Physics and Astronomy

Professors: Frederick R. Chromey, Debra M. Elmegreen, Morton A. Tavelab;Associate Professor: Cindy Schwarz (Chair); Assistant Professors: James Lombardi, Mark Somerville; Lecturer: James F. Challey; Lecturer and Coordinator of Laboratory Instruction: Daniel Lawrence.


Requirements for Concentration: 10 units, including 5 units of astronomy, 3 units of physics including Physics 200 and 2 additional units of intermediate or advanced work in either astronomy, physics, geology, computer science, or chemistry to be selected with the approval of the adviser. Only one introductory level astronomy course may count toward the major.

Senior-Year Requirement: Astronomy 320 or 340.

Prospective majors should consult the department as soon as possible. Normally such students should elect physics and mathematics as freshmen. After the declaration of an astronomy major, no required courses may be elected NRO.

Recommendations: Additional work in mathematics, physics, and computer science. In particular, students planning on graduate work in astronomy should complete Physics 320 and 340.

Advisers: Mr. Chromey, Ms. Elmegreen.

I. Introductory

Astronomy 101 and 105 are designed for students who do not plan to major in the sciences and who have little or no science background.

101a. Solar System Astronomy (1)

A study of the solar system as seen from earth and space: the sun, planets, satellites, comets, meteors, and the interplanetary medium; astronautics and space exploration; life on other planets; planetary system cosmogony. Mr. Chromey.

Open to all classes.

105b. Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology (1)

This course is designed to acquaint the student with our present understanding of the universe. The course discusses the formation, structure, and evolution of gas clouds, stars, and galaxies, and then places them in the larger content of clusters and superclusters of galaxies. The Big Bang, GUTS, inflation, the early stages of the universe's expansion, and its ultimate fate are explored. Ms. Elmegreen.

Open to all classes.

II. Intermediate

212b. Galaxies and Galactic Structure (1)

The distribution and properties of stars and star clusters; contents, structure and evolution of the Milky Way. Observations and theories of normal and active galaxies. Ms. Elmegreen.

Prerequisites: Astronomy 220 or permission of instructor.

220a. Stellar Astrophysics (1)

The physical theory of stellar interiors, atmospheres, and energy sources. Stellar evolution. Spectral sequence and its origin. Interstellar medium. Supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Ms. Elmegreen.

Prerequisites: Physics 114 or by permission of instructor.

230a or b. Planetary and Space Science (1)

Atmospheres, surface features, and interiors of the planets. Interaction of the sun with the other members of the solar system. Planetary formation and evolution. Life on other planets. Space exploration. Mr. Chromey.

Prerequisite: Physics 114 or by permission of instructor.

240a. Observational Astronomy (1)

This course introduces the student to a variety of techniques used in the detection and analysis of electromagnetic radiation from astronomical sources. All areas of the electromagnetic spectrum are discussed, with special emphasis on solid-state arrays as used in optical and infrared astronomy. Topics include measurement uncertainty, signal-to-noise estimates, the use of astronomical data bases, telescope design and operation, detector design and operation, practical photometry and spectroscopy and data reduction. Students are required to perform a number of nighttime observations at the college observatory. Mr. Chromey.

Prerequisites: Physics 112 or 114, or by permission of instructor.

[250b. Topics in Modern Astronomy] (1)

An opportunity for the student to pursue a topic to a greater depth than normally possible in the other courses. Mr. Chromey.

Prerequisite: by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 1999/00.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

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

III. Advanced

300a or b. Senior Thesis (1/2 or 1)

301-302. Senior Thesis (1/2 or 1)

320a. Astrophysics: The Interstellar Medium (1)

A study of the observations and theory related to interstellar matter, including masers, protostars, dust, atomic, molecular and ionized gas clouds. Radiative transfer, collapse and expansion processes, shocks and spiral density waves will be discussed. Ms. Elmegreen.

Prerequisites: Physics 200 or by permission of instructor.

340b. Advanced Observational Astronomy (1/2 or 1)

This course applies in depth the methods introduced in Astronomy 240. Students are expected to pursue individual observational projects in collaboration with the instructor. The amount of time spent in the observatory and how it is scheduled will depend on the nature of the project, although 1/2 unit projects will require half the total time of full unit projects. Mr. Chromey.

Prerequisite: Astronomy 240. Permission of instructor required.

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


Requirements for the major: 9 units above the introductory level (Physics 111/112 or 113/114 or equivalent) including Physics 200, 201, 210, 240, 245, and 320. Of the 2 1/2 units remaining, 2 must be chosen from (Physics 305, 310, 321, 340, Astronomy 320). Note that Physics 137, 165, and 168 do not count towards the physics major.

After the declaration of a physics major, no required courses 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 321 and Physics 340 and are encouraged to consult with the department concerning other courses in the natural sciences which may supplement the physics major.

Advisers: Mr. Challey, Mr. Lombardi, Ms. Schwarz, Mr. Somerville, Mr. Tavel.

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 111/112 or 113/114 or equivalent), 2 of which must be chosen from the following pairs of courses: Physics 210-310, 210-320, 205-305, or 240-340. The two remaining units must be at the 200- or 300-level. (Note that Physics 200 is a prerequisite 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 courses to be included in the physics correlate sequence, but only one grade of pass may be obtained.

I. Introductory

[111a. Topics in Classical Physics] (1)

An introduction to the basic concepts of physics with emphasis on mechanics, wave motion, and thermodynamics. A knowledge of elementary algebra and trigonometry is essential.

Two 75-minute periods or three 50-minute periods; one 3-hour laboratory.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[112b. Topics in Classical and Modern Physics] (1)

Fundamentals of electricity and magnetism, and optics, with an introduction to atomic and nuclear physics.

Prerequisite: Physics 111 or by permission of instructor.

Two 75-minute periods or three 50-minute periods; one 3-hour laboratory.

Not offered in 1999/00.

113a or b. Topics in Classical Physics (1)

An introduction to the basic concepts of physics with emphasis on mechanics, wave motion, and thermodynamics. A working knowledge of calculus is required. Recommended for potential majors in physics and other physical sciences. Mr. Challey, Mr. Lombardi, Ms. Schwarz.

Prerequisite: Calculus.

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

114b. Topics in Classical and Modern Physics (1)

Fundamentals of electricity, magnetism, and optics, with an introduction to atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. A working knowledge of calculus is required.

Prerequisite: Physics 113 or by permission of instructor.

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

[165b. Relativity] (1/2)

An introduction to the concepts of special relativity. Discussion of paradoxes, time dilation, black holes, etc. This course followed by Cosmology forms a sequence to give the student an understanding of modern cosmological ideas. Mr. Tavel.

No prerequisite. May not count towards a physics concentration.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[168a. 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.

Not offered in 1999/00.

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 five topics that form the core of contemporary physics: symmetry principles, special and general relativity, quantum theory and chaos. These topics will be thematically connected by the concept of how we acquire knowledge of the physical world, with an emphasis on uncertainty, determinism and predictability. Specific items to be treated include the Lorentz transformation, relativistic dynamics, the Schwarzschild metric, quantum mechanical models, entropy and irreversibility, and chaotic dynamics. Mr. Somerville.

Prerequisites: 114, or permission of instructor.

201a. Modern Physics Lab (1/2)

Perform classic historical experiments that accompanied major revolutions in modern physics. These include the Franck-Hertz experiment, Millikan oil drop, electron diffraction, x-ray diffraction, and Michelson interferometer. Simulate chaos on a computer and explore mechanical analogs to phase changes and thermodynamics. Mr. Somerville.

Prerequisites: Physics 112, 114, 200 or permission of instructor.

[205a. Mathematical Methods in the Sciences] (1)

Solutions of problems by numerical and analytical techniques with examples from sciences. Topics include linear algebra, vector calculus, differential equations, and series. Mr. Tavel.

Prerequisite: a working knowledge of differential and integral calculus.

Not offered in 1999/00.

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.

Prerequisites: Physics 113, and Mathematics 250 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. Challey.

Prerequisite: Physics 114 and Mathematics 250.

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.

Prerequisites: Physics 113, and Mathematics 250.

[260a. Optics] (1)

Description and behavior of light in geometrical, physical, and modern optics. Special topics include lasers, holography, and optical fibers. Physics 261, Optics Laboratory, is designed to complement Physics 260 and students are strongly encouraged to enroll in it, either simultaneously or following 260. Physics 261 is not required in order to receive credit for Physics 260.

Prerequisites: Physics 114 and a working knowledge of calculus.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[261a. Optics Laboratory] (1/2)

Hands-on introduction to optical physics and technology, designed to complement Physics 260. Lasers are used to explore a wide range of optical phenomena, including optical fibers, acousto-optics, properties of laser radiation, holography, and basic geometrical and physical optics.

Co- or prerequisite: Physics 260.

Not offered in 1999/00.

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

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. Lombardi.

Prerequisites: Mathematics 250 or permission of instructor.

281. The Physics and Technology of Semiconductor Devices (1/2)

This course surveys the physics behind the operation and fabrication of modern integrated circuits.

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

III. Advanced

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

[305b. Mathematical Physics] (1)

A presentation of mathematical techniques including such topics as orthogonal functions, selected ordinary and partial differential equations, boundary value problems, Green's theorem and Green's functions, complex analysis, and the Fourier and Laplace transforms. Mr. Tavel.

Prerequisite: Physics 205.

Not offered in 1999/00.

310a. Advanced Mechanics (1)

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

Prerequisite: Physics 210.

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. Ms. Schwarz.

Prerequisites: Physics 200 and 210.

340b. 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. Mr. Tavel.

Prerequisites: Physics 240, Mathematics 250 or by permission.

Alternate years: offered in 1999/00.

375a. Advanced Topics in Physics (1)

Course topics vary from year to year. Topics included High Energy physics, atomic and nuclear physics, solid state physics, chaos, and advanced computational physics. May be taken more than once for different topics. Prerequisites vary depending on topic. Consult with instructor. Open only to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Physics 200, 210 or by permission.

386. Special Studies (1/2-1)

Special topics in such fields as solid state physics, nuclear physics, or optics, offered at irregular intervals in response to demand.

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