Relativity and Quanta

3 [3-0-1;0-0-0]

Special relativity: Lorentz transformation, dynamics and conservation laws. Quantum physics: the experimental evidence for quantization; a qualitative discussion of the concepts of quantum mechanics and their application to simple systems of atoms and nuclei. Prerequisites: MATH 101, one of PHYS 110, 115, 120, 102 or 122.

Lectures: Hennings 201 - Monday, Wednesday & Friday 13:30-14:20

T1A: Hebb 10 - Tuesday 09:30-10:20
T1B: Hebb 12 - Thursday 13:30-14:20

Instructor: Jess H. Brewer
Office: Hennings 320A, tel 822-6455
Lab: (TRIUMF) 222-1047
Office Hours: To Be Announced

Teaching Assistant: Roger Kemp
T.A. Office Hours: To Be Announced

Marking: (Tentative!)

     ITEM                     MARKS

  Assignments                   20  
  First Midterm                 15 
  Second Midterm OR Term Paper  15 
  Final Exam                    50 

  TOTAL                        100 

Note: Students must pass both the course as a whole and the Final Exam in order to receive passing credit for Physics 200. [The instructor reserves the right to override this scheme and/or to adjudicate any or all marks.]

Textbook: Raymond A. Serway, Clement J. Moses & Curt A. Moyer, Modern Physics, Second Edition (Saunders, 1996) - the First Edition was the text for Physics 200 in previous years; last year I used Thornton & Rex (see below) but the new Serway has many of its features and is better suited to this course.

Note: Because the new edition only came out in July 1996, it may not be available in the UBC Bookstore until the second week of classes. If this is the case, don't panic; we will work entirely from Hypertext Handouts and reserved-shelf reading until it arrives.

BIBLIOGRAPHY - the most useful references are shown boldface.


Congratulations! You have finished your first apprenticeship in Physics and are ready to be introduced to the bizarre world of Modern Physics. Most of you have, until now, spent most of your Physics effort learning to ``speak the language.'' You have been building up your Physics ``vocabulary'' of terms and concepts we label as ``classical,'' using which we must try to describe the unsettling conceptual revisions of the Twentieth Century (some of which seem to contradict the very terminology in which we attempt to describe them). You have learned the precise definitions of terms like velocity, acceleration, mass, force, impulse and momentum, torque, work and energy, wavelength and frequency, phase, interference, resonance, temperature, heat, resistance, current, fields, electricity and magnetism - terms whose familiar colloquial meanings are quite different from those we understand in Physics - as well as terms like angular velocity, angular momentum, moments of inertia, damping, diffraction, entropy, flux, capacitance, inductance and reactance - terms which may draw suspicious stares if uttered socially. You have also been mastering the mathematical skills needed to encode, decode and manipulate these terms - the basic ``grammar'' of Physics.

If you are like most Physics students, you have also been entertaining doubts about the wisdom of studying Physics any further. Even the considerable skills of Erich Vogt (and/or other great teachers of Classical Physics) cannot avert a certain dismay at the prospect of having to master a three hundred year old discipline; this is the nature of apprenticeship, the necessity of ``getting up to speed.'' Few really enjoy it, but without language there can be no communication; so we endure a period of relative drudgery.

That period is now at an end. In Physics 200 you get to use your new language to play with the magic of Modern Physics. (An appreciation of poetry will be a distinct advantage.) If Physics 200 is not the most fun Physics course you have taken so far, I will not have done my job!

NATURAL PHILOSOPHY: A knowledge of Physics is valuable for its predictive power - the tools of Physics allow us to build wonderful devices, to manipulate matter profitably and to move wisely through our physical environment. An understanding of Physics requires integration of new paradigms and metaphors into one's intellectual repertoire - your mind will be permanently altered by this experience.

You are here to learn Physics, the discipline, not ``about Physics.'' On the other hand, until quite recently Physics was known officially as Natural Philosophy; moreover, Modern Physics has drastically altered the ways we perceive the world we live in, and in this course you will experience those paradigm shifts first-hand. For nearly a century, generations of physicists have been shocked

by the realization that the basic workings of the world are not at all as they appear - that, in fact, ``common sense'' is profoundly wrong and is able to correctly predict ordinary phenonema only because we are so big and slow relative to the fundamental building blocks of matter. It would be tragic to learn how to predict the behaviour of (some parts of) that world without stopping to reflect on the philosophical implications of our new knowledge.

I will not try to compete with courses on the philosophy or history of Physics in the Departments of Philosophy or History, but I will occasionally dwell upon these aspects.

READING: I will not follow the texbook slavishly, though it is a very good one. Reading assignments may ``jump around'' in the text or selected sources from the Bibliography and will occasionally include supplementary handouts or even journal references.

You may sometimes wish to explore interesting topics further; I will be glad to suggest sources.

ASSIGNMENTS will be posted on the PHYS200 WebCT site and/or handed out on paper at the Wednesday lecture each week. Each problem set is to be worked out independently by each student and handed in by the beginning of the lecture one week later; solutions will be provided at that time, so the deadline will be strictly enforced and late assignments will not be marked.

Where feasible, the solutions will be posted on the Web site. We are still experimenting with electronic submission, so for the time being only the first assignment will be submitted electronically; others should be written out on paper and handed in manually the old-fashioned way.

The good news: I will count only the best 8 assignment marks, out of 10-12 total. (I plan 12, but something may go wrong.)

MIDTERMS: There are three reasons why I have decided to set two Midterm Exams: (1) It allows the first Midterm to cover just Relativity and the second to cover the conceptual basis of Quantum Mechanics - each of which should take up about a third of the term. (2) It reduces conflict with other courses which all have their Midterms at the same time. (3) The first Midterm should provide an early ``How'm I doing?'' check and the second one will provide an opportunity to recover from it, if needed.

THE FINAL EXAM will cover the same material as the Midterms plus the mathematically sophisticated aspects of Quantum Mechanics (and selected examples of their practical manifestations) treated in the last third of the course. You must pass the Final Exam to pass the course, regardless of how you do on the Assignments and Midterms. This is partly to make it more exciting and partly to better resemble the real world.

EXCUSES: The University has defined criteria for absence from exams or failure to complete all the work for a course. I will observe those criteria and no others, so please familiarize yourself with them in advance, even if you do not plan to be sick or have other problems; if misfortune strikes, your burden will be partly relieved by a knowledge of your privileges and responsibilities.

Perhaps the most difficult part of my job is finding a balance between standards and fairness. No two people have the same set of abilities, and yet, as we mature, we all learn how to make the best of our own unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses; the amazing thing is that ``the best'' is remarkably uniform among a selected group of high achievers like yourselves. In athletics it is much the same: at any given level of competition, the times in the 100 m dash (for example) are all within a few percent of each other. This makes it possible to set well defined standards without being entirely arbitrary, even though one can never achieve perfect fairness.

To extend the sport metaphor, I like to think of myself as a coach rather than a therapist or a lawyer: beyond the primary task of teaching the subject, it is my job to help you discover what you are capable of achieving and to offer you honest and accurate evaluations of your performance, not to soothe your self-esteem or to eliminate all injustices.

Jess H. Brewer
Mon Aug 12 10:20:47 PDT 1996