Talk #74, 9/5/12

An Astrophysicist’s Approach to Understanding Global and Renewable Energy

Dr. Thomas Murphy

Associate Professor of Physics
University of California San Diego

Professor Murphy is an astrophysicist with a wide range of interests. These include testing general relativity (using the technique of lunar laser ranging), the strong equivalence principle, the time-rate-of-change of Newton’s gravitational constant, and the inverse square law. He is involved with investigating the curious degraded performance of the reflectors left on the lunar surface by the astronauts and recently re-discovered the reflector array on the Soviet Lunokhod 1rover, after being lost for forty years. In addition to his work on astrophysics, Professor Murphy is passionate about exploring realistic schemes for renewably energizing our society in the years ahead. In this talk, he will take an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth. The approach stresses estimation over exactness, because in many cases a reasonably complete picture can be developed without lots of decimal places. He argues that estimations of this type can be used to bring clarity to complex issues or to evaluate the potential of proposed energy solutions. He has started a blog with the hope that readers will gain the courage and techniques to start making valuable estimations of their own. The blog can be located at:


The following is a link to the PowerPoint presentation (pptx file extension).


Update from June 2019:
Some of Professor Murphy’s research was cited in an article in the New York Times on May 29, 2019. This time, the research was with regard to the efficiency of boiling water as another thing that people can do to reduce carbon emissions and thereby affect climate change. Clearly, Prof. Murphy, an astrophysicist, has a wide range of interests! Here is a link to the article:

One Thing You Can Do: Boil Water Efficiently – NYT 5/29/19