Fall 2003

Sudhakar Prasad

Phone: 277-5876

MWF 12:00 - 12:50 PM, Regener Hall 103

Note:    Problem Session, Physics 267, meets Mondays at 2 pm, Regener Hall 114

[1 credit hour; CR/NC grade]



Fundamentals of Physics, Halliday, Resnick, and Walker;



6th Edition, Parts IV and (sections of) V  [Chapters 34-45]


Special Relativity: A Modern Introduction, H. C. Ohanian;



(sections of) Chapters 1-4 (paperback)

Office Hours:

M: 12:55-1:55 pm, Regener; W: 2-3 pm, F: 1:30-2:15 pm, P&A, Rm 1115


General Introduction:


The course will cover three major areas of physics – optics, special relativity, and quantum physics. The importance of optics can hardly be overstated, as light pervades our daily lives in ways no other technology ever has, while the latter two areas constitute the very foundation of modern physics. Because of the nature of the subject matter, lectures will necessarily have to be at a somewhat more advanced level than you are accustomed to from Phys 160 or 161, but you no doubt expected that. Hopefully, however, I can make the subject not only accessible but also enjoyable and inspiring for you.


Please do not hesitate ever to ask questions as and when they arise in your mind. Outside the classroom, the best way of contacting me is by phone or email. Although I prefer to answer your questions during my regular office hours, you are welcome to call/email me and set up an appointment outside these hours too.


Exams: There will be four, in-class, equally weighted exams in this course – three “sectional mid-terms,” on Sep 26, Nov 10, and Dec 10; and a final “comprehensive” exam, the week of Dec 15th. The best three exam scores will count for 75% of your grade.  No make-up exams will be given.


HW Assignments: There will be roughly three HW assignments per week – two via WebAssign and one graded by the grader. HW grade will carry 25% of the weight of the final grade.


Instructor Absence: I will be on travel occasionally in the Fall term, but will try to be away mostly during your exams. I will still miss one lecture, however, on Monday, October 21. I will have a substitute instructor cover my lecture that day.

Grader: Steven Flammia (; office hrs: to be determined


Problems Class: Some of you have signed up for the P267 Problems class. This is a good way to get deeper into the subject. We (mostly you, with my guidance) will be solving additional problems in this class, and we will also spend time clarifying confusing concepts. I encourage more of you to sign up if you can. Major advances in physics have occurred out of the need to solve problems, and so I cannot overstate the importance of this class.



Course Outline


  1. Electromagnetic and Other Waves: 4 lectures

a. Review of general wave behavior – 17.1-5, 17.8-11

b.Wave equation from Maxwell’s equations – 32.9-11, 34.1-3

c. Poynting vector, polarization, refractive index, reflection, refraction – 34.4-9

  1. Geometrical and Physical Optics: 12 lectures

a. Mirrors, images, refracting surfaces, thin lenses, the eye – 35.1-7, extra material

b.Interference, diffraction, coherence, resolving criteria – 36.1-7, 37.1-9

  1. Special Relativity: 13 lectures – Ohanian, Chaps 1-4

a. Speed of light, principle of relativity, simultaneity (clock synchronization)

b.Time dilation, length contraction, Lorentz transformation, velocity transformation

c.       Celebrated paradoxes, space-time diagrams, Doppler effect

d.      Relativistic mechanics, 4-vectors

  1. Introduction to Quantum Theory: 13 lectures

a.       Blackbody radiation, photoelectric effect, Compton scattering – 19.11, 39.1-4

b.      Matter waves, Schrödinger equation, complex amplitudes, probabilities – 39.5-7

c.       Uncertainty principle, barrier tunneling – 39.8-9

d.      One, two, three-dimensional traps – 40.1-7

e.       Hydrogen atom – Bohr model, quantum theory – 40.8

f.        Stern-Gerlach experiment, spin, bosons and fermions, application to atoms – 41.1-9

g.       Nuclear physics and elementary particles – simple introduction – 43.1-7,44.1-8, sections of Chap 45