General Education Courses

Visit the Course Catalog for the official course description and listing

PHYS 104: Astronomy: The Solar System

David Nice
An introduction to the study of the Sun and its contingent of planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. Up-to-date details of the orbits, surfaces, atmospheres, and interior structures as deduced from telescopic and spacecraft data are discussed. The elementary physics of gravity, orbits, and distance measurement leads to a limited amount of problem solving. There are six biweekly laboratory sessions and at least three nighttime observing sessions with telescopes. Requires only high school algebra and trigonometry. Counts toward the Natural Sciences Unit of the Common Course of Study. Taught in the fall semester each year.

PHYS 106: Physics of Music

Lyle Hoffman
A non-technical but rigorous study of physics as it applies to musical sound and musical instruments. Basic principles of wave motion and sound, sound synthesis and analysis, room acoustics, physics of woodwinds, brasses, strings, piano, percussion instruments, and the human voice are studied. Open to all students, but specifically intended for those who have not previously studied physics but have a strong interest in how instruments make music. Counts toward the Natural Sciences Unit of the Common Course of Study. Taught spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2017.

PHYS 108: Astronomy: Stars, Galaxies and the Big Bang

Lyle Hoffman
A study of the nature and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole. Confrontation of theory with observational data from many telescopes and spacecraft is stressed throughout. Open to all, but specifically intended for those who have not previously studied physics. Requires only high school algebra and trigonometry. Counts toward the Natural Sciences Unit of the Common Course of Study. Taught spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2018.

Fundamental Courses

PHYS 111: General Physics—Mechanics and Thermodynamics

Staff
To be studied are the classical mechanics of particles and rigid bodies; laws of thermodynamics with emphasis on microscopic foundation; and oscillations and waves. Physical ideas are stressed, but considerable emphasis is placed on problem solving. Together with Phys 112, this course satisfies requirements for medical school and for a variety of A.B. majors, but not most B.S. majors. Requires high school algebra and trigonometry. Counts toward the Natural Sciences Unit of the Common Course of Study. Taught in fall each year.
Co-requisite: Math 125, 141 or 161.

PHYS 112: General Physics—Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics

Staff
Electric and magnetic fields; electromagnetic induction; electric circuits; geometrical and physical optics; Einstein’s special theory of relativity; foundations of quantum mechanics; and nuclear physics are covered. Physical ideas are stressed, but considerable emphasis is placed on problem solving. Together with Phys 111, this course satisfies requirements for medical school and for a variety of A.B. majors, but not most B.S. majors. Requires high school algebra and trigonometry. Counts toward the Natural Sciences Unit of the Common Course of Study. Taught in spring each year.
Prerequisite: Phys 111. Math 125, 141 or 161

PHYS 130: Relativity, Spacetime, and Contemporary Physics

Staff
The first part of this course introduces special relativity, the modern theory of spacetime. Topics include Lorentz contraction, time dilation, the spacetime metric, and conservation laws. Concepts such as energy and momentum are introduced as needed. This is followed by a topic of contemporary physics research. The topic varies; it will be drawn from an area such as cosmology, subatomic particles, nanophysics, or biophysics. The lab explores contemporary physics experiments. Lecture/Laboratory.
Taught fall semester.
Co-requisite: Math 161 or permission of the instructor

PHYS 131: Physics I: Mechanics

Staff
A rigorous introduction to the study of physics for science and engineering majors; a foundation on which an understanding of physics, physical chemistry, or engineering can be built. Kinematics and dynamics are studied with an emphasis on conservation laws for linear momentum, angular momentum, and energy. A calculus-based course satisfying degree requirements in all B.S. or A.B. degree programs, including the Natural Sciences Unit of the Common Course of Study. Not open to students with credit for Physics 151. Taught in the spring semester.
Prerequisite: Math 161 or permission of the instructor

PHYS 133: Physics II: Electricity, Magnetism and Waves

Staff
This course is a rigorous calculus-based introduction to the foundations of electricity, magnetism, and waves, intended for students majoring in science or engineering. Our emphasis will be on identifying, understanding, and applying the fundamental principles of electric fields and potentials, basic circuits, magnetic fields, and electromagnetic waves. Not open to students with credit for Phys 152. Taught in the fall semester.
Prerequisite: Phys 131 or 151, Math 162 or permission of instructor

PHYS 151: Accelerated Physics I: Mechanics and Thermodynamics

Staff
An accelerated calculus-based introduction to the foundations of classical mechanics and thermodynamics, this course is intended for students majoring in science or engineering; a foundation on which an understanding of physics, physical chemistry, or engineering can be built. Topics include dynamics; conservation laws for linear momentum, angular momentum, and energy; mechanical oscillations and waves; and thermodynamics. A course satisfying degree requirements in all B.S. or A.B. degree programs. Not open to students with credit for Phys 131. Taught in spring semester each year.
Prerequisite: Math 161

PHYS 152: Accelerated Physics II: Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics

Staff
An accelerated calculus-based introduction to the study of physics for science and engineering majors; a foundation on which an understanding of physics, physical chemistry, or engineering can be built. Topics include electrostatics, electric currents, magnetostatics, induction, electromagnetic waves, ray optics, interference, and diffraction. A course satisfying degree requirements in all B.S. or A.B. degree programs.
Not open to students with credit for Phys 132 or 133. Taught in fall semester each year.
Prerequisites: Phys 151 or permission of the instructor; Math 162

Intermediate Courses

PHYS 215: Introduction to Quantum Physics

David Nice
An introduction to the topics of modern physics needed to understand the fundamentals of atomic, nuclear, solid state, and elementary particle physics. The course focusses on quantum mechanics, first describing the wave-particle duality of nature evidenced by the photon behavior of light and DeBroglie’s matter waves, then establishing the foundations of the modern quantum theory. An emphasis is placed on the wave mechanics of Schrodinger and its probabilistic interpretation. The Schrodinger Equation is applied to several simple model systems, and the course then develops an accurate model of the hydrogen atom, exploring multi-electron systems, and introducing the quantum mechanical approach to angular momentum. The course concludes with quantum statistics, molecular spectra, lasers, and introductory solid state physics.
Programming in Mathematica will be used. Taught in the spring semester each year.
Prerequisites: Phys 133 or 152

PHYS 216: Topics in Contemporary Physics

Lyle Hoffman
An application of the concepts of quantum physics introduced in Physics 215 and the theory of relativity to several areas of 20th century physics. Topics to be covered include models of nuclear structure, radioactivity, nuclear reactions, elementary particles, and grand unification of the fundamental forces. Programming in Mathematica will be used. Next taught in Fall 2018.
Prerequisites: Phys 215

PHYS 218: Oscillatory and Wave Phenomena

Andrew Dougherty
A continuation of the study of oscillations and waves begun in the fundamental courses, with a significant emphasis on experimental work using computerized data collection and analysis techniques. The course focuses on both experimental and theoretical methods in physics, examining oscillatory and wave phenomena found throughout nature. Phenomena studied include vibration of mechanical systems, oscillations in electrical circuits, the general behavior of damped oscillations and resonance, normal mode analysis, standing wave phenomena, wave propagation, optics, and other such physical phenomena found in nature. The student will be introduced to the theoretical techniques used to analyze these phenomena as needed. Three hour lecture and one 3-hour laboratory period required. Programming in Mathematica will be used to explore algorithms for the numerical solution of differential equations and animation of results. Taught in the spring semester each year.
Prerequisites: Phys 133 or 152. Corequisite: Math 264

PHYS 220: Medical and Biological Physics

Bradley Antanaitis
This course demonstrates how the principles, tools, and strategies of physicists can be applied to problems that have biological, medical, or ecological import. Methods taught in this course are applied to a broad range of interdisciplinary problems from biomechanics to nerve impulse propagation to the latest imaging techniques, including three-dimensional ultrasonic imaging and magnetic resonance imaging. The course is aimed at students nearing a decision on a career direction who are curious about what areas of research are open to them, or to those who simply wish to broaden their biophysical or biomedical outlook. Taught in the spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2017. Counts as a Writing (W) course.
Prerequisites: Phys 112 or 133 or 152

Advanced Courses

PHYS 304: Observational Astronomy

David Nice or Lyle Hoffman
A study of the methods used for making astronomical observations and analyzing the data these observations produce. The course examines what can be learned about stars, planets, galaxies, and the universe through these observations. Topics include radio, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray astronomy, and observations of neutrinos, cosmic rays, and gravitational waves. Students complete an independent observation or data analysis project. The course parallels Physics 104 but focuses on observing methods. Taught in the fall semester in alternate years concurrent with Phys 104. Next Taught in fall 2017.
Prerequisites: Phys 130, 215

PHYS 306: Acoustics

Lyle Hoffman
An introduction to the acoustics of musical instruments for students with some background in physics. Spectral analysis and synthesis; waves on strings, membranes, and bars; waves in fluid media; acoustical coupling; sound radiation; and acoustics of instrumental families are studied. The course parallels Phys 106 but is more technical in scope and may be counted toward the B.S. Physics degree requirements. Taught in the spring semester in alternate years, concurrent with Phys 106. Next taught in spring 2017.
Prerequisites: Phys 218

PHYS 308: Astrophysics

Lyle Hoffman
An introduction to astronomy and astrophysics for students with some background in physics. Studies are: stellar structure and evolution; galactic structure and evolution; physical processes in the early universe; and radioastronomy. The course parallels Phys 108 but is more technical in scope and may be counted toward the B.S. Physics degree requirements. Taught in the spring semester of alternate years, concurrent with Phys 108. Next taught in spring 2018.
Prerequisites: Phys 130, 215

PHYS 327: Advanced Classical Mechanics

Bradley Antanaitis
A rigorous development of non-relativistic mechanics: nonlinear oscillations; central-force motion, celestial mechanics, and the N-body problem; Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations; rotation and rigid body motion; and collisions and scattering. Programming in Mathematica will be used for numerical solutions of partial differential equations and coupled differential equations as well as numerical integration. Taught in the spring semester each year.
Prerequisites: Phys 218; Math 264

PHYS 335: Thermal Physics

Bradley Antanaitis
The fundamental concepts of heat, temperature, work, internal energy, entropy, reversible and irreversible processes, thermodynamic potentials, etc., are considered from a modern microscopic as well as the traditional macroscopic viewpoint. Statistical thermodynamics is used primarily to study the equilibrium properties of ideal systems and simple models. Taught in the fall semester in alternate years. Next taught in fall 2018.
Prerequisites: Phys 215; Math 163.

PHYS 338: Advanced Physics Laboratory

Andrew Dougherty
Design of experiments, statistical analysis of observations, report writing, and fundamental experiments in atomic, nuclear, and condensed matter physics. Also, experiments selected from electron spin resonance, nuclear magnetic resonance, properties of liquids at high pressures, and properties of matter at low temperatures. Computer interfacing with instruments for online data collection and analysis. May involve independent investigation if appropriate. Taught in the spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2018. Counts as a Writing (W) course.
Prerequisites: Phys 130, 215, 218; Math 264

PHYS 342: Electromagnetic Fields

Zoe Boekelheide
Studied are: electric fields due to static charges; magnetic fields due to steady currents; fields in matter; Laws of Coulomb, Gauss, Biot-Savart, Ampere, and Faraday; scalar and vector potentials; solutions of Laplace’s and Poisson’s equations. Taught in the fall semester in alternate years. Next taught in fall 2017.
Prerequisites: Phys 133 or 152, 218; Math 264

PHYS 351: Quantum Theory

Brooks Thomas
The failure of classical physics, the basic concepts of quantum mechanics, Schrodinger’s equation, one dimensional systems including barriers and the harmonic oscillator, Hermitian operators, angular momentum, the hydrogen atom, perturbation theory, and interpretations of quantum mechanics are studied. Programming in Mathematica will be used for numerical solutions of partial differential equations and for numerical integration. Taught in the fall semester each year.
Prerequisites: Phys 215, 218; Math 264

PHYS 352: Special Topics

Staff
Investigation of special topics under supervision of a faculty advisor. The most recent such course was Topics in Astrophysics.

PHYS 391: Individual Study

Staff
Juniors and seniors may investigate a research topic in physics under the supervision of a faculty member. The project will culminate in an extensive report. Departmental permission in required for enrollment. See individual faculty members about topics of interest. Recent individual study courses taught include: acoustics, advanced quantum mechanics, philosophy of quantum mechanics, biophysics, general relativity, astronomical image analysis, radio-astronomy, and electronics.

PHYS 424: Solid State Physics

Andrew Dougherty
The fundamental aspects of solid state phenomena and the basic quantum physics needed to properly understand these phenomena. Topics include the basic principles of quantization and matter waves; Fermi statistics; crystal structures; diffraction phenomena in crystals; conduction electrons in metals; the concept of conduction by holes; and the basic physics of electrons and holes in both homogeneous and doped semiconductors. Taught in the spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2017.
Prerequisites: Phys 335, 351

PHYS 442: Electromagnetic Waves

Lyle Hoffman
To be studied are: Maxwell’s equations; wave equations for dielectrics and conductors; reflection; refraction; interference; diffraction; guided waves; and radiation. Taught in the spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2018.
Prerequisites: Phys 342

PHYS 451: Applications of Quantum Theory

Staff
Additional topics in quantum mechanics, depending upon student interests. Possible topics include addition of angular momenta, applications of perturbation theory, scattering theory, and relativistic quantum mechanics. Taught in the spring semester in alternate years. Next taught in spring 2017.
Prerequisite: Phys 351

PHYS 495: Thesis

Staff
Independent study of a topic chosen for participation in the honors program, culminating in the presentation of a complete written report. See individual faculty members whose research interests are most closely aligned with your own.

PHYS 496: Thesis

Staff
Second semester of Phys. 495.
Counts as a Writing (W) course.

First Year Seminars

FYS 065: The Uses and Abuses of Science in Science Fiction

Lyle Hoffman
In their novels, science fiction writers incorporate many ideas from cutting-edge science, some imaginative and insightful, and others blatantly at odds with established scientific principles. Students critically examine applications of science in the novels of Robert L. Forward and Arthur C. Clarke, among others. Readings from the novels are interspersed with readings from books such as The Physics of Star Trek, by Lawrence Krauss, which explain the relevant science in terms accessible to non-scientists.

FYS 067: Simple Rules and Complex Behavior

Tony Novaco
Scientists seek to explain the complex nature of the world with simple rules that sometimes take the form of fundamental principles covering a vast array of diverse phenomena. For example, simple models have been used to relate the behavior of avalanches, weather, earthquakes, fire storms, and erosion. Similar attempts have been made to understand the nature of the evolution of biological species at all levels and to evaluate various strategies of survival. The course explores these approaches and evaluates their successes, failures, and lessons to be learned.

FYS 175: Science or Pseudoscience?

Andrew Dougherty
Many of today’s important issues have a scientific component. From global warming to personal nutrition and health, and everywhere in between, scientific-sounding claims are made to bolster arguments and persuade readers and consumers. How can we sensibly distinguish genuine science from pseudoscience? In this course, we will examine what distinguishes science from pseudoscience, and why it matters. Students will observe claims, in advertising and the news, investigate them, and report on their findings.