PHYS 280 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Reading Assignments

Reading assignments are to be completed by the dates listed in the table below. They may be the subject of in-class questions for credit and questions on the Midterm and Final Examinations. Note: We will use TopHat for clicker questions (as well as lecture slides).

Reading assignments are divided between those that cover basic course content and those that discuss current events. These different types of reading assignments are posted separately in the table, but both are required. Please be sure to check here regularly for new additions.

Reading actively and critically, and consciously emulating models of good writing, can help you to improve as a writer. Scroll down to find questions that can help you to learn more about writing as you read.

Due Date Assignment
Jan 15
Article 1, Part 4 of the Student Code
Jan 24
Jan 29 The Physics and Technology of Nuclear-Explosive Materials
  Use of Reactor-Grade and Weapons-Grade Plutonium in Nuclear Explosives
Two Minutes to Midnight (2019 Doomsday Clock Statement)
Jan 31
Feb 5  Use of Reactor-Grade and Weapons-Grade Plutonium in Nuclear Explosives
Feb 7
What Terrorists Want: Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 3, & 4
Feb 11
What Terrorists Want: Chapters 5, 6, 7, & 8
Feb 12
Preventing Catastrophic Nuclear Terrorism [Click on the link "Nuclear Terrorism Csr (324K PDF)" at the lower left of this page to download the report]
Feb 14
Feb 26
Global Fissile Material Stocks (2010 report by the Institute for Science and International Security)
Worldwide Nuclear Weapon Inventories (2018 report by the Arms Control Association)
Feb 28
Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories (2017 report by the Arms Control Association)
Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015 (December 2001 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate)
The Ballistic Missile Threat (June 2001 report by Joseph Cirincione)
Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat (June 2009 NASIC Report)
Mar 26
Mar 28
Apr 2
Apr 9
Apr 11
Apr 16
Apr 18
April 23
April 30


Learning From Good Writing

One way to improve your writing is to study examples of good writing by others and to read actively and critically as a general habit. Here are some questions to ask yourself while you are reading and after, to reflect on what you have read. These questions will help you to think about the choices writers make and call to your attention writing techniques that you can use in your own work.

  1. How did the author grab your attention and make you want to read on?
    The first thing you saw was the title. Did it catch your eye? If so, why?
    Did the first sentence interest you further? If so, how?
    Did the first paragraph make you want to read onward? If so, why?

  2. How did the author structure the article or essay?
    Was there an introductory paragraph or paragraphs?
    Were there a series of main points? If so, how were they identified?
    How did the author end the article or essay?

  3. How did the author communicate the main points of the article or essay?
    Did the author ask and then answer a question or a series of questions?
    Illustrate one or more points with a story or anecdote?
    List the main points and then elaborate?

  4. How did the ending serve the purpose of the article or essay?
    Was there a summary of the main points made?
    An appeal for the reader to act?
    A dramatic claim?

  5. Maintaining a critical attitude reading any essay, article, or opinion piece, it is important to maintain a critical attitude and be alert to accidental or deliberate misuse of language. Language is a tool for thinking clearly as well as a vital mode of communication. If language becomes corrupted, communication becomes difficult and clarity of thought suffers. Particularly insidious is deliberate corruption of language to deceive or mislead the reader.