President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is a plan to make nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. Physicists have a professional interest in such a program because SDI involves high‐power lasers, x‐ray lasers, particle beams, large astronomical mirrors, computers, increased space shuttle program, etc. SDI is of interest to physics teachers because there are many important physical problems that must be resolved before this defense system will work. In this article several problems that SDI needs to address are sketched. There is a short discussion of each problem, but no detailed solutions or answers. Physics teachers can use these problems to discuss the various aspects of SDI that are germane to ‘‘Science and Society’’ type physics courses.

This content is only available via PDF.
AAPT members receive access to the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.