Physics For Future Presidents

About The Professor

Professor in the Department of Physics, UC Berkeley.

In the photo at right, Professor Muller with a "charmer" in Morocco teasing a cobra with his fingers and his tongue. Despite the cobra repeatedly strucking, the man was faster. Note how he holds the cobra. He can sense when it is going to strike, and it can only strike a short distance.

Richard A. Muller (born January 6, 1944 in San Francisco, California) is a physicist who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Muller began his career as a graduate student under Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez doing particle physics experiments and working with bubble chambers. During his early years he also helped in the development of the accelerator mass spectroscopy and made some of the first measurements of anisotropy in the cosmic microwave background.

Dr. Muller branched out into other areas of science, and in particular the earth sciences. His work has included attempting to understand the ice ages, dynamics at the core-mantle boundary, patterns of extinction and biodiversity through time, and the processes associated with impact cratering. One of his most well known proposals is the Nemesis hypothesis suggesting that the sun could have an as yet undetected companion star, whose perturbations of the Oort cloud and subsequent effects on the flux of comets entering the inner solar system could explain an apparent 26 million year periodicity in extinction events.
Richard Muller is a member of the JASON Defense Advisory Group,which brings together top scientists as consultants for the United States Department of Defense. He was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 1982. He also received the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation "for highly original and innovative research which has led to important discoveries and inventions in diverse areas of physics, including astrophysics, radioisotope dating, and optics." More recently, he received a distinguished teaching award from UC Berkeley. For several years, he was a monthly columnist with MIT's Technology Review. In his August 2003 column on the polygraph machine used in lie detection examinations, Muller asserted that "the polygraph procedure has an accuracy between 80 and 95 percent." In contrast, the National Academy of Sciences found that there is "little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy."

Dr. Muller is married to architect Rosemary Muller.

Prof. Richard A. Muller
Richard A. Muller
Name: Richard A. Muller
Institution: University of California, Berkeley