Physics and Astronomy

Professors: Frederick R. Chromey, Debra M. Elmegreen (Chair), Morton A. Tavel; Associate Professor: Cindy SchwarzaAssistant Professors: James Lombardib, 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; planets around other stars; 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

181a. Life in the Universe (1)

An introduction to the possibility of life beyond Earth is presented from an astronomical point of view. The course reviews stellar and planetary formation and evolution, star properties and planetary atmospheres necessary for a habitable world, possibilities for other life in our Solar System, detection of extrasolar planets, the SETI project, and the Drake equation. Ms. Elmegreen.

Open to freshmen only. Three 50–minute classes. Satisfies college requirements for a Freshman Course and Quantitative Analysis.

Prerequisites: High School physics and calculus.

212b. Galaxies and Galactic Structure (1)

The distribution and properties of star clusters; contents, structure and evolution of the Milky Way. Observations and theories of normal and active galaxies. Interacting galaxies, galaxy clusters. 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. Supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Ms. Elmegreen.

Prerequisites: Physics 114 or by permission of instructor.

230b. 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 113 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 2001/02.

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)

[320b. 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: One 200–level physics or one 200–level astronomy; Junior or Senior status; or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

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, 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 Math 221, 222 and 228. Physics 200, 201 and 2 10 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 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.

Special Situations

Those planning graduate school in physics should take 3 10 and 340 and work closely with an advisor in the department. Those planning certification for high school physics teaching must have one of their 300 level units as a thesis or independent project (300 or 301) and 1/2 unit each of lab development (298) and lab apprenticeship (298). Additional courses in Education and Psychology are required for certification. Consult Ms. Schwarz.

Advisers: Mr. Challey, Mr. Lawrence, 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 113/114 or equivalent), 2 of which must be chosen from the following pairs of courses: Physics 210–310, 210–320, or 240–340, Astronomy 212–320, Astronomy 220–320. The two remaining units must be at the 200– or 300–level in physics. (Note that Physics 200 and 210 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 at most one course to be included in the physics correlate sequence.

I. Introductory

113a. 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. Somerville, Mr. Tavel.

Prerequisite: Calculus.

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

114a and b. 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. Mr. Challey, Mr. Somerville.

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.

168b. 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.

180b. Particles in the Fast Lane (1)

The discoveries of twentieth century physics, from special/general relativity to the elementary particle nature of the microscopic world are only now beginning to make themselves fully understood. This course provides a conceptual and only slightly technical introduction into the above mentioned and other fascinating and higher counter–intuitive topics. All the math you may need is taught in the course. Ms. Schwarz, Mr. Tavel.

Open to all classes.

181 Physics of Sports (1)

Investigation of how the world around us behaves and the physics behind various sporting activities. Why does a curveball curve? Why does a football sly straighter when it is spinning? Why do high-jumpers flop backwards over the bar? This course includes hands-on experiments as well as a long term research project. Mr. Martell.

Three 50–minute periods.

Open to all classes.

II. Intermediate

Physics 113 or equivalent is required for all 200–level courses. 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. Somerville.

Prerequisites: Mathematics 125, or permission of instructor.

201a. Modern Physics Lab (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. Somerville.

Prerequisites: Physics 114, Mathematics 125.

Corequisite: Physics 200.

202b. Waves (1)

This course explores the nature of waves in a variety of physical systeMs. Topics include free and forced oscillations; travelling waves in three dimensions; wave packets and modulations; polarization; reflection and interference effects. Mr. Somerville.

Prerequisite: Physics 114.

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.

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. Lombardi.

Prerequisite: Physics 114, 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. Instructor to be announced.

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

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

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. Ms. Opazo–Castillo

One 75–minute period.

Prerequisites: Mathematics 125 or permission of instructor.

282 Biomedical Physics (1)

Topics in the field of physics in medicine and biology are covered, concentrating on the areas of ultrasound; optical imaging; flourescence-based spectroscopy; laser surgery and photodynamic therapy; radiation and radiation therapy; and PET; CT; and MRI imaging. Starting from basic physical principles, most of these topics are studied in depth. Mr. McBride

Three 50–minute periods.

Prerequisites: Physics 113 and 114. Biology 151, 152 recommended, or permission of the instructor

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 will include the variational calculus, the Euler–Lagrange equations, Hamilton's equations, canonical transformations, and the Hamilton–Jacobi equation. Mr. Lombardi.

Prerequisite: Physics 210, Mathematics 221, 222, and 228.

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. Tavel.

Prerequisites: Physics 200, Mathematics 221, 228.

Recommended: Mathematics 222.

[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. The department.

Prerequisites: Physics 240, Mathematics 228 or by permission.

Alternate years: not offered in 2000/01.

375a and b. Advanced Topics in Physics (1/2–1)

Course topics will vary from year to year. Topics include 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. Only open to juniors and seniors or

special permission. The department.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

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)