Course Descriptions


101, 102 General Physics (1.25) (1.25) (PSL) A two-semester sequence in general physics (not intended for pre-engineering students, or students planning to become chemists or physicists). Topics include a survey of: vector methods, conservation laws, classical mechanics, gravitation, optics, sound, heat, electricity, magnetism and elementary quantum physics. Three hours lecture, two hours lab, and one hour discussion per week. Prerequisite: Skill in algebraic manipulation; Physics 101 for 102.Offered annually.

105 Physics I - Mechanics (1.25) (PSL) An introductory course designed for physical science and pre-engineering majors. Uncovers the foundation of non-relativistic Newtonian mechanics of a system of particles. Topics include translational, rotational, vibrational and wave-like motions in simple physical and engineering systems. Three hours lecture, two hours lab, and one hour discussion per week. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in the calculus sequence, or consent. Offered annually.

106 Physics II - Electricity, Magnetism and Optics (1.25) (PSL) A course for physical science and pre-engineering majors. Topics include electric and magnetic fields, a.c. and d.c. circuits, geometrical optics, wave motion and physical optics. Three hours lecture, two hours lab, and one hour discussion per week. Prerequisites: physics 105, concurrent enrollment in calculus II or consent. Offered annually.

110 Fundamental Astronomy (PSL) A course dealing in a limited mathematical way with the nature of light, astronomical instruments, the universe and relativity, galactic structure, the properties and evolution of stars and the solar system, and cosmology. This course is primarily, but not exclusively, for non-science majors. May not count for the major. Offered annually.

120 Energy and Society (PSI) ( Cross-listed with ENST 115) This course provides an introduction to the fundamental scientific principles governing the production, interconversion and transmission of various forms of energy, and the manner in which they interact with the environment, both on a local as well as on a global scale. Students will also apply this fundamental knowledge to specific and competing choices that can be made at the individual level and as a society, regarding energy options and energy policy. Offered annually

130 Sound, Music and Hearing (PSL) Sound, Music, and Hearing connects physics, aesthetics, physiology, psychology and ecology through the study of sound. In the classroom and in the laboratory, students will learn about the physical basis of sound production, human hearing, the creation of musical sound, and noise pollution. Outside of class, students will study specific sounds in their environment and explore additional topics of their choosing, such as acoustics, holographic analysis, or noise reduction in buildings. The course has minimal mathematical prerequisites, consisting of high school algebra, plane geometry, and some trigonometry. Offered occasionally.

207 Physics III - Modern Physics and Thermodynamics (1.25) A sophomore level introduction to thermodynamics and to the classic experiments of the 20th century. Basic ideas of atomic and nuclear structure. An introduction to the mathematics of quantum theory and relativity. Four hours lecture and two hours lab per week. Prerequisites: physics 102 or 106, concurrent enrollment in math 162 or 166. Offered annually.

210 Conceptions of the Cosmos (IT) This course traces the history of how thinkers in different eras have addressed the questions: "What is our place in the Universe? How do we know?" Students will read and analyze works of Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Herschel, Goodriche, Einstein, Hubble and more modern investigators.

239 Problems of Nuclear Disarmament (PSI, G) An examination of reasons for the continual existence of nuclear weapons. Elementary atomic and nuclear physics, the physics of nuclear weapons and the results of their use. Consideration of possible approaches to nuclear disarmament and the responsibility of scientists with respect to disarmament. Literature and film, exploring the effect of nuclear warfare on life and culture in Japan. May not count for the major. Offered annually.

299 Special Topics May Term or regular semester offering which will vary each year depending on interest and demand. To include such areas as: Analog modeling and simulation in the Physical and Life Sciences; Musical Acoustics; Thermodynamics; Advanced Digital Electronics; and Digital Computer Applications in Physics. Prerequisites: general physics. Offered as needed.

304 Mathematical Methods of Physics Mathematical methods in complex algebra, linear algebra, linear differential equations, vector analysis, and analysis of variations. Four hours lecture each week. Prerequisites: math 162 or 166. Offered annually.

305 Electronics (1.25) Elementary circuit theory; fundamentals of diodes and transistors; amplifiers. Integrated circuitry; operational amplifiers and their versatility; introduction to digital logic and electronics. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisites: math 161 and physics 106. Offered in alternate years.

306 Materials Physics Microscopic principles behind macroscopic collections of atoms in gases, liquids, and solids. For each “state of matter” we will consider: mechanical properties, thermal properties, sound propagation, electrical transport, optical properties, and magnetic properties. Prerequisite: physics 207. Offered in alternate years.

307 Optical Physics (1.25) Geometrical theory of optical systems; interference, diffraction, Fourier theory, spatial filtering; coherent light, holography; electromagnetic theory of light, polarization, crystal optics; spectroscopy. Lectures and laboratory. Prerequisites: general physics, physics 304. Offered occasionally.

308 Scientific Imaging Scientific imaging is an interdisciplinary course that teaches concepts from physics and computer science, and applies them to problems in biology, astronomy, physics and engineering. Topics include the format, characterization, and manipulation of digital images, geometric optics, and biomedical imaging. Prerequisites One year of physics or chemistry or consent of  instructor Offered in alternate years.

310 Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics Quantum theory of light, radiation and spectra, astronomical instruments and coordinate systems, the Milky Way and other galaxies, properties of gases and stellar evolution, gravitation, relativity, cosmology. Prerequisite: math 161. Offered in alternate years.

370 An Exploration of Advanced Topics in Physics Offered occasionally.

397 Internship in Physics Internships in various scientific research centers, industrial laboratories, or engineering firms. Prerequisites: junior standing and consent of the department chair. May not count toward the major. Offered annually.

399 Experimental Physics (W) Experiments and experimental techniques in contemporary physics. Electrical and electronic circuits, optics, atomic and nuclear physics. An intensive course offered usually during May Term. Prerequisites: general physics, math 162 or 166 and consent. May be repeated for a maximum of two course units. Offered in May term.

405 Theoretical Mechanics Vector analysis and matrices, Newtonian mechanics, gravitation, oscillatory motion, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics, central forces, non-inertial systems, wave mechanics. Four hours lecture per week. Prerequisite: physics 304. Offered annually.

406 Electricity and Magnetism Potential theory in statics and Maxwell’s equations in dynamics. Coulomb’s law, Gauss’ law, vector calculus, Ampere’s law, Faraday’s law, interaction of matter with fields, and radiation theory. Four hours lecture per week. Prerequisite: physics 304. Offered every other year.

407 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics Wave mechanics, the Schroedinger equation, operator formalism, the harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom, angular momentum, spin, scattering theory, chemical bonding, electromagnetic interaction. Four hours lecture per week. Prerequisite: physics 304. Offered in alternate years.

408 Statistical Physics (cross-listed with Chem 324) Introduces central principles underlying thermodynamic properties found in large collections of atoms and molecules (i.e. systems with many degrees ofd freedom) A core pillar of the major, Statistical Physics is recommended for any student considering graduate school in Physics, and for Chemistry majors, reinforcing key elements of Physical Chemistry.  Prerequisite: physics 207 or chem 332 Offered in alternate years.

495 Directed Study Individualized directed readings on a topic of interest to the student which is not normally a part of the curriculum. The work may include a laboratory component. It may also include the requirement for the preparation of a significant paper which brings together the results of the study. Offered annually.

499 Research/Thesis Experimental or theoretical examination of an unsolved problem on a topic of interest to the student and cooperating faculty member. A significant paper detailing the findings of the investigation is expected at the conclusion of the work. Prerequisite: consent of the department head. (1/2 or 1 unit) Offered annually.