Spring 2003 Daniel Finley
MWF 12:00 - 12:50 PM , Regener Hall 103

A.A. Michelson (1852-1931) A. Einstein (1879-1955)  M. Curie (1867-1934)


Texts:     Fundamentals of Physics , Halliday, Resnick, and Walker;
   6th Edition, Parts IV and (sections of) V [Chapters 34-45] (paperback)
  Special Relativity, A.P. French;
    (sections of) Chapters 1-5 and 7 (paperback)
Click on the links that follow to go directly to the locations on this page, which describe the Syllabus, the Homework, the Extra Pages, or the WebLinks.

Office: Physics & Astronomy Bldg., 800 Yale Boulevard, Room 168
Telephone:     277-8799 ;     email:
Office Hours:
I am happy to talk with you about physics, math, or how they relate to the world, your text, and/or your assigned homework!
The class homepage, this webpage, is at
The class's Teaching Assistant is Clark Highstrete. He is available for discussions and/or questions, and holds weekly office hours in Room 190 of the main Physics and Astronomy Building: from 2 to 3 pm on Monday! If you like, you may also send him email by clicking here, suggesting a time and place for you to meet with him.

Introduction to the Class

This is the third semester of a general introduction to physics.
We will study Optics and the history and foundations of Modern Physics this semester.

Optics is the study of the interaction of light with matter, and is divided into three distinct parts:
Geometrical, or Ray, Optics, where the interactions are such that a reasonable model for light uses rays following trajectories, which are straight until they come to some intersection of the media through which they travel;
Physical Optics, where we need a "finer" model, which uses the theory of Electromagnetic Waves, from Maxwell's equations; and, lastly,
the theory of Photons, where we need the more sophisticated models that take their basis in the work of Einstein in 1905, when he introduced the notion that light has its energy quantized, sized according to the frequency of the light in question: E = hf .

Modern Physics actually begins with the work of Planck (1900) and Einstein (1905) on photons, a century ago.
We will consider two large sections of Modern Physics,
special relativity, which describes the "unexpected" behaviors of things that move very fast, and
quantum theory, which describes the "unexpected" behaviors of the smaller particles that make up the world:
     molecules, atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, and gluons.
Photons, being both small and fast, are at the intersection of these modern understandings of "the way the world works."

Several different aspects of the course are described in the list below:

  1. We will follow the weekly, online class Syllabus. Your input, in terms of questions and comments, and your work with problems and exams, will help determine our pace, so that it may be updated from time to time. I note that the Syllabus given this semester is in considerable more detail than the ones I have given for the previous two semesters. It is important to read the material before classtime. Therefore I will occasionally give brief "quizzes" over the material to be covered that day, as a reminder that you do need to read the material before class!

  2. From time to time, I feel we need some textual material appended to what is found in the textbook. Therefore, as they are created, I will put links here to additional material (which is required for the course):
  3. I have put here the calculations and pictures that concern details of the Twin Problem as discussed in class on 24 March.

  4. A new set of additional notes has just been put here. They present some detailed philosophical considerations about the difference between classical physics and the (new) quantum physics which we are beginning to study.
    In particular they try to discuss the fact that what we call `` elementary particles" sometimes act (approximately) like classical particles, sometimes act (approximately) like classical waves, and sometimes like neither one.
  5. A new set of additional notes has just been put here. They concern Planck's Law for the spectral radiancy of Thermal Radiation, and are required reading for the course. The material will be covered in class during the week that begins 7 April.
  6. Also, please read Chapters 1 and 2 of Volume III of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, by Richard Feynman. You may find copies either by going to the Reserve Book Section at CSEL, and asking to borrow the book, or you can access it online from CSEL's new electronic reserve service, at this link.
    The bound copies are on reserve under either my name or the name/number of the class, or both.
    In order to access them electronically you will need the password for our class for this electronic reserve service. You should have received this password via email; if not, please ask me, or a fellow student.

  7. the Hydrogen Atom:
    • Yet some more additional notes, as a .pdf file, are here. They concern the old, but very intuitive Bohr Model for the energies, mean radii, etc., for the electron in a hydrogen atom.
         A student in our class has found a number of interesting websites that talk about the Bohr model with very simple language and applets. They all come from a program at the University of Colorado, called Physics 2000, an interactive journey through modern physics! Some URL's are at this link and also this one.

      More modern material in the text and below; however, this is very useful, and rather straightforward.

    •    Mathematical Forms of Wave Functions, and good pictures of Probability Densities.
      This material is now "found" and is available here!

  8. There will also be three examinations, homework assignments due (almost) every class period, and a comprehensive final examination.
    You must take all three of the examinations. The final examination is comprehensive, BUT OPTIONAL! However, you may use your grade on the Final Examination to replace your lowest examination grade if you so desire.

    The three exam grades and the homework will then each count 25% of the total grade for the course. The examinations will be during class time; you may use the Formula Sheets that I hand out in advance, for the exams and/or a single page that you have written yourself. The Final Examination is scheduled for 10-12 AM, Friday, 16 May.

    The grades will be "curved" so that the class average becomes a grade approximately a (high) C+.

    IF you miss an exam, you will make that up by taking the final examination; therefore, there will be NO make up examinations.

    • Older exam questions on optics are available at this link.
       Review and Equation Summary for the first exam may be downloaded, in Acrobat (.pdf) format here.
    • Older exam questions on special relativity may be found at this link.
    • Older exam questions on quantum physics may be found at this link.

  9. The problem session, P. 267-001, graded CR/NC, is optional, but is very useful for help with the problems; it meets Friday at 9 AM, in Room 114 of Regener Hall. In order to receive credit for it, you must enroll separately. However, attenders are welcome even if not registered for that class. Since many of the topics in this semester are ``exciting,'' we will spend some time in P. 267 trying to answer questions raised in class that would take us too far afield during the regular classtime.

  10. I strongly recommend the laboratory for this class, P. 262L. The material this semester is far from intuitive, mostly because it deals with very, very small things and/or things moving very, very fast. These phenomena are well outside of our usual realm of experience. Therefore, acquiring some better acquaintance, within the laboratory classes, is quite useful!
    There are two sections, one on Wednesday afternoon, and one on Thursday morning.

  11. Assigned Homework will be very important in your process of learning the material being discussed. Therefore, it will count 25% of your final course grade.
    The majority of the required homework will be done, and graded, on the web, through the national program called Webassign. In order to use WebAssign, you must receive a "ticket" from me, allowing you access to the system, along with a "username" and a "password."
    You may click on WebAssign for a direct link to their website; however, you should set up your own bookmarks to get there more quickly and reliably.
    Although you can probably figure out what to do without any further directions, you can go to my WebAssign page for some more detailed comments about how to proceed.

    There will also be problems to be done directly on paper, and turned in.
    Some of them will be of the nature of Bonus Problems, which may be used to help out one's other HW grades. I will create solutions for both sorts, that may be accessed from links on the assignment pages as they become available.

    Direct links are given here to go to the listing of homework assignments, divided into three sets:

    1. homework sets I-XV, preparing for Exam 1;
    2. homework sets XVI-XXV, preparing for Exam 2;
    3. homework sets XXVI - XXXIX, preparing for the Third Exam;
    Links to the solutions are provided on the homework assignment pages.

Each of you must have a computer account.
Please use the e-mail facility on the class home page to send me your address, or give it to me in class.

   If you are a qualified person with disabilities who might need appropriate academic adjustments, please communicate with me as soon as possible so that we may make appropriate arrangements to meet your needs in a timely manner. Frequently, we will need to coordinate accommodating activities with other offices on campus.

Once again, a special welcome to you all. I expect our working together at learning some physics to be a very rewarding time.

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  Last updated/modified: 12 March, 2003