Physics on Trial
Dr. Richard. J. Reimann
Boise State University
The American judicial system is built upon precedence and the testimony of
expert witnesses. Such an authoritarian role can be particularly difficult
for a physics teacher accustomed to objective analysis and guiding understanding.
Jurors usually have diverse, non-technical backgrounds and will balk at anything
beyond conceptual physics. Can they gain a working appreciation of
Newtonian physics in less than an hour? Will opposing attorneys realize
the breadth of physics or limit the testimony as either irrelevant or outside
the area of expertise? Are reasonable approximations acceptable or
too simplistic? What happens when other experts fail to recognize subtleties?
Personal experiences involving several first-degree child murder cases are