02course_descptn.2 - i Ph136abc 2002-2003 Roger Blandford...

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Unformatted text preview: i Ph136abc 2002-2003 Roger Blandford and Kip Thorne [version 02.2] APPLICATIONS OF CLASSICAL PHYSICS 1. COURSE DESCRIPTION AND PHILOSOPHY This course was conceived by one of us (Kip), and has been taught for some years by him both of us and other Caltech faculty based on a preliminary draft of a text that we have written. This we shall teach the course jointly, though most of the lecturing will be by Kip, particularly second term when Roger will have other lecturing responsibilities. During the year we shall be making a final revision of the text in preparation for publication. Most significantly, we shall be revising and (hopefully) improving the exercises. This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of all the major branches of classical physics (except classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, and el- ementary thermodynamics, which are learned elsewhere), and also to expose students to many of the exciting modern developments involving classical physics. We regard such a course as important for two reasons: (i) We believe that every PhD physicist should be familiar with the basic concepts and spirit of all the major branches of classical (and also quantum) physics. (ii) A large fraction of Caltech’s physics and astronomy graduate students use classical physics extensively in their research and even more of them go on to careers in which classical physics is an essential component. This is not particularly surprising as many of the most important recent developments in physics—and more gen- erally in science and engineering—involve essentially “classical” subjects such as optics, fluid mechanics, kinetic theory, and general relativity. This course is a survey course designed to accomplish two goals. First, we seek to give the student a clear understanding of the basic concepts and principles of classical physics. We present these principles in the language of modern physics (not nineteenth century applied mathematics), and present them for physicists as distinct from mathematicians or engineers. As far as possible, we emphasize theory that involves general principles. Second, we teach the student how to apply classical physics ideas. We do so by present- ing contemporary applications from a variety of fields, such as fundamental physics, experi- mental physics and applied physics; astrophysics and cosmology; geophysics, oceanography and meteorology; engineering, radio science, and information science. Why is the range of applications so wide? Because we believe that physicists should have at their disposal enough understanding of general principles to attack problems that arise in quite unfamil- iar environments. In the modern era, a large fraction of PhD physics students will go on to careers away from the core of fundamental physics. For such students, a broad exposure to non-core applications will be of great value; for those who wind up in the core, such an exposure is of value culturally, and also because ideas from other fields often turn out to...
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02course_descptn.2 - i Ph136abc 2002-2003 Roger Blandford...

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