BQ6: How can physics benefit society?

The search for the fundamental laws and explanations of natural phenomena often leads to technological breakthroughs of great benefit to society. In many cases, physicists also directly address important technological challenges in engineering, medicine, communications, information processing, finance, environmental science, and national security. A deep familiarity with the physical principles and the possibilities inherent in them is critical for the development of new techniques and the design and implementation of practical devices and applications. The possibilities for advancement encompass the full range of sub-disciplines, from subatomic physics to condensed matter and complex systems.

Physicists at Duke are actively developing new physics-based techniques and technologies for communications, information processing, sensing with electromagnetic waves, neural networks and statistical modeling, nuclear energy production, detection of nuclear materials oriented towards homeland security, optimization of radiation risk versus benefits in medical imaging procedures, development of quantitative medical diagnostic procedures, applications of properties of granular materials to defense, industries and space-engineering, and the assessment of dynamic response of plants to changes in carbon levels in the soil and atmosphere.

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