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Phil Kesten, Associate Professor of Physics, SCU | Associate Vice Provost, SCU Undergraduate Studies

Phil Kesten

Philip Kesten is Associate Professor of Physics and the Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Santa Clara University.

Dr. Kesten earned his B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. in High Energy Particle Physics from the University of Michigan.  Dr. Kesten was a member of the experimental collaboration at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory that announced the discovery of the top quark in 1994.

Since joining the Santa Clara faculty in 1990 Dr. Kesten has served as the Chairman of the Department of Physics, the Associate Provost for the Residential Learning Communities Program, and Director of the Ricard Memorial Observatory. He has received University awards for teaching excellence and curriculum innovation, including the 1999 David E. Logothetti Teaching Award, the 2006 Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence, and the 2009 Dr. John B. Drahmann Advising Award. Dr. Kesten was named the California Professor of the Year in 2005 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education. Dr. Kesten holds two US patents, and has published two internationally acclaimed physics textbooks. Dr. Kesten has also served as the Senior Editor for Modern Dad, a newsstand magazine, and was co-founder of the Internet software company Docutek, a SirsiDynix Company.

Light bulb on table in a dark room

Watts Up With Your Electric Bill?

By Phil Kesten
When it comes to electrical things, energy is the coin of the realm. It takes energy to make the bulb in your flashlight glow, energy to power your cell...
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Solar eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse 2017: Everything You Need to Know

By Phil Kesten
The sun, Earth, and the moon all stay essentially on one, flat “surface” in space. That means the moon can sometimes move into a position directly between...
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Open umbrella covered in rain drops

Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away

By Phil Kesten
In general, weather events are predictable, and their effects immediately known. The path of a hurricane before hitting land, for example, is studied days in...
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Accelerating Science for More Than 50 Years

By Phil Kesten
SLAC—the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center before it was renamed in 2008—continues to make its mark on science. Experiments conducted there have...
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The (Hard and Soft) Science of a Great Night’s Sleep (Part 1)

By Phil Kesten
The reason for our interest in sleep is obvious. We all want it. We all need it. Some more than others, sure, but everyone needs to sleep. Going without sleep is...
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Happy Birthday to Two!

By Phil Kesten
How many people must be in a group for there to be a 50-50 chance that two will have been born on the same day in the same month?
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Sugar: The Sweetest Craving

By Phil Kesten
We eat in order to provide our bodies with fuel. Fuel to power our muscles, to enable us to breathe, to pump blood, to walk, and to think. Hunger is our body's...
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Wow Your Friends: Cool (Science) Party Tricks

By Phil Kesten
Here are two science tricks you can easily master and perform for your friends—and impress them by explaining the hows and whys. The first is...
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Don't Try This at Home (Alone)

By Phil Kesten
As we kick-off the Christmas season, reruns of holiday movie classics like Home Alone begin to play on our TVs. Despite the movie’s warm family...
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Now Playing in a Sky Near You

By Phil Kesten
Neon signs are everywhere. Atop a roadside motel or the local pizza place, throwing off light in every color that can be seen from miles away. The physics of the...
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Coffee: Can’t Leave Home Without It

By Phil Kesten
“Have you had your coffee yet?” You’ve probably asked, or been asked, that question many times. What is it about that drug that makes us want it, need it, and...
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The Remarkable Potential of Stem Cells

By Phil Kesten
All living things are made up of cells. There are more than a trillion cells—perhaps more than 30 trillion—in the human body, including many kinds of specialized...
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Warning: Don't Drink the (Ocean) Water

By Phil Kesten
If we could extract all of the salt in Earth's oceans, it would cover the planet in a layer 500 feet deep. There are about 4-and-a-half ounces (almost 8.5...
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There's No Place Like Home... Well, Maybe

By Phil Kesten
Astronomers found the first evidence for a planet outside our solar system in 1992. The list of such "exoplanets" now numbers well over 2,000 with...
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Why Does A Ship Float in Water and I Sink?

By Phil Kesten
Some big, heavy things - like the USS Enterprise - float in water. Some small, light things, like a ball bearing, don't. So size doesn't determine whether...
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Coming Soon: A Rare Astronomical Event

By Phil Kesten
An astronomical transit, like an eclipse, occurs when one object passes between two others. The term “transit” is usually reserved for situations in which the...
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How the Giants Throw No-Hitters

By Phil Kesten
Madison Bumgarner throws a cutter that baffles the hitter, sending the San Francisco Giants back to the dugout while the batter stands, frozen...
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Red in the Face: The Science of Blushing

By Phil Kesten
We've all been there. You do or say something foolish, or you find yourself in an uncomfortable social situation. Blood rushes to your cheeks...
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What Star Trek Teaches Us about Antimatter

By Phil Kesten
"The engines are overloading, Captain!" Scotty, the ship's engineer in the original Star Trek series, is gravely concerned. And no wonder...
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What Leads to a Pot of Gold?

By Phil Kesten
Light changes direction when it passes from one medium to another – we came across this when we explored the science of mirages. By how much...
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GPS: How Does It Know Where I Am?

By Phil Kesten
Let's wonder together about the Global Position System (GPS). GPS has become ubiquitous. Phones, tablets, laptops, even cameras, have built-in...
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When the Moon Goes Dark

By Phil Kesten
The next total lunar eclipse will occur on Sept. 27. Earth's shadow will completely engulf the moon at about 7:47 p.m. in Santa Clara. If...
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Why Do We See Mirages?

By Phil Kesten
When light from an object enters your eyes, your brain forms an image by tracing that light directly away from you along a straight line. For...
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The Science behind the Warriors 3-Point Shots

By Phil Kesten
What's the science behind the amazing 3-point shooting of the Warriors Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson? Klay Thompson throws a crisp pass...
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The Birds and the Bees Know Physics

By Phil Kesten
Let’s wonder together about the birds and bees. No, not those birds and bees! I’m talking about how birds and bees, and animals like sharks...
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Interstellar: The Curious Nature of Time

By Phil Kesten
With the recent release of the movie Interstellar, lots of people have been wondering about time. Without giving too much away, characters in...
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How Fast?

By Phil Kesten
Let's wonder together about motion and speed. A student sat in my office recently and asked how fast she was really moving. A great question, or...
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Hot and Cold

By Phil Kesten
Let's wonder together about temperature, and how and why certain objects are either hot or cold to the touch. Your immediate reaction to the...
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Blue Skies, Smiling at Me

By Phil Kesten
Do you look around the natural world and wonder? Wonder why things work the way they do, why things are the way they are? If you do, then...
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