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  • The course will provide an introduction to the principles and mathematical implementation of two revolutionary developments of the 20th Century – Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. The resulting understanding of everything from the structure of the atom to the evolution of the universe will be explored.

Course Requirements

There will be homework assignments every week or two to accompany the lectures. Extra-credit problems will be posted occasionally. The lectures will cover material in the readings along with supplementary material. There will be two in-class exams and a two hour final.



Krane, Kenneth S., "Modern Physics" (John Wiley & Sons, 1996).

Reserve reading:

Gamow, G., "Mr. Tompkins in paperback."

Feynman, R.P., "Feynman Lectures on Physics" Vol.1 and 3 & "Six Not So Easy Pieces."


The following is an approximate assignment of contributions:

  • Homework 30%
  • In-class Exams 30%
  • Final Exam 30%
  • Class Participation 10%

Homework must be submitted on time to receive full credit.

Course Outline and Reading Assignments

I. Quick review of basic concepts (Chap.1 - Krane)

II. Relativity (Chap.2)

  1. Galilean-Newtonian
  2. Michelson-Morley Experiment
    1. Review of Maxwell's EM waves

    2. What is waving? Faraday's field idea and waves on a field rather than a physical medium

    3. Michelson's interferometer and the null result

  3. Einstein's postulates
    1. Laws of Physics are independent of inertial frame
    2. Speed of light is independent of inertial frame

  4. Lorentz Transformation and relativity of time
  5. Peculiar predictions
    1. Clocks, simultaneity, twin paradox

    2. Doppler effect, velocity transformations
    3. Momentum and Energy, E=mc2
  6. Equivalence Principle, Gravity and General Relativity (Chap.15 sect.1,2,3)

III.Origins of Quantum Physics (Chap.3)

  1. Blackbody Radiation and h
  2. Photoelectric effect, X Rays, Compton scattering, atomic spectra
  3. Bohr atom - quantization of energy (Chap.6 sect.1,3,4,5)

IV.Particle-Wave Mechanics (Chap.4)

  1. Electron waves
    1. Review waves
      1. standing on string, etc.
      2. travelling c.wave propagation, medium and EM fields
    2. Standing waves in the Bohr atom
  2. Electron waves - What is waving? Probability and Copenhagen
    1. Digression on complex numbers
    2. Digression on wave packets
      1. Fourier series and transforms

      2. dispersion

    3. Electron wave packets
      1. localization vs. dispersion
      2. Heisenberg uncertainty DxDp ³ (h/2p)/2

V.Schrödinger eqn (Chap.5)

  1. 1+1 dim PDQ
  2. Particle in a box and standing waves
    1. Classical limit
    2. Correspondence principle
  3. Finite square well
    1. Boundary conditions
    2. Tunneling into forbidden region
  4. Expectation values of classical observables
  5. Scattering over/through a barrier
  6. 3 dim box and standing waves and energy levels
  7. Simple Harmonic Oscillator
  8. 2 identical particles
    1. Symmetrization and anti-symmetrization
    2. Bosons and fermions

VI.Quantum theory of atoms (Chap.7,8)

  1. Hydrogen atom
  2. Spin and Magnetic moments - Stern-Gerlach
  3. Angular momenta and spin addition rules - Spin-Orbit
  4. Periodic table
  5. EM radiation in atomic transitions - emission, absorption, scattering
  6. Simulated emission, coherence and the laser

VII.Molecules (Chap.9)

  1. "The nature of the chemical bond"
  2. Polyatomic molecules
  3. Diatomic molecules and spectra

VIII.Solids (Chap.11)

[The remaining chapters will be covered more qualitatively.]

  1. Crystal structure
  2. Free electron vs. Fermi gas theory of electrical properties
  3. Band theory of solids and semiconductors
  4. Superconductors
    1. Critical point
    2. BCS pairing theory

    3. Flux quantization, tunneling

IX.Nuclei (Chap.12,13)

  1. Structure of the nucleus
    1. Atomic number, protons and neutrons

    2. Strong Force

    3. "The curve of binding energy"
  2. NMR and MRI
  3. Radioactivity and Weak Force
  4. Nuclear reactions
    1. Fission, fusion

    2. Bombs and reactors

  5. Effects of radiation on matter

X.Particles (Chap.14)

  1. Leptons and hadrons
    1. Building blocks of nuclei and atom
    2. Four Forces
  2. Conservation laws - spin, baryon, lepton, antiparticles, parity, time reversal, flavor

  3. Quarks and Vector Bosons

  4. Electroweak Unification

  5. QCD and The Standard Model

  6. GUTs, Superstrings and The Theory of Everything

XI.Astrophysics and cosmology (Chap.15,16)

  1. Stellar structure and evolution

  2. Galaxies, the expanding universe and Dark Matter

  3. Cosmology, the Big Bang, Particle Astrophysics