Distinguished Professor, Emeritus
Associated Faculty, School of the Enviroment

John L. Safko

Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of South Carolina
712 Main Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
(803) 777-6466
email safko

Research Interests

General Relativity. Exact solutions with physical interpretations, application of optimal control theory to gravitational problems, application of the already unified field theory of Rainich, Misner and Wheeler as an analytical tool, analytic calculations using the computer, observational radio astronomy.

General relativity deals with the weakest, yet most pervasive, force in the universe-gravity. General relativity often deals with problems of astrophysical dimensions, yet raises questions on the fundamental nature of space-time. The non-linear nature of the theory gives rise to many solutions which have no analogue in Newtonian dynamics. By investigating the physical nature of these as well as more normal solutions, which have no analog in Newtonian dynamics, we hope to better understand what the theory is saying.

My main efforts were in understanding cylindrical and axial symmetric solutions with particular emphasis in solutions containing both gravitational and electromagnetic fields. Where appropriate, the already unified theory of Rainich, Misner and Wheeler has been used as a calculational tool for electrovac problems.

B.S., 1960, Case Institute of Technology (Now Case University);
Ph.D., 1965, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
Assistant, Associae and Full professor ranks at the University of South Carolina 1964-2001
Distinguished Professor 2001-2002
Director, Melton Memorial Observatory, 1965-2002
Distinguished Professor, Emeritus 2002-present
Associated Faculty, School of the Environment 2000 - present

Honorable Mention, 1994 Gravitational Essay Awards (with T. Datta).
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Fellow of the American Physical Society
Fellow, The Explorers Club

University Service:

Chair, Committee on New Courses and Curriculum; Faculty Advisory Committee; Secretary to the Faculty; Commencement Committee

Teaching Experience:

taught : general physics, classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, modern physics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, relativity (general & special) and statistical mechanics at both the graduate and undergraduate levels

Since 1965 has taught astronomy for non-science students
Developed a large enrollment self-paced introductory astronomy sequence in 1972 and
has taught and administrated that sequence since then.
1996-1999 taught the honor's college astronomy courses

Has developed and taught distant education astronomy courses both by
correspondence and by television (using Universe and locally produced tapes) One of
these courses is a graduate level introductory course for K-12 school teachers which is considered a content course by the SC Dept of Education for re-certification.

Has developed and has taught distant education physics courses using the Mechanical
Universe or other materials such as Minds on Physics. One sequence is a science education course for either graduate or undergraduate teachers in the 9-12 level for credit and/or re-certification.

In 1991 developed and taught an introductory relativity course with a laboratory for
non-science majors in the South Carolina College (our honor's college).

Selected Publications

"Error Analysis of Straight Line Plots in the Undergraduate Physics Laboratory", Am. J. Phys. 33, 379 (1965).

"Absolute Stability of Melvin's Universe", Phys. Letters 28A, 347 (1968).

"The Nature of the General Relativistic Solution of the Charged Line Mass", Annals of Phys. (NY) 58, 322-334 (1970).

"Some Properties of Cylindrically Symmetric Einstein Maxwell Fields", (with L. Witten), Journ. Math. Phys. 15, 257-270 (1971).

"Models of Static, Cylindrically Symmetric Solutions of the Einstein¬ Maxwell Field", (with L. Witten), Phys. Rev. D. 5, 293-300 (1972).

"On the Measurement of Non-Canonical Variables", (with Y. Aharonov), Annals of Phys. (N.Y.) 91, 279-94 (1975).

"Numerical Accuracy in Calculations of Class g of the Restricted Problems of Three Bodies", (with D. K. Leaphart) Astron. Journal, Vol. 80, 747-749 Sept. (1975).

"Structure of a Large Enrollment Self-Paced Mastery Oriented Astronomy Course", Am. J. Phys., 44, 7 (1976).

"Lagrange Multipliers and Gravitational Theory", (with F. Elston), Journ. Math. Phys. 17, 8 (1976).

Variational Methods with Torsion in General Relativity", (with M. Tsamparlis and F. Elston), Phys. Lett. 60A, 1 (1977).

"Superposition of Static Cylindrical Solutions of the Einstein-Maxwell Problem", Phys. Rev. D 16, 1678-1687 (1977).

"An Investigation of Some of the Kinematical Aspects of Plane Symmetric Space-Times" (with G. T. Carlson, Jr.) Jour. Math. Phys. 18, 1617-1624 (1978).

"Matching of the Plane Symmetric Static and Homogeneous Vacuum Field Solutions of the Einstein Field Equations", (with G. T. Carlson, Jr.) J. Math. Phys. 21 1442 (1980).

"A Constant of the Motion for the Geodesic Deviation Equation" (with P. Dolan and P. Choudhury) A. Jour. Aust. Math. Soc. B22 28-33 (1980).

"Canonical Forms for Axial Symmetric Space-times" (with G. T. Carlson, Jr.) Ann. Phys. (USA) 128, 131-153 (1980).

"A Generalized Deviation Equation "(with N. S. Swaminarayan), J. Math. Phys. 24, 883-6 (1983).

"Results for the Occultation of 14 Piscium By (51) Nemeusa" (with E.W.  Dunham, R.I. Baron, I.S. Conner, D.W. Dunham, J.B. Dunham, O. Schneider, H.L. Cohen, V.T. Helms, III and M. Croon) Astronomical Journal 89, 1755 (1984).

"Dual Physics Interpretation of the Energy Tensor; Nonexistence of the Kerr-Newman Example", with D.W. Ferdon, Journal of Mathematical Physics 26, 1021 (1985).

"On the Nature of the Transition in Quantum Field Theory from Flat to Curved Space-Time", with P.J. Camp in Quantum Coherence, World Scientific (1991).

"Disordered Gravitation: Localization and Diffusion Limited Dynamics of the Early Universe," J.L. Safko and T. Datta in Quantum Coherence and Reality, World Scientific (1994).

"Astronomy Distance Education Courses at the University of South Carolina" in Astronomy Education: Current Developments, Future Coordination, John R. Percy, Ed; Vol. 89, Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series, 1996

"Dynamics of a Constructivist Astronomy Course for In-service Teachers," (with Timothy F. Slater and John R. Carpenter) Journal of Geoscience Education44, 523 (1996)

"Long-Term Attitude Sustainability from a Constructivist-Based Astronomy-for-Teachers Course" (with Timothy F. Slater and John R. Carpenter) Journal of Geoscience Education47, 366 (1999)

"On the Quantum Transition from Flat to Curved Space-Time" (with P.J. Camp) International Journal of Theoretical Phyiscs, 39, #6(June 2000), 1643-1668.

"Hydrostatic Equilibrium of Stellar Models Using Optimal Control" (with S. Haggag), Astronomy & Space Sciences, 2002

"A Laboratory Experiment for Illustrating the Special Theory of Relativity" (with Paul J. Camp) Physics Teacher, 46, #4 (Oct.-Dec, 2004), 167-170. (Indian Physical Society)

Section Editor, Classical Mechanics, McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 2006 Edition with contributed articles.


Instructor’s Manual for W. K. Hartmann's Astronomy: The Cosmic Journey, Wadsworth
9 Editions 1978-2002

Editor (with J. Anandan) Quantum Coherence and Reality, World Scientific, 1994

Self-paced Study Guide and Laboratory Exercises in Astronomy,
Kendall Hunt, 10 Editions 1982-2004.

Student Study Guide for Jones & Childers Contemporary College Physics, Addison-Wesley, 1990, 1992: McGraw-Hill 1999

Classical Mechanics (with H. Goldstein and C. P. Poole), Addison-Wesley, 2002

by John Safko

Last Revised July 22, 2005