Physics

Requirements for the major: 9 units above the introductory level, including the six core courses 200, 201, 210, 240, 245 and 320 and 3 additional units in Physics or Astronomy (above the 100 level), at least 2 of which must be at the 300 level. In addition to those nine units, students must complete Mathematics 221, 222. Additional recommended Mathematics courses: Mathematics 228, 241, and 324. Physics 200, 201 and 210 should be taken prior to the beginning of the junior year. Physics 240 and 320 should be taken prior to the beginning of the senior year.

After the declaration of a physics major, no physics courses or courses counted towards the major may be elected NRO. Prospective majors should consult the department as soon as possible and are strongly advised to elect physics and mathematics as freshmen. Those majors planning on graduate work in physics are strongly advised to complete Physics 310 and Physics 341 and are encouraged to consult with the department concerning other courses in the natural sciences which may supplement the physics major.

Physics Teaching Certification: Those planning certification for high school physics teaching must have one of their 300-level units as a thesis or independent project (Physics 300 or 301) and 1/2 unit each of lab development (Physics 298) and lab apprenticeship (Physics 298). Additional courses in Education and Psychology are required for certification. Consult Ms. Schwarz.

Advisers: Mr. Bradley, Mr. Daly, Ms. Magnes, Ms. Schwarz.

Correlate Sequence in Physics: Students majoring in other programs may elect a correlate sequence in physics. The requirements for the correlate sequence consist of 4 units of physics above the introductory level (Physics 113/114 or equivalent), 2 of which must be chosen from the following pairs of courses: Physics 210-310, 210-320, or 240-341, Astronomy 222-320, Astronomy 220-320. The two remaining units must be at the 200- or 300-level in physics. (Note that Physics 200 and 210 are prerequisites for Physics 320.) A working knowledge of calculus is required for Physics 113/114 and for all courses above the 100-level. The NRO option may be used for at most one course to be included in the physics correlate sequence.

I. Introductory

100b. Physics in Motion(1)

Motion is much of what physics is about and motion can be seen all around us. Recent technological advances in digital video and computers allow many motions to be filmed, analyzed and studied. We begin by filming a variety of objects in motion and uncover the physics inside. In the second half of the semester groups focus on topics (of their choice) of interest to K-12 students. Each group produces a DVD, incorporating video, text, and other media into the project to help explain the physics behind the scenes. The DVD project is presented in local K-12 schools as a final exercise. Ms. Schwarz.

Not open to students who have taken Physics 113, or received AP credit for Physics 113.

110b. Science of Sound(1)

An exploration of the basic nature of sound, including the transmission and reception of sound, pitch, quality (timbre), loudness, musical intervals, musical instruments, building acoustics, and modern research in sound and acoustics. These topics are covered through a combination of lecture, group discussion, and hands-on investigation. There are no science prerequisites for this course, except a willingness to explore physics fundamentals through the lens of acoustics. Mr. Bradley.

113a. Fundamentals of Physics I(1)

An introduction to the basic concepts of physics with emphasis on mechanics, wave motion, and thermodynamics. Recommended for potential majors in physics and other physical sciences. The department.

Not open to students who received Vassar credit for AP Physics.

Corequisite: Mathematics 121 or equivalent.

Three 50-minute periods; one 3-hour laboratory.

114b. Fundamentals of Physics II(1)

Fundamentals of electricity, magnetism, and optics, with an introduction to atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. Recommended for potential majors in physics and other physical sciences. The Department.

Prerequisite: Physics 113, AP Physics C credit, or equivalent college level course and Mathematics 121 or equivalent.

Three 50-minute periods; one 3-hour laboratory.

115a. Topics in Classical Physics(1/2)

This six-week course covers topics typically left out of the physics AP curriculum and reinforce the use of calculus in mechanics and electricity and magnetism. Mr. Daly.

Only open to freshman and sophomores with AP B credit or AP C credit for Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism or special permission. 0.5 units upon completion of Physics 116.

116a. Topics in Applied Physics(1/2)

In this six-week course, each week is an introduction to current research and applications of physics. Topics include, nanotechnology, lasers, materials science, particle and nuclear physics in medicine, biophysics, geophysics, environmental physics and astrophysics. Not all topics are taught in a specific year. Mr. Daly/the department.

Prerequisites: Physics 114 or 115, calculus or special permission.

168 a. A Tour of the Subatomic Zoo(1/2)

This course is designed for nonphysics majors who want to know more about the constituents of matter including quarks, gluons, and neutrinos. The particle discoveries and the implications of the discoveries are discussed in an historical context. Additional topics discussed: matter vs. antimatter, the wave, and particle nature of light. Ms. Schwarz.

May not count towards a physics concentration.

II. Intermediate

Students electing intermediate and upper-level courses are expected to have a working knowledge of differential and integral calculus.

200a. Modern Physics(1)

An introduction to the two subjects at the core of contemporary physics: Einstein's theory of special relativity, and quantum mechanics. Topics include paradoxes in special relativity; the Lorentz transformation; four-vectors and invariants; relativistic dynamics; the wave-particle duality; the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and simple cases of the Schrodinger wave equation. Mr. Bradley.

Prerequisites: Physics 114 or Physics 116, Mathematics 125 or Mathematics 121/122, or permission of instructor.

201b. Methods of Experimental Physics(1)

An introduction to the tools and techniques of modern experimental physics. Students replicate classic historical experiments (e.g., photoelectric effect, Michelson interferometer, muon lifetime). Emphasis is placed on the use of computers for capturing and analyzing data, and on effective oral and written presentation of experimental results. Mr. Daly.

Prerequisites: Physics114 or Physics 116, Mathematics 125 or Mathematics 121/122.

Recommended: Physics 200.

210b. Classical Mechanics(1)

A study of the motion of objects using Newtonian theory. Topics include oscillator systems, central forces, noninertial systems, and rigid bodies. An introduction to the Lagrangian formulation. Ms. Schwarz.

Prerequisite: Physics 113.

Corequisite: One 200-level mathematics course or permission of instructor.

240a. Electromagnetism I(1)

A study of electromagnetic forces and fields. Topics include electrostatics of conductors and dielectrics, electric currents, magnetic fields, and the classical theories and phenomena that led to Maxwell's formulation of electromagnetism. Mr. Bradley.

Prerequisites: Physics 114 or Physics 116, Mathematics 222.

Recommended: Mathematics 228.

245b. Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics(1)

Probability distributions, statistical ensembles, thermodynamic laws, statistical calculations of thermodynamic quantities, absolute temperature, heat, entropy, equations of state, kinetic theory of dilute gases, phase equilibrium, quantum statistics of ideal gases. Mr. Daly.

Prerequisites: Physics 200 and one 200-level mathematics course.

[ 260 b. Contemporary Optics ](1/2)

This course samples topics in modern optics research and optics applications. Study of cross-disciplinary research and applications in fields like biology, chemistry, medicine etc. is an essential part of this course. Hands-on demonstrations and laboratory exercises are included. Ms. Magnes.

Prerequisites: 2 units of any science at Vassar, calculus or special permission

Not offered in 2009/10.

270b. Computational Methods in the Sciences(1/2)

(Same as Chemistry 270b) This course introduces students to computational techniques which are helpful in the physical sciences. No previous experience with computer programming is required. Topics include sorting algorithms, numerical integration, differential equations, series, linear algebra, root findings and the basics of fortran programming. Mr. Opazo-Castillo.

One 75-minute period.

Prerequisites: Mathematics 125 or Mathematics 121/122, or permission of instructor.

298a or b. Independent Work(1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

300a, 301b. Independent Project or Thesis(1/2 or 1)

[ 310a. Advanced Mechanics ](1)

A study of the dynamics of simple and complex mechanical systems using the variational methods of Lagrange and Hamilton. Topics include the variational calculus, the Euler-Lagrange equations, Hamilton's equations, canonical transformations, and the Hamilton-Jacobi equation. The department.

Prerequisites: Physics 210, Mathematics 221, 222.

Recommended: Mathematics 228.

Not offered in 2009/10.

320a. Quantum Mechanics I(1)

An introduction to the formalism of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics and its physical interpretation, with emphasis on solutions of the Schrodinger wave equation. Topics covered include the operator formalism, uncertainty relations, one-dimensional potentials, bound states, tunneling, central field problems in three dimensions, the hydrogen atom, the harmonic oscillator, and quantum statistics. Mr. Daly.

Prerequisites: Physics 200, 210, Mathematics 221.

Recommended: Mathematics 222, or 228.

341b. Electromagnetism II(1)

A study of the electromagnetic field. Starting with Maxwell's equations, topics covered include the propagation of waves, waveguides, the radiation field, retarded potentials, and the relativistic formulation of electromagnetic theory. Ms. Magnes.

Prerequisites: Physics 240, Mathematics 222 or by permission.

Recommended: Mathematics 228.

375b. Advanced Topics in Physics(1)

Course topics vary from year to year. 2008/2009 topics are solid state physics and acoustics. May be taken more than once for different topics. Prerequisites vary depending on the topic. Ms. Magnes.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work(1/2 or 1)