courseinfo - Course information, Physics 251/252, Fall 2009...

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Course information, Physics 251/252, Fall 2009 Prof. Chris Jacobsen Jimmie Dugan (Tom Hanks) to Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) on baseball in the movie A League of Their Own (Columbia, 1992): “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great .” 1 Introduction In the late 1800s, some people viewed physics as a completed story. Good working descriptions of clas- sical mechanics, thermodynamics, and optics existed, and the mid 1870s had seen Maxwell’s remarkable unification of the theories of electricity and magnetism. One could forgive a certain feeling of smugness! This, however, would soon change. On the cusp of the turn of the century, Max Planck came up with what he thought of as a somewhat desperate solution to a problem concerning the details of the infrared emission spectrum of hot objects: perhaps atomic radiation was somehow quantized with a fixed relationship between frequency and energy. In 1905, a junior Swiss patent examiner named Albert Einstein exploded whatever complacency might have remained by providing convincing proof of the reality of atoms, the reality of Planck’s quanta, and the reality of Maxwell’s equations concerning the speed of light. The next three decades found physics entering an entirely new world, as if Hamlet’s admonition that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” [Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark , I, v , 166] was really a retrospective on earlier physics. This course marks a watershed in your education in physics. While you may have heard of relativity and quantum mechanics before, we’re going to dive into it. You won’t come out of this course knowing all; physics majors will get a more detailed course in their junior year, and those who go on to graduate school will likely take yet another even more detailed course on quantum mechanics. That’s not even the end! Quantum measurement theory and relativity are still active areas of legitimate physics research, and there are also legions of cranks out there with theories that claim to show how quantum mechanics or relativity is wrong. The schedule for the course, and contact info for the instructors, is given on the PHY 251/252 web page. A shortcut to this page is , which points to ˜ jacobsen/phy251f2009/index.html 2 PHY 251: the lecture and recitation course From the undergraduate bulletin, which has the official text: PHY 251 Modern Physics A survey of the major physics theories of the 20th century (relativity and quantum mechanics) and their impact on most areas of physics. It introduces the special theory of relativity, the con- cepts of quantum and wave-particle duality, Schr¨odinger’s wave equation, and other fundamen- tals of quantum theory as they apply to nuclei, atoms, molecules, and solids. The Laboratory component, PHY 252, must be taken concurrently; a common grade for both courses will be
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This note was uploaded on 05/28/2011 for the course PHY 251 taught by Professor Rijssenbeek during the Fall '01 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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courseinfo - Course information, Physics 251/252, Fall 2009...

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