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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 scientific and political worlds since. Discusses complex scientific, technological, and environmental issues arising from understanding and using nuclear science for weapons and energy. Explains the physics of atoms and nuclei and provides background for understanding the technology of nuclear weapons and power and events surrounding them. Discussion of radiation safety, waste, and weapons proliferation. Working knowledge of algebra required; no previous study of physics assumed.     Four credit hours.  N.  
PH141f    Foundations of Mechanics      A calculus-based survey of classical Newtonian mechanics, including kinematics, forces, work and energy, momentum, gravity, oscillations, 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.    TATE
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.    CONOVER
PH197j    Introduction to Biophysics      Biophysics is a rapidly growing subfield in physics that applies the tools and techniques used in physics to study biological systems. Emphasis on the ubiquitous role of physical laws in understanding how living organisms behave. Students apply concepts and skills learned in introductory physics (including force and energy) to study biological systems at the molecular and cellular levels. Additional physical quantities pertaining to biosystems, such as entropy, free energies, basic electrostatics, and statistical principles, are introduced as needed. Topics are highly interdisciplinary and include diffusion, random walks, entropic force, fluid flows, biopolymers, membranes, and self-assembly. Prerequisite:  Physics 141 or 143 or equivalent advanced placement.     Three credit hours.  N.    SATO
PH231f    Introduction to Astrophysics      Listed as Astronomy 231.     Four credit hours.  N,Lb.    MCGRATH
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 postulates of Einstein are presented and the consequences explored theoretically along with experimental evidence for relativity. 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.    CONOVER
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.    TATE
[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.    SATO
[PH312]    Physics of Fluids      All living things, from the smallest cells to the largest communities, are soaking in or swimming through the fluid environment of liquids and gases that covers the planet. Our understanding of fluid motion helps us build better airplanes, debate climate change, and discover new design principles in biology. We will view this subject as an exciting, interdisciplinary opportunity to see the laws of physics in action. Emphasis will be on a core set of basic concepts and mathematical tools used to describe fluids and explore a range of applications drawn from biology, chemistry, geophysics, and engineering. Formerly offered as Physics 398. Prerequisite:  Mathematics 302 and Physics 242.     Four credit hours.  
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.  
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
[PH336]    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.  
[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 oral presentations on their senior projects or honors theses. Nongraded. One credit hour for the year.         BLUHM, MCGRATH
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. Students learn about representations of state vectors and operators in terms of wave functions and differential operators or the tools of linear algebra: vectors and matrices. We will approach the abstract representation of quantum objects using the concrete example of spin-systems to provide insight into the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics. 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 course 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.    CONOVER
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
PH483Jj    Independent Honors Project          Noncredit.    CONOVER
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