Course Descriptions

Course Catalog for PHYSICS
PHYS 101
Principles of Physics I
An introduction to the fundamental ideas of physics. Beginning with kinematics—the quantitative description of motion—the course covers the Newtonian mechanics of point masses, Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, the work-energy principle, and the conservation of energy and momentum. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period per week. A student taking Physics 101 cannot earn credit for Physics 131 or Physics 141.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 102
Principles of Physics II
A continuation of Physics 101L, this course covers topics such as electricity and magnetism, elementary thermodynamics, the theory of special relativity, classical wave behavior, and the description of microscopic physical systems via quantum theory. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period per week.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 101L or Physics 131L or Physics 141L.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 141
Physics I - Mechanics
This course is the first part of a three-term calculus-based introduction to physics for students intending to major in physics or one of the physical sciences. It is taught in an interactive studio format, which emphasizes collaborative problem solving, hands-on experimentation, and data analysis. This course is designed to provide the student with a working knowledge of the language and the analytical tools of Newtonian mechanics. Topics include kinematics, forces, conservation laws, work and energy, momentum, gravity, and rigid-body motion. Time permitting, the course will conclude with the study of the first two laws of thermodynamics and their application to the prototypical thermodynamics system, the ideal gas. Three two-hour class meetings per week. The laboratory is integrated into the course.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Math 131, or concurrent enrollment. Students may not earn credit for both Physics 101 and Physics 141.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 231
Physics II: Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves
This second part of the three-term calculus-based introductory sequence is devoted primarily to the study of electromagnetism. The emphasis is on the description of electric and magnetic phenomena in terms of fields. Topics to be covered include electrostatics and magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic waves, and the characterization of energy and momentum in the electromagnetic field. The remainder of the course is taken up with basic properties of waves in general: wave kinematics, standing waves and resonance, and the Doppler effect. Three lecture periods and one laboratory period per week.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 131L or Physics 141L and concurrent registration in or previous completion of Mathematics 132 or 142 with a C- or better.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 232
Physics III: Optics and Modern Physics
Concluding the three-term calculus-based introductory physics sequence, this course begins with the study of interference and diffraction, which provide compelling evidence for the wave nature of light. We then turn to geometrical optics to understand the properties of lenses, mirrors, and optical instruments. The remainder of the course is devoted to the treatment of phenomena at the atomic and subatomic levels using the ideas of quantum physics. From the introduction of the photon, the Bohr atom, and de Broglie’s matter waves, we proceed to the unified description provided by Schrodinger’s wave mechanics. This is used to understand basic properties of atoms, beginning with hydrogen, and to describe the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. As time permits, the course will include a brief introduction to the theory of special relativity and to nuclear physics. Three class meetings and one laboratory per week.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and either Mathematics 132 or 142, with concurrent registration in Mathematics 231 strongly recommended.
1.25 units, Lecture
PHYS 300
Mathematical Methods of Physics
This course focuses on mathematical methods essential to the expression and application of the laws of physics. It is designed to provide a mathematics background for other upper-level physics courses and for physics research, and thus ideally should be taken in the spring of the sophomore year. Topics to be discussed may vary somewhat from year to year depending on the emphasis of the instructor, but will ordinarily include elements of vector analysis, differential geometry, linear algebra, functions of a complex variable, Fourier analysis, and some of the special functions of mathematical physics. Additional topics, such as probability theory, the calculus of variations, or an introduction to group theory, may be taken up if time permits.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and Mathematics 231.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 301
Classical Mechanics
A detailed analytical treatment of Newtonian mechanics. Lagrange’s and Hamilton's equations are developed and applied to the analysis of motion governed by several exemplary force laws. The general problem of motion under the influence of a central force is formulated and applied to problems of planetary motion and to Rutherford scattering of particles. Other topics to be treated include the dynamics of rigid bodies, oscillations of systems of masses connected by springs and elements of the mechanics of continuous media such as fluids.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231 and either Mathematics 231 or 234.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 302
A study of the unified description of electromagnetic phenomena provided by Maxwell’s equations in differential form. The scalar and vector potentials, multipole expansions, boundary value problems, propagation of electromagnetic waves, radiation from accelerated charges.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and Mathematics 231 (concurrent registration in Mathematics 234 is strongly recommended).
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 304
Statistical and Thermal Physics
This course provides an intermediate-level presentation of basic principles of statistical physics with applications to scientific inference, stochastic phenomena, and thermodynamics. Classical thermodynamics describes the equilibrium properties and phase transformations of macroscopic physical systems in terms of relations independent of any atomic model of matter. Statistical physics, by contrast, provides a fundamental theoretical foundation for the thermodynamic relations in terms of the specific statistical laws obeyed by the elementary particles of matter and general considerations of probability theory. Together, thermodynamics and statistical physics provide the tools for studying the behavior of aggregates of particles far too numerous to be analyzed by solving directly the equations of motion of either classical or quantum mechanics. Among the concepts, systems, and processes to be discussed are heat, work, temperature, pressure, energy, entropy, chemical potential, chemical equilibria, gases, liquids, solids, solutions, neutron stars, and fluctuation phenomena (not necessarily in that order and subject to time constraints).
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 131L or Physics 141L and Mathematics 132.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 313
Quantum Mechanics
A thorough study of the general formalism of quantum mechanics together with some illustrative applications, including the postulates of quantum mechanics; states, observables, and operators; measurements in quantum mechanics; the Dirac notation; simple systems: the square well, the harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom; approximation techniques and perturbation theory; and elements of the quantum theory of angular momentum.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 232L.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 315
Contemporary Optics
A survey of current techniques and applications for classical and nonclassical light. Topics may include Fourier optics, nonlinear optics, statistical optics, holography, polarization, interferometry, quantum cryptography, optoelectronics, and ultrafast optics.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and 232L
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 316
Experimental Laser Optics
A project-oriented laboratory course in laser optics. Students will build a laser starting from basic electrical and optical components. Additional experiments will be chosen from areas such as ultrafast lasers, fiber optics, holography, quantum optics, geometrical optics, interference and diffraction.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and 232L
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 317
Relativity and Fundamental Particles
The theories of special and general relativity describe space, time, mass, and the gravitational force. The standard model describes subatomic particles and their interactions via the strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and electromagnetic forces. Together, these theories embody all that is known today about matter and energy at the largest and smallest scales, and they form the basis of modern cosmology – the study of the history and structure of the universe.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 231L and 232L
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 320
Modern Physical Measurements
A series of measurements in a focused area of modern experimental physics, this course is designed to offer an in-depth exposure to and understanding of instruments and techniques employed in current experimental investigations. It also provides experiences pertinent to participation in experimental research typified by Physics 490. The series of experiments to be performed will be determined in advance by the student(s) and the instructor(s).
Prerequisite: C- or better in Physics 232L.
1.00 units, Lecture
PHYS 399
Independent Study
Submission of the special form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
1.00 units min / 2.00 units max, Independent Study
PHYS 405
Senior Exercise
This exercise is intended to familiarize the student with a problem of current interest in physics, and to develop his or her ability to gather and interpret the information relevant to the problem. During the fall semester each senior student will meet with an assigned faculty adviser to plan an essay or research project to be completed during the year. Topics may involve any aspects of physics, including its various applications. While students may write on original research they have undertaken, they are not required to do so. This exercise is required for the physics major.
This course is open only to senior Physics majors.
0.50 units, Independent Study
PHYS 490
Research Assistantship
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study