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Problem Solving

Lecture Notes

Lectures and exams planned for the spring semester 2013. Reading assignments are chapters in the textbook (Hobson, Physics Concepts & Connections, 4th or 5th Edition). Lectures marked by an asterisk* are optional.

Lecture 1

Logistics, the theme of this class, syllabus
The Physics of Weather
Lecture 2
Chap 1
The Way of Science
The ground rules of science, developing and testig new concepts
Old theories never die, they just become special cases
Examples: Confirmation of general relativity, neutrinos faster than light ?
Fri. 1/25
Lecture 3
Chap 2
Length Scales
Logarithmic scale
The largest and the smallest
Limits of observation, fundamental units, Planck length
Lecture 4
Chap 2
Moore's law, exponential growth
Biological length scales
Lecture 5


Chap 5

Chap 3

Chap 4
The Newtonian Universe
Newton's law of gravity,  Newton's apple
Newton's law  F = m a ,  acceleration
g-forces, zero g
Derivatives and the stock market
Physics of baseball; dimpled golfballs
Fri. 2/1
Lecture 6
Chap 6
The Various Forms of Energy
Work, energy, energy conversion, efficiency, power
Conservation of energy and momentum
Lecture 7
Chap 7
Statistical Physics, Thermal Physics
The physics of large numbers  
Entropy always increases, how does evolution fit into that ?
Maximum effiency of a power plant, a car
Lecture 8
Chap 9
Sound and water waves
Relation between frequency, wavelength, and velocity
Interference of waves
Fri. 2/8 
Lecture 9
Spectrum of electromagnetic waves, light waves, lasers
Diffraction, protein crystallography, real vs. reciprocal space
Lecture 10
Chap 9
Solar Radiation, Greenhouse Effect, Global Warming
Solar spectrum, radiation laws
Greenhouse effect and global warming
The geological record
How can we deal with the consequences?
Lecture 11
Chap 8
Electric and magnetic fields, forces between charges
Comparison of electric and gravitational forces
The elementary charge e and the electromagnetic coupling constant
Fri. 2/15
Lecture 12
Chap 8
Maxwell's equations connect electromagnetic fields with charges and currents
Case studies:  Coulomb field, magnetic field of a wire, electric power generator
  Review Exam 1   Wed.2/20
  Exam 1   Fri. 2/22
Lecture 13
Chap 10
Einstein's Relativity
The relativity principle, observers, reference frames
The velocity of light c is constant for all observers
Lecture 14
Chap 10
Einstein's thought experiments
Time dilation, length contraction, mass (energy) increase
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Lecture 15
Chap 10
Relativistic force law, relativistic speed limit, momentum replaces velocity
Space-time, world lines, causality
Fri. 3/1
Lecture 16
Chap 11.1
General Relativity
Acceleration is indistinguishable from gravity
Curved space-time, gravity slows clocks.
Einstein's equations of gravity in words
Lecture 17
Chap 10.6
Chap 11.2-4
The twin paradox, time travel, ion engines
Cosmology, the Big Bang
The microwave background, our first snapshot after the Big Bang
The shape of the universe
Lecture 18
Chap 11.5-7
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
What happened at the very beginning ?  Cosmic inflation
Is there an end ?  The fate of the universe
Fri. 3/8
Lecture 19
Chap 5.4
Chap 1.2
Black Holes, the ultimate space-time warp
Space telescopes:  Hubble, X-rays, Gamma-rays, Microvawes
Mon. 3/11
Lecture 20
Sample Abstract
Abstract due
Search for Extraterrestrial Life, the Drake "equation"
Lecture 21
Chap 12
Quantum Physics
A radically new concept: particles are waves (and vice versa) 
Probabilities, what can be measured ?
Fri. 3/15 
Lecture 22
Chap 12
Calculating / measuring  particle and wave properties of photons and electrons.
Lecture 23
Chap 13.1
Wave packets solve the particle-wave conundrum
The uncertainty relation, incompatible pairs of variables
Lecture 24a
Lecture 24b

Chap 13.3
Tunneling, scanning tunneling microscope, quantum corrals
Quantum states, superposition, entanglement, quantum computing
Fri. 3/22 

Review Exam 2


Exam 2
Lecture 25
Chap 13.7
Atoms, Molecules
Atoms are stable due to quantum physics
Hydrogen atom, energy levels, quantum numbers
The shell model and the Periodic Table of elements
Molecules, quantum description of molecular oscillations
Lecture 26
Chap 2.3
Quantum numbers of electrons in solids
Electrons vs. holes in semiconductors, visualizing antiparticles as holes
The transistor that runs our electronics
Optoelectronics:  LED  and  quantum well laser
Lecture 27
 Chap 14.1,2
Chap 17.3,5
Nuclear Physics  
The nuclear (strong) force
What happened right after the Big Bang ?
Lecture 28
Chap 14
Fusion and fission of nuclei
Isotopes, radioactivity
Half-life, radioactive dating in archaeology and geology
Lecture 29
Chap 15

Chap 14.6
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly:  Use and Abuse of Nuclear Physics
Nuclear energy
Nuclear weapons, isotope separation, chain reaction
Nuclear proliferation and terrorism, nuclear waste, effect of radiation on humans
Lecture 30
Lecture 31
Chap 15.1-3
 Chap 16.3
Nuclear fusion, the power source of the Sun
The quest for a fusion reactor 
Lecture 32
Chap 16
The Energy Problem:  Solar Energy as Solution?
Solar electricity  (photovoltaics, solar thermal)
Photosynthesis, biofuels
Practical solutions
Lecture 33
Essay due
Chap 17
Relativity Meets the Quantum
Quantum fields:  Our best shot at understanding the Universe   
The manybody problem:  Dealing with an infinite number of particles
Quantum electrodynamics as example, Feynman diagrams, antiparticles
Fri. 4/26
Lecture 34
Chap 17.1-3
Electromagnetic Interaction
Electrons versus photons,  matter versus energy,  fermions versus bosons
Spin, Pauli's exclusion principle
High precision theory and experiment: The lonely life of a trapped positron
Wed. 5/1
Lecture 35*
Chap 17.4-5
Weak and Strong Interaction
Interactions between quantum fields: General principle
Weak interaction: Neutrino, W and Z, the heavy cousin of the photon
Strong interaction:  Quarks and gluons,  a look inside a proton
Lecture 36 Chap 17.4-5 Particle Accelerators and Detectors
Our largest particle accelerators
Cosmic accelerators dwarf ours
Detecting the elusive neutrino
Fri. 5/3
Lecture 37 Chap 17.5 The Standard Model
Unification of the electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces
The Higgs boson

Lecture 38*
Chap 17.6
Symmetry in particle physics
Symmetry breaking
The anthropic principle
Lecture 39 Chap 17.6 Combining all Fundamental Concepts:  Relativity + Quantum + Gravity
String theory in 10 dimensions
The 5th dimension and the weakness of gravity

Review Exam 3

Fri. 5/10

Exam 3
2:45 pm,  2241 Chamberlin


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