Introductory Course Descriptions

401-402. Introduction to Physics I and II

Broad survey of classical and modern physics. Designed to enable students to appreciate the role of physics in today's society and technology. Emphasis on the fundamental laws of nature on which all science is based, with some examples of interest to biologists. Knowledge of high school algebra, geometry, and trigonometry essential.

Prereq: PHYS 401 or equivalent to take PHYS 402. Lab. 4 cr. each.

406. Introduction to Modern Astronomy

Descriptive coverage of contemporary astronomical and astrophysical techniques with a review of current knowledge and theories concerning the solar system, galaxies, and the universe. Recommended for liberal arts and beginning science students. Knowledge of high school algebra is assumed. Lab. 4 cr.

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407-408. General Physics I and II

Introductory course emphasizing mechanics, heat, sound, and electromagnetism. Recommended for the student specializing in science and engineering. Prereq: PHYS 407 or equivalent to take PHYS 408; thorough knowledge of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; MATH 425 for 407; MATH 426 for 408, or taken concurrently. Students may not receive credit for both 401 and 407 (or 402 and 408). Lab. 4 cr. each.

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407. General Physics I—Calc/Phys Studio

This course is a combined Physics and Calculus course which satisfies both the General Physics I (PHYS 407) requirements and the Calculus (MATH 425) requirements. You must be registered for both these courses. This course is also offered through the honors program.

This course covers the same material as any typical college, freshman level calculus-based physics and physics course. One overarching idea in both courses is change - how do we describe and work with values (position, for example) that are constantly changing? The other idea is that of superposition - we can understand complicated phenomena by breaking it down into smaller, simpler pieces, then adding the effect of those pieces to get the whole effect. These two ideas are related in that we can obtain the total change by adding up the small changes.

In particular, the topics we cover in physics are description of motion (position, velocity, accleration), explanation of motion using forces and Newton's laws, looking for what stays the same when everything else is changing (momentum and energy), and description and explanation of motion in a circle. For calculus, the topics covered this semester include functions (polynomials, exponentials, logarithms, trigonometric functions), average and instantaneous rates of change, derivatives, antiderivatives, Riemann sums, integrals, the fundamental theorem of calculus.

One major difference in this course from standard introductory courses in physics and calculus is that we begin to look at differential equations - equations that contain derivatives and cannot be solved with algebra techniques. These equations naturally arise in physics because they tell us how quantities (e.g. position) change in time. We will learn a few techniques of how to solve these important problems.

The format of this class is also quite different. We meet five times a week for two hours each time. Each class is a mixture of short lecture, group activities, computer work and experiments (some short, some longer). There is no separate recitation or laboratory meeting. The class size is about twenty-four students.

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412. Technical Physics

Introductory course emphasizing the fundamentals of mechanics, heat, electricity, and other subjects underlying modern machinery and instruments. Recommended for Thompson School students. Prereq: algebra and trigonometry. Lab. 4 cr.

505. General Physics III

Electromagnetic waves, geometrical and physical optics, relativity, atomic physics, elementary quantum mechanics, molecular physics, and nuclear physics. Prereq: PHYS 407-408; MATH 425, 426. Lab. 4 cr.