Tufts OpenCourseware


  • It is the goal of this course to make some of the profound ideas of physics accessible to non-scientists with a minimum of mathematics.

1. Schedule

Lecture 1 - Introduction and Syllabus 2006
Introduction, requirements, texts, syllabus
Lecture 2 - Requirements, projects, early relativity
Requirements, projects, beginning of Classical Relativity
Lecture 3 - Relative motion, velocity, Newton
Classical relative motion, velocity, Newton's Laws, Galilean Relativity.
Lecture 4 - EM waves, ether, light
Waves, EM waves, ether, light, Einstein's postulates
Lecture 5 - Time and space relative
Light clock, Time dilation, length contraction
Lecture 6 - Space-time, velocity, twins
Time dilation, Length contraction, Velocity combination, twin paradox
Lecture 7 - From twins to relativistic energy
Twins, relativistic momentum & energy, E = mc2
Lecture 8 - Relativistic energy
Relativistic energy, rest energy, nuclear reactions and mass change
Lecture 9 - Nuclear energy and general relativity
Nuclear binding energy, fusion, fission, equivalence principle, General Relativity begins
Lecture 10 - General relativity
General view of General Relativity - equivalence principle, space curvature, tests, cosmology
Lecture 11 -Cosmology and quantum introduction
Cosmology: Expansion of universe, Hubble's constant, Big Bang, Temp & background radiation, scenario. Introduction to Quantum Physics: blackbody radiation, photoelectric effect, atomic spectra
Lecture 12 - Early quantum physics
Early Quantum Physics, up to photoelectric effect
Lecture 13 - Atomic spectra and Bohr
Photons in photoelectric effect, atomic spectra, planetary model, Bohr model
Lecture 14 - Bohr's atom, probability, deBroglie
Bohr's model of the atom and photon spectrum, Review of Probability, deBroglie's electron waves
Lecture 15 - Electron waves and wave functions
Electron waves, wave equation, wave functions, waves in a tube, wave-particle duality, H atom, interpreting wave functions and probability
Lecture 16 - Copenhagen interpretation
Wave functions, probability, Copenhagen Interpretation, wave-particle duality, mixed states, Schroedinger's Cat
Lecture 17 - Background and Copenhagen play
Review of wave functions, mixed states, Copenhagen interpretation, Schroedinger's Cat, historical background for play
Lecture 18 - More Copenhagen
Continuing discussion of Copenhagen.
Lecture 19 A-bombs and Frisch-Peierls
Lead up to A-bomb - history, introduction to Frisch-Peierls memorandum
Lecture 20 - A-bombs
Frisch & Peierls cont'd; How to build A-bombs & enrichment
Lecture 21 - A-bombs and effects
First A-bombs, effects of explosion, radioactivity, half-life, exponential decay, examples of radionuclides
Lecture 22 - Nuclear radiation
Measures of radioactivity, examples, fusion
Lecture 23 - H-bomb and arms control
H-bomb, fusion, delivery systems, treaties
Lecture 24 Nuclear Reactors
How fission reactor works, Safety system, Accidents - TMI and Chernobyl

2. Audience and Prerequisites

  • It is the goal of this course to make some of these profound ideas accessible to non-scientists with a minimum of mathematics.
  • The prerequisite is only high school algebra.
  • The class meets for one hour and fifteen minutes twice a week.
  • Discussion sessions for fifty minutes twice a week are optional.

3. Requirements

  • Attendance required - no more than 3 absences
  • Homework ~ every other week
  • Mid-term Exam (perhaps 2 mid-terms) and Final (multiple choice and problems)

3.1. Class Projects

The class will be divided into ~10 groups of 5 to 7 students each. Each group should have one student who is familiar with MS Excel. Each group will be assigned a data collecting and analyzing project that will continue through the semester.

3.1.1. Project choices

Some of these projects involve physical phenomena. Others are connected to human behavior. The data is available from news media &/or websites.

  • Stock market - Dow-Jones - Are there any patterns? (Movie "Pi")
  • Stock Market - Foreign (Japan, or Britain or other)
  • Oil prices - international & local (gas stations?)
  • Natural gas prices - international & local
  • TV Weather predictions and actual measurements - How good are 1 day & 2 day predictions of temperatures?
  • TV Weather predictions and actual measurements - How good are 3 day & 4 day predictions of temperatures?
  • Weather - predicted & actual precipitation
  • Solar Energy &/or UV amount - local or beyond?
  • Tides - time and height of high and low tide in our area - What is the pattern? Construct a model.
  • Earthquakes - regions and magnitudes (of 5.25 or more)

3.1.2. Presentations

  • Data will be entered on group spreadsheet daily or once a week by each group. Group will try various means of display. Attempts will be made to find systematic behavior of data. Once a week or so a copy of Excel file should be placed into instructor's Drop Box on website. Various displays will be posted on class website.
  • Near mid-semester a summary of results should be prepared by each group. Short presentation to class will be scheduled over remaining weeks for each group.

3.1.3. Organizing each group

  • At least one Excel savvy person enters data
  • Group writes an explanation of how data was selected
  • Use Communications for groups
    • Group Pages รข?? roster, discussions, collaborations, email
  • Drop Box to Prof. Goldstein every 1 or 2 weeks
    • Graphs and explanations - keep to minimum
  • Present to class - cycle through groups

4. Texts

  • Feyman, R.P. Six Easy Pieces
  • Hoffmann, B. The Strange Story of the Quantum
  • Frayn, M. Copenhagen
  • Notes and copies of articles will be handed out or posted
  • Several other texts will be on reserve:
    • Gamow, G. Mr. Tompkins in Paperback
    • Lightman, A. Great Ideas in Physics
    • Hewitt, P.G. Conceptual Physics