is beautiful, and physics is an attempt to discover what factors combine, and in what ways and in what proportions, to create the harmony which we describe as physical laws. In other words, physics studies the beauty of nature.”
— Paul Hosmer

Faculty Information

Additional Faculty Information for Paul T. Hosmer

Education

Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2005

M.S., Michigan State University, 2001

B.A., Hillsdale College, 1999

Memberships

American Physical Society
Ohio-Region Section – APS

American Association of Physics Teachers
Michigan Section – AAPT

Sigma Pi Sigma

Sigma Zeta

Phi Kappa Phi

Talks: Physics in Classical Education

Physics in a Classical Education. Spring Meeting of the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI, Apr 8, 2017.

Teaching Physics Through the Founding Fathers. Fall Meeting of the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI, Oct 15, 2016.

Science Essays

The Study of Physics Within the Liberal Arts

82.3% Eclipse of the Heart. Essay for The Hillsdale Forum. Vol III, Issue 18, October 2017.

Courses Taught

PHY 100: Great Principles of Physics
PHY 101: College Physics I
PHY 102: College Physics II
PHY 110: Meteorology
PHY 303: Theoretical Physics I
PHY 304: Theoretical Physics II
PHY 310: Experimental Physics I
PHY 421: Mechanics
PHY 471: Advanced Experimental Physics: Nuclear
PHY 507: Nuclear and Atomic Physics
PHY 511: Quantum Mechanics II
SCI 101: Physical Science
Honors 250: The Liberal Arts Tradition
Honors 252: Interstellar Travel
Collegiate Scholars 101: The Liberal Arts Tradition
Collegiate Scholars 260: Science and the Founding Fathers

About

My highest goal in my teaching is for my students to recognize the importance, the utility, and the beauty of physics and the things about nature which it reveals. This goal applies to all of my students in all of my physics classes, with varying emphases on one or the other of these three characteristics of physics depending on the course. Each of these items—importance, utility, and beauty—are unique aspects or qualities of physics that I would like to impart, although they are often related (for example, physics is important in part because of its utility).

Physics is important. Some of the earliest written texts describe observations of motions in the heavens. In the Age of Enlightenment, the founding fathers among others considered the physics of Newton’s Principia to be the ultimate triumph of human achievement through reason. In the 20th century, physicists gave mankind the ability to destroy itself and the world with the push of a button. By any measure, the science of physics has been very important to mankind, and it continues to be so now.

Physics is useful. Not least among the reasons for its importance is the utility of physics and the products of physics research. Much of our technology today has as its basis something made possible by discoveries in physics, and make use of physical laws and properties, the understanding of which was the result of hard and slow progress in physics research. However, by “utility” I do not just mean that physics is useful of itself, but rather that learning physics is useful even for non-physicists. At least a passing knowledge of physics is useful for political leaders and government bureaucrats who are required to make decisions regarding the spending of large amounts of money on physics-related projects, the funding of which, or lack thereof, may have profound effects on the lives of every person for years, even decades into the future. It is also useful for those who, in a representative democracy, are expected to elect those who will make such decisions.

Physics is beautiful. One studies physics in order to learn more fully how to appreciate beauty in nature. I rely on Plutarch’s definition of beauty: “…beauty is made up of a number of factors happily combined in a due proportion and harmony.” Nature, it seems, is inherently harmonious, and what is physics but the attempt to discover what factors—and in what way those factors—combine in due proportion to create the harmony which we describe as physical laws.