Modern Physics for the Curious
Have you wondered about the origin and workings of the natural world around us? Have you found physical science interesting but inaccessible because it was too full of math and jargon? Have you felt a pull to become more science-literate? If so this seminar course is for you -- or for anyone interested in understanding more about the universe, including our planet, seen through the lens of modern physics.
Ideas on the menu will include: particle physics, space and time, relativity, black holes, quantum physics, unification of forces, string theory, and big bang cosmology. The intriguing story of these integrated phenomena unfolds over a wide distance and a long time.
No prior experience with physical science will be required, but familiarity with Grade 10 mathematics will be assumed. Students from diverse academic backgrounds are warmly welcome.
Discussion-based seminar classes are held on Wednesdays from 1410-1600h in MP606 (our classroom). Office hours are held right afterwards, from 1605-1745h in MP1118 (my office).
Announcements will be listed here in reverse chronological order to make the latest ones easiest to find.
- Mar.22: I am very sorry that my grading of Essay 2 has been so delayed. I have had some mental health issues arise (PTSD recurrence) and I had to take some of my discretionary physics time for healing from that. After losing several days of productivity in the past couple of weeks, I have conquered most of it, so I should be catching up with backlogged grading pretty quickly in the next few days.
- Mar.17, updated Mar.22: Our 90-minute final exam review session will be held in MP1115 (on the 11th floor of McLennan Physics tower, not the 6th) from 10:30am-noon on Apr.06. Here are some practice questions from old exams for you to try as part of your studying. Remember: you can bring in one sheet of paper with you into the exam, and you can write anything on it you like. The smartest thing to fill it up with is summaries of what we learned in each class.
- Mar.15: Essay 3 on cosmology is posted. It is due in two weeks on Mar.29.
- Mar.08: On Mar.22, I will be shortening office hours from the usual 4-6pm to 4-5pm, because I need to be at another event starting at 5pm. Everyone is welcome to arrange a Skype/FaceTime with me to substitute for the other hour of availability.
- Feb.28b: the April final exam schedule has been posted. Make sure to look for our exact PMU199H1S-L0341 half-year course code -- there is another course with a very similar code but it is a Y1Y course not a H1S course!
- Feb.28a: Reminder: Essay 2 is due by 2pm tomorrow by email (.rtf or .pdf format only), along with your (filled out, signed, and scanned/photographed) Academic Integrity Checklist. You must also upload your essay to Turnitin.com separately. Your next adventure after Essay 2 will be to research your oral presentation topic and turn in your draft speech notes (7%) by 2pm on Mar.15.
- Feb.12c: Oral Presentation topics are up.
- Feb.12b: Yesterday I entered the Essay 1 grades students have earned so far on the Portal. I also tried putting in the Attendance grades so far, but some students interpreted the information incorrectly, panicking that their high essay grade had somehow been pulled down by a wrong attendance grade. That never happened. We have had only 40% of the classes so far, so you could not possibly have earned 100% of your Attendance grade! To avoid further confusion, I have removed the Attendance grades entirely, and will only add them back in Week 11 when I know 100% of the Attendance information, rather than updating it every week. (That will also save me some typing. Cool beans.)
- Feb.12a: Reading Week is the week of Feb.20th. During that break, I suggest that you start studying for the Final Exam. It is always most efficient to revise in stages through the semester, rather than leaving studying for finals until the last dying minute before the final exam. If you revise and make good study notes for Weeks 1-6 during Reading Week, you will find it easier to handle the busy end of semester period at the end of the course.
- Feb.10: Next week, we will start discussing Quantum Physics. Please read the lecture notes and Brian Greene textbook excerpts (Ch.4 pp85-97, from Introduction to What Are the Lumps?) ahead of class. Here's a mind map about Quantum Weirdness.
- Feb.08: Essay 2 on Black Holes is posted. Note: if anyone needs an Academic Integrity Checklist (or any other course-related document) printed, stop by during office hours and I will print it for you. Don't forget to bring the file on a memory stick or email it from a gadget you have with you.
- Feb.01b: Next week, we will discuss Einstein's theory of General Relativity and Black Holes. Here is a mind map of topics we can discuss in class, according to taste. :D
- Feb.01a: In the last week of class, we will hold a mini-symposium of student talks about interesting aspects of modern physics. I have made up a list of suggested Oral Presentation topics. Please consider the options, and send me your preferences by Feb.08 according to the instructions. I will then use your expressed preferences to match each of you up with a topic.
- Jan.31b: Reminder: Essay 1 is due by 2:00pm tomorrow, in electronic .rtf format, emailed from your UTmail+ account to my physics email account, along with your signed Academic Integrity Checklist attached as a .pdf scan or (non-blurry) .jpg or .png photograph.
- Jan.31a: Looking forward to discussing Einstein's insights about relativity and the electromagnetic spectrum with you tomorrow! Here's a mind map for Week 4 material.
- Jan.18b: next week we will discuss Newton's Laws. Have a read of the lecture notes and the pre-class readings before next week's seminar and bring ALL your questions for discussion. That's what we're aiming for! Here is a sample mind map for Week 3 material.
- Jan.18a: Essay 1 on the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs boson is posted. It will be due by 2:00PM on Feb.01.
- Jan.11b: In advance of next week's class on Particle Physics, please do the
assigned pre-class reading from Greene's textbook and my lecture notes. This sample mind map may help you visualize the material.
- Jan.11a: Hi everyone. It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet you all in class today. I look forward to teaching you a bunch of neat concepts about modern physics, in an accessible way, in a welcoming classroom environment. In order to help me do a better job of teaching you, please send me an email by Sun.15.Jan. outlining your reasons for taking this course and what you hope to learn from it. (Note: your answers will not be graded!)
- Welcome! This website contains all the information students need to know for my PMU199H-S-LEC0341 course. Here is a mind map of the site. Our first class will meet on Wednesday 11th January 2017 at 2:10pm in McLennan Physics MP606, which is in the tall Burton Tower section of our building.