Maroon Edition Essay Contest

All MSU undergraduates are invited to submit an essay based on Richard Muller's book Physics for Future Presidents, the Maroon Edition book selection for the Fall 2013 semester. There will be a separate contest for Freshmen and for Upperclassmen. Prizes are $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $100 for third place for each contest. Prizes will be awarded to the student's MSU account.

Your essay must discuss ONE of these topics:

  1. Discuss a specific issue that was addressed in the book that completely changed your perspective on the issue. In addition to discussing your perspective change, also address why accurate information on your selected issue is important for all Americans. What are the possible consequences of understanding or misunderstanding of a given issue?

  3. What does a future president need to know about a subject other than physics? You might consider the topics of biology for future presidents, for example, or chemistry, engineering, agriculture, one of the arts, or another discipline. What specific issues in your chosen area are a concern for a future president and why? In keeping with the book, your essay should explain the issue's significance to the nation as a whole, explore the possible approaches to the issue, and make a case for the approach that you prefer.

  5. One goal of Physics for Future Presidents is to help a President make difficult choices. How should a President—or anyone, for that matter—make hard decisions? Does the book offer a model or method? Is this method applicable to any situation or is it restricted to the rarified cases a President might face? Using a specific case from the book, explain how the book models a sound decision-making process.

  7. Throughout Physics for Future Presidents, the author resolutely refuses to engage the ethical concerns that go along with tough issues, saying that he prefers to present the scientific facts of the matters and leave ethical reasoning to others. But it is clear that ethics can play a significant role in Presidential policy and decision-making on the subjects Muller addresses. Examine one case where the ethics of the matter are at least as important as, if not more important than, the science and demonstrate how an ample consideration of ethics would influence a Presidential position.

  9. Because Physics for Future Presidents was published in 2008, the research and real world examples in the book are at least five years old.  For example, Muller describes such major events as the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.  Select one issue that Richard Muller addresses and connect it to 2013. Has any scientific or technological development occurred that alters Muller's presentation of facts? What current events provide a more contemporary illustration of the principles of physics that you encountered in this book?

In writing about the topic you choose, give your own ideas and arguments, being sure to use quotations and specific examples from the book to illustrate and support your points.

Format: Your essay must not exceed 1000 words and must be typed and double-spaced, with one-inch margins. Font type must be Times New Roman, with 12-point font size. Include a cover sheet with your name, net ID, your class (freshman, sophomore, junior or senior), your phone number and the written out Honor Code signed by you. However, DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON THE BODY OF THE ESSAY. Put the title at the top of the first page of the essay.  Submit your essay by midnight on January 27, 2014, to as an attached Microsoft Word document.  If you have questions, please contact the following: for the Freshman contest, contact Dr. Bonnie Carr O'Neill at; for the Upperclassmen contest, please contact Dr. Deborah Lee at Dr. Linda Morse may be contacted with questions about either contest at

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. --Sir Richard Steele