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Physics Course Descriptions


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[PH115]    The Shadow of the Bomb      More than 60 years ago, based on a radically new understanding of the laws of nature, nuclear weapons were constructed, tested, and used in war. Nuclear weapons and associated technology have shaped the scientific and political worlds since. Discusses complex scientific, technological, and environmental issues arising from human understanding and use of nuclear science for both weapons and energy. Science is taught in the context of its historical development and provides an understanding of the physics of atoms and nuclei and the necessary background for understanding the technology of nuclear weapons and nuclear power and events surrounding them both now and as they continue to develop. Includes discussions of radiation safety, nuclear waste, and nuclear weapons proliferation. Working knowledge of algebra required, but no previous study of physics assumed.     Four credit hours.  N.  
PH141f    Foundations of Mechanics      Explores the classical foundations of modern science, emphasizing the pioneering work of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Students will learn how fundamental laws enable us to unify and describe mathematically a wide variety of physical phenomena. Topics covered in lecture include kinematics, dynamics, gravitation, conservation laws, fluids, and waves. These topics are developed further in discussions, labs, and problem-solving assignments. May not be taken for credit if the student has earned credit for Physics 143. Prerequisite:  A working knowledge of high school or college calculus, or concurrent enrollment in Mathematics 121 or 161.     Four credit hours.  N,Lb.    MCCOY
PH143f    Honors Physics      An accelerated, calculus-based introductory course on Newtonian mechanics supplemented with some coverage of additional special topics. Intended for students who have had substantial courses in physics and calculus in high school. Topics in Newtonian mechanics include kinematics, dynamics, conservation laws, oscillations, and waves. Additional topics include special relativity and nuclear physics. Students acquire knowledge in these areas and skills for solving mathematical problems and doing laboratory work. May not be taken for credit if the student has earned credit for Physics 141.     Four credit hours.  N,Lb.    BLUHM
PH145s    Foundations of Electromagnetism and Optics      Explores the classical foundations of electrical and magnetic forces, electromagnetic waves, and optics, emphasizing the pioneering 19th-century experimental and theoretical work culminated by Maxwell's equations. Students will learn how electrical and magnetic force fields are described mathematically, how they are interrelated, and how the interrelations lead to a wide variety of physical phenomena. These topics are developed further in discussions, labs, and problem-solving assignments. Formerly listed as Physics 142. Prerequisite:  Physics 141 or 143.     Four credit hours.  N,Lb.    CAMPBELL
PH231f    Introduction to Astrophysics      Listed as Astronomy 231.     Four credit hours.  N,Lb.    CAMPBELL
PH241f    Modern Physics I      An introduction to the two central paradigms of non-Newtonian physics: Einstein's special theory of relativity and the quantum behavior of light and matter. The experimental evidence for quantum mechanics is considered from a historical perspective, beginning with Planck's quantum hypothesis for blackbody radiation through to the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom and the experimental evidence for the Schroedinger equation. Students will acquire skills in solving mathematical problems, advanced laboratory work, and scientific writing. Lecture, discussion, and laboratory. Students must be available for a self-scheduled lab outside of class time for approximately three hours every second week. Prerequisite:  Physics 142 or 145 and Mathematics 122 or 162.     Four credit hours.    TATE
PH242s    Modern Physics II      An intermediate-level introduction to quantum mechanics and atomic physics. Topics include the Schroedinger equation, interpretation of the wave function, one-dimensional potentials, hydrogen atom, electron spin, exclusion principle, atomic structure, and atomic spectra. Lectures, discussions, and labs. Enrolled students must be available for a self-scheduled lab outside of class time for approximately three hours every second week. Prerequisite:  Physics 241.     Four credit hours.    BLUHM
[PH254]    Essential Electronics      An introduction to modern scientific electronics, emphasizing laboratory work and including theory, problem solving, and circuit design. From simple, direct-current devices to digital integrated circuits, microcomputer instrumentation, and analog signal processing. Normally offered every other year. Prerequisite:  Physics 142 or 145.     Four credit hours.  
PH311s    Classical Mechanics      Newton's laws, oscillatory motion, noninertial reference systems, classical gravitation, motion of rigid bodies, and Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. Lecture and discussion. Prerequisite:  Physics 142 or 145, and Mathematics 122 or 162.     Four credit hours.    MCCOY
PH321f    Electricity and Magnetism      A theoretical treatment of electrostatics and magnetostatics in vacuum and material media through Maxwell's equations. Lecture and discussion. Prerequisite:  Physics 142 or 145 and Mathematics 302.     Four credit hours.    SATO
[PH332]    Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics      Examines the concepts of temperature, energy, heat, work, and entropy. Thermodynamic relations between these quantities are studied from both a microscopic and macroscopic point of view. The laws of thermodynamics are developed from an underlying statistical treatment. Topics such as heat flows, heat engines, phase transitions, chemical reactions, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics, and blackbody radiation are discussed. Lecture and discussion. Normally offered every other year. Prerequisite:  Mathematics 122 (or 162) and either Physics 242 (may be taken concurrently) or Chemistry 342 (may be taken concurrently).     Four credit hours.  
[PH333]    Experimental Condensed Matter Physics      Investigations of topics in condensed matter physics using modern experimental techniques and equipment. Lecture and laboratory. Prerequisite:  Physics 242. Physics 336 is recommended but not required.     Three credit hours.  
PH334s    Experimental Atomic Physics      Laboratory projects in modern atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) physics. Experiments include observing the Zeeman effect in mercury using a grating spectrometer, Doppler-free diode laser spectroscopy, and magneto-optical trapping of rubidium atoms. Through these and other projects, students will learn cutting-edge techniques of modern AMO physics. In addition, they will become familiar with, and be expected to engage in, communication of results both orally and in written form. Laboratory and tutorial. Some out-of-class participation required. Prerequisite:  Physics 242.     Three credit hours.    TATE
PH335s    General Relativity and Cosmology      An introduction to Einstein's general theory of relativity, including a treatment of tensor analysis, Einstein's equations, Schwarzschild metric, black holes, expansion of the universe, and cosmology. Prerequisite:  Physics 241.     Four credit hours.    BLUHM
PH336s    Condensed Matter Physics      An introduction to the properties of solid (condensed) matter. Topics may include bonding and crystal structure; diffraction of X-rays; thermal, optical, acoustical, electrical, and magnetic properties; energy band structure; and superconductivity. Students will research in more depth a chosen topic of current interest in condensed matter physics. Prerequisite:  Physics 242.     Four credit hours.    MCCOY
[PH338]    Nuclear and Particle Physics      Nuclear physics, including nuclear reactions and nuclear models, followed by elementary particle physics, including the quark model, leptons, and the strong and weak interactions. Prerequisite:  Physics 242.     Four credit hours.  
PH401f, 402s    Senior Physics and Astronomy Colloquium      A colloquium series with presentations by visiting scientists, department faculty, and senior physics majors. Visitors and faculty present their current research. Seniors present formal spoken presentations, typically supported by PowerPoint, discussing their senior projects or theses. Nongraded. One credit hour for the year.         CAMPBELL, TATE
PH415f, 416js    Physics and Astronomy Research      A guided research project on a topic in physics, astronomy, or a related area. Students may choose from a range of approaches, including literature searches, analytical and computational analyses, experimental data collection and analysis, and theoretical investigation. Some project components can be conducted off campus or as part of a team project. Physics 415 is required for all senior physics majors.     One or two credit hours.    FACULTY
PH431f    Quantum Mechanics      Study of the structure and interpretation of quantum mechanics at an advanced level. Quantum states and observables are described in terms of abstract state vectors and operators. The theory of quantum mechanics is reformulated in terms of a set of axioms and theorems. Students learn about representations of quantum states in terms of wave functions and matrices. The interpretation of the theory, including issues concerning the nature of quantum reality, are examined and discussed. Problems include short proofs involving operators, state vectors, and measurement theory. A core upper-level physics class that should be taken by students intending to go to graduate school in physics or a related area. Prerequisite:  Physics 242 and Mathematics 253.     Four credit hours.    SATO
PH483f, 484s    Independent Honors Project      Research conducted under the guidance of a faculty member and focused on an approved topic leading to the writing of an honors thesis.     Two to four credit hours.    FACULTY
PH491f, 492s    Independent Study      Individual topics or research in areas where the student has demonstrated the interest and competence necessary for independent work. Prerequisite:  Permission of the instructor.     One to five credit hours.    FACULTY