Physics 305: Modern Physics, Section 1, 3 cr: University of Idaho: 2008 Spring
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The course mottos: very reassuring I think. We could also add: ``In science we are slaves to the truth---only error can set us free.''
Sections
This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class as well as made on this page.
which is the page you are maybe viewing right now. This page is the preliminary syllabus and includes syllabus items and tentative schedule.
This page is/will be/may be linked from the official physics department course web page.
We are going to read the whole book---864 pages---but I won't lecture on all that---much will simply be assigned readings.
ER does have some problems. First of all it's a bit dated since it is unrevised since 1985. Modern physics hasn't changed, but the context of modern physics sure has. There will be no references to what is happening right now---e.g., Bose-Einstein condensates, nanotechnology, string theory, etc.
Second, it is undoubtably long---but that's really a virtue once you get into it.
Third, its interpretation of quantum mechanics (which doesn't affect any results) is not the one I hold. I believe that my view is more in line with the majority of contemporary quantum physicists---of which I am not one.
I believe it is good to complement the standard modern physics topics with some contemporary physics at the light and fluffy level.
It has some demerits too.
Unrevised since 2004, it is already beginning to date---who remembers The Simpsons anyway---they're so 15 seconds ago.
Also Brian Greene (1963--) is a string theorist and a string theory proponent and his book goes into all that.
But string theory may turn out to be the wrong path---the Tao which is not the Tao---in which case a lot (but not all) of Greene's (i.e., the book's) interest may go proof--er poof---one day---but at present string theory is top dog on the frontier of physics.
See string theory (Wikipedia, 2007dec09) of an overview of the theory and controversy.
But the adjective modern in the context of physics courses does NOT mean recently discovered physics.
Modern physics is modern in the sense that Picasso is a the modern painter and Hemingway is a modern writer.
Modern physics is the physics of roughly the first half of the 20th century--or from the fiducial discovery of X-rays in 1895 to the discovery of the Moessbauer effect in 1957.
Much of the physics of modern physics is still considered correct subject to inevitable qualifications: e.g., in interpreting quantum mechanics.
Quantum mechanics is, in fact, is almost synonymous with modern physics, but a little special relativity is thrown in too.
However, this is not in a sense a course in quantum mechanics.
We tend to skirt the heavy math and formalism, and emphasize the applications in atomic physics, molecular physics, condensed matter physics (solid-state physics), and nuclear physics at the ground-floor entry level.
We will do a little depth, but the course is mainly aimed at breadth---getting to know the buzzwords and a bit more.
Heavy mathematical grinding in the formalism of quantum mechanics and detailed studies of specialized topics are for later courses.
Much of the course will be learning the physics qualitatively.
A few in-depth mathematical questions will occur along the way---and they will figure prominently on exams.
Some advanced topics that are modern physics in the Picasso sense are EXCLUDED as just too advanced: e.g., quantum electrodynamics (QED), quantum field theory, general relativity, and a whole lot more really.
There are standard items of courses in modern physics which are there for historical and heuristic reasons.
For example, the Bohr atom is a wrong theory.
It gives some right answers, but mostly wrong ones and it doesn't generalize beyond the one-electron atom case.
But the Bohr atom is easy to understand and was an important step on the road to quantum mechanics.
It's sort of an accident of nature that it exists---but it's not an accident that Niels Bohr (1885--1962) found it: he had the right ingredients and it was there to be found.
In general, modern physics is more abstract than classical physics---but classical physics really pretty abstract too, we are just more used to its abstractions.
One just has to get used to dealing with entities for which mental pictures, though very useful, will always be a bit inadequate and trust---but not completely trust---abstract laws, principles, and formulae.
It's no surprise to you that this is a pretty hard course.
It's hardness will be in the breadth and amount of reading (with comprehension) that you will have to do.
But has I always say, it's nothing like organic chemistry.
It all helps understanding eternity and infinity.
Eternity and infinity from our small platform.
As well as understanding home.
Earthrise from Apollo 11, 1969jul16. Credit: NASA.
There are 3 kinds of readings: ER chapters (18), ER appendices (18 not counting Appendix S), and Greene chapters (16 counting the chapter notes as part of the chapter and the preface as part of chapter 1).
Each of the kinds is worth 5 % of the total grade for a total of 15 % of the total grade.
Students report to the instructor (preferably by email) when you have completed a reading and 1 point will be assigned for each reading: there 18, 18, and 16 points, respectively, for the ER chapters, ER appendices, and Greene chapters.
In the Tentative Schedule below, a schedule is given for the readings.
It is strongly urged that the students keep up to this schedule.
But on the other hand, you'd really like to have had brush with all this stuff in the years to come.
Try to grind out 10 pages a day.
Maybe not even half.
The style of the lecturing will be to skip stuff readings cover and is easy to understand and needs no instructor explication---this means readings have to be done and as much in advance as possible.
You should also be warned that instructors and books can both propagate misconceptions---a part of everyone's scientific life is clearing up misconceptions they acquired long ago from some formerly ``revered'' authority.
Some ER chapters, most ER appendices, and all of Greene are NOT going to be lectured on.
Naturally, what is not lectured on is going to less weighted in exams---I do try play fair.
There is one for each of the fiducial lectures of the course.
The homeworks are NOT handed in.
But they are counted: 1 point for each: so 15 points in total.
The students report when they have completed homeworks (preferably by email) and their points will be assigned.
After the homework is completed, students are free to look at the posted solutions.
Homeworks count for 5 % of the total grade.
It is strongly urged that students keep up to the schedule on the homeworks.
Typically about 50 to 70 % or more of the exam questions will be drawn from the homeworks or, in the case of the FINAL, past exams also.
Questions that reappear on the exams might be tweeked a bit from previous versions.
New questions on exams will be similar to the homework questions.
Some will be challenging.
The in-class exams cover the material up to some cut-off point that will be announced in class and on the course web in the Tentative Schedule .
The in-class tests are each worth 20 % of the total grade for a total of 40 % of the total grade.
The final is worth 40 % of the total grade.
The tentative dates for the exams are:
_________________________________________________________________ Exam Date Solutions (posted post-exam) _________________________________________________________________ Exam 1 Feb25 M Exam 1 solutions Exam 2 Apr25 F Exam 2 solutions Final Exam May07 W Final Exam solutions The final is at 7:30--9:30 am---not my call---in the regular class room as specified by Final exam schedule for 2008 Spring. _________________________________________________________________
The in-class exams will consist of multiple-choice questions and a few full-answer questions that will be mostly mathematical.
The final will be like a double-class exam in terms of questions of various kinds.
The exams are closed-book.
Cell phones MUST be turned off and be out of sight.
There are NO scheduled review days, but the instructor may review some mathematical problems on request: remember the solutions to homework problems will be posted.
Make-up exams are possible, but students must ask for them promptly and avoid knowing anything about given exams.
ER chapter readings 5 % no drops ER appendix readings 5 % no drops Greene readings 5 % no drops homeworks 5 % 1 drop 2 in-class exams 40 % no drop 1 comprehensive final 40 % no dropEach in-class exam is worth 20 % of the final grade.
Attendance is NOT kept and NO marks are assigned for attendance.
Students are encouraged to keep good attendance.
There are absolutely NO extra credits.
Letter grades will be assigned following the UI catalog---which allow instructors some freedom of interpretation.
The instructor uses a curve to automatically assign letter grades during the semester. There is no fixed scale.
The final grades are decided on by the instructor directly.
Students can always ask the instructor for their current mark record and letter grades. Queries by email are probably best for this.
The instructor will submit midterm grades and final grades as scheduled in the academic calendar.
Remember that after an instructor has submitted final grades, any adjustment (except for purely clerical error) is extremely difficult. Students should make any queries about their final grades before the instructor submits them.
No dated schedule has ever been adhered to by the instructor.
So there are no dates in this tentative schedule.
However, we have 16 weeks in the semester (not counting spring break) and we will lose about a week of classes for in-class exams, the missing first Monday, and holidays (i.e., Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day).
So about 15 weeks and 45 lecture class hours.
So I've divided the course into 15 fiducial lectures.
Each lecture will be covered in about a week.
I'm going to try to provide photocopied and/or posted lecture notes.
It's inefficient I think to make the rate-determining steps of a class the speed at which I can write things on the board and the speed at which students can transcribe these faux pearls.
If more time is needed to complete a lecture, it won't be completed---the material is all assigned reading anyway---unless I really, really want to complete the lecture.
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