Physics at the Cutting Edge (2020-21) -- PHY198S
Instructor: Prof. A.W. Peet
This PHY198S first-year foundations seminar course is intended as an accessible introduction to the world of current physics research, and is centred around the weekly physics colloquium series. Topics we will introduce you to will include: atmospheric/ocean physics, geophysics, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and particle/astrophysics. Seminar classes will be kept at first-year level, so that everyone can understand the material.
Weekly attendance at both class and colloquium is expected.
Other useful information:-
Things you need to do are marked with a ⭐️; information is marked with a 🔹.
- Apr.09: 🔹 I have decided to extend the hard deadline for turning in your Final Project Individual Reports (penalty-free) by two more days, to 2:00pm on Thursday April 15th. This will make doing the marking tougher for me, but I can manage it, and because I'm providing this leniency to at least one student in the class I figure everyone should get the same leniency. I hope the extra couple of penalty-free days to finish your FPIRs helps reduce the academic pressure on you a bit 💙. (Reminder: the other remaining hard deadline, for Week 11 Summaries, is also 2pm on Apr.15.)
- Apr.01b: 🔹 students asked about the pileup of due dates next week and when is the latest possible date to turn in the Final Project individual report.
⭐️ If you are wondering how to prioritize among these 3 things: put writing the Final Project presentation slides first, because that deadline occurs first -- the talks will be given during our last class, which is not movable. Then prioritize the Final Project individual report, because that is worth more than the Week 11 Summary and there is a bit of wiggle room on the deadline. Put the Week 11 Summary last in your priority queue. (Note: if you have a major emergency in between now and April 8th, please get in touch as soon as you are able and I will see what I can do to help.)
- Final Project presentation slides are due before the start of class on the day of the presentations, which is April 8th. (Here is the schedule for who will speak when.) To guard against technical difficulties during presentations, I recommend that you all send me a copy of your slides -- either in .pdf format or in Google Slides -- by noon on April 8th. That way, I can focus on wrangling the slides during class (using my megafast internet connection) and you can just focus on giving your speech.
- As I have stated on the syllabus page, Final Project individual reports are nominally due on April 8th as well (at 2pm), although I will allow handing this in up to 5 days late without penalty if you really need to. In other words, the hard deadline is 2:00pm on Tuesday April 13th.
- Week 11 Summaries (on today's material) are due April 8th; the hard deadline is one week later if you use Grace Days or take a lateness penalty, i.e. 2:00pm on Thursday April 15th.
- Apr.01: 🔹 congratulations again for pulling such a great April Fools prank on me in class today. it was awesome, genuinely funny for everyone including me! 😂☺️
- Mar.25b: Here is some info about the 3 bike rides I mentioned.
- Mar.25: ⭐️ Week 11 reading is posted. Luckily there's not much additional work to do after hearing Prof. Toro's colloquium (and mine).
- Mar.23: 🔹 Today a student pointed out to me that the link to the class recording for Mar.11 was incorrect. My apologies for this cut and paste error! 😳 I have fixed the video link on the Quercus page.
- Mar.19b: ⭐️ Week 10 reading is posted.
- Mar.19: 🔹 Today a student asked me for some significant guidance on how to structure their final project Presentation Slides and Individual Report. Since I gave the advice to him, I figure I should give it to all of you - here you go. I hope you find it helpful; if you have any additional questions please don't hesitate to ask for a private Zoom appointment, or ask via email if the question is quick.
- Mar.18: 🔹 Midterm marks are posted on Quercus. The median was 88%.
- Mar.17: 🔹 My apologies - on Sat.13th just before I had intended to add more material to the Week 8 readings, I cut one of my thumbs in a kitchen accident and I had to keep the hand elevated for a few days to aid healing. I regained my typing abilities yesterday, and my next available window to write will open on Fri.19th/Sat.20th. For this and other reasons, I am extending the deadline for Week 8 summaries by one week penalty-free.
- Mar.12 b: 🔹 Because of technical difficulties during Prof. Kee's presentation, I will add some extra remarks explaining her background material to the Week 8 readings page this weekend. Sorry I couldn't do it earlier - I had an extremely packed day today.
- Mar.12: ⭐️ Week 9 reading is posted.
- Mar.04: ⭐️ Week 8 readings are posted.
- Mar.01 b: ⭐️ here are details about next week's midterm oral exams.
- Mar.01: ⭐️ as usual, links to weekly readings are posted on the
Handy calendar page above. This week's readings are about earthquakes and how to model their destructiveness.
- Feb.26: Thanks to everyone for making class so fun yesterday! I had a blast, and I hope you found it enjoyable to learn about the topics I discussed.
- Feb.22: 🔹 Unfortunately, John Webb has had to cancel his Feb.25 colloquium on short notice because of a family emergency. This Thursday, let's do something a bit different -- I will be your speaker instead! I suggest that I start out by giving an accessible presentation about my research in theoretical high-energy physics -- which involves black holes and quantum information -- and then shift to letting you Ask Me Anything. I hope you will find it both fun and educational. ☺️
- Feb.18: 🔹 The Faculty of Arts and Science has asked me to post this announcement about Program Exploration Days (Feb.23-25).
- Feb.11: Weekly Summary grades have now been set to show up in Quercus as soon as they are marked. Apologies for the delay -- I think this was my fault -- I was not aware that the default was set to hide them! 😳 If it later becomes clear that this delay introduced an unfair disadvantage to the class, I will scale everyone's scores up for the affected assignments. (I have a policy that I never scale scores down after marking; I only ever scale them up, if I misjudged things. My mistakes should not end up negatively affecting my students.)
- Feb.04: I was so proud of the great questions you asked Prof. Curtin and Prof. Toro today -- go, class!
⭐️ Some readings for Week 5 are posted. [Feb.08 update: the host has suggested an additional super-accessible article, which I have added to the readings page.]
🔹 Here is the list of Final Project topics and teams. ⭐️ One of you still needs to select a topic.
⭐️ Check Quercus for the announcement of instructions about booking your midterm exam timeslot.
- Feb.03: 🔹 Recently my email address got updated (a forwarder is in place in case you forget and use the old one). Unfortunately, Zoom is now interpreting my UofT account as entirely new, so I had to re-do all my regular meetings. New Zoom class info is up on the usual Quercus page; I also sent this info to you by e-mail.
🔹 Significantly fewer people are making use of Monday office hours than are asking for individual Zooms, so I am cancelling the former. Just ask by email if you want a chat, and be sure to give me (a) at least 24 hours notice, and (b) plenty of day/time options to choose from.
- Jan.28b: 🔹 I will not be able to hold the scheduled office hour on Monday Feb.08 (initially I mis-posted this as Feb.01) because of a clashing important meeting about teaching. As a substitute, I welcome posts about any physics questions you may have on Piazza (if you think the answers might benefit other students) and/or booking a private Zoom chat by email (if it's a private matter) whenever you need one.
- Jan.28a: ⭐️ Here are the Week 4 readings about particle physics and cosmology to help you get ready for Dr. Toro's colloquium next week. I wrote them, and hope you find them nicely accessible.
- Jan.26: Students asked a few questions on Piazza relevant to writing essays.
🔹 Yes, you need to include citations. Citing people properly is part of academic culture and research culture, and UofT expects it as part of student academic integrity. I think a nice way to frame this practice is this: we do it as an act of intellectual caring, to properly acknowledge the teachings of people we learn from. Sources you probably want to cite in your essay include: (1) pertinent sections of the Knight textbook, (2) my Week 2 Readings webpage, (3) Dr. Steph Hay's class discussion slides/video, (4) Dr. Jennifer Kay's class discussion slides/video, (5) Dr. Kay's colloquium. Be as precise as you can about where you learned what.
🔹 Formatting tips for Weekly Summary essays are given on the Computing tips course webpage. Included there are important links to UofT Writing Advice webpages on
How not to plagiarize,
Paraphrasing and summarizing,
Using quotations, and
How to document your references, all of which provide illustrative examples. The citation format we use in physics is the science standard (numbered note system).
🔹 Colloquium recordings are posted on the Physics Colloquium Past Events webpage; just click on the speaker's name and scroll down to see the embedded video. Alternatively, just click on the speaker's name in the PHY198S Calendar of events webpage and it will take you to the same video. Another option for recordings of all past colloquia is the Physics Department's YouTube channel videos listing.
- Jan.22: 🔹 Our Week 2 speaker has shared an article for those who might be interested to learn a bit more about the link between global warming and intensification of hurricanes. It makes use of the idea of entropy, so I added some brief definitions of that and other terms used (and a wee digression on the Laws of Thermodynamics). Reading this stuff is completely optional.
- Jan.21: Thanks for being such great participants in class today! I really enjoyed discussing with you in this week's seminar.
⭐️ Here are the recommended pre-class readings for Week 3. I hope you find them enjoyable; the level is really accessible and there are no equations.
⭐️ Please start having a think about what topic(s) you might like to research for your Final Project. I would like to get your expressions of interest by about two weeks from now, so that I can get students who are interested in similar topics organized together into small groups. We might try out Piazza's
Search for Teammmates function, but since I haven't used that before, I think a more low-tech method might be better to start with. Please email me with a list of your top three to five topics that you would like to know more about, that don't look like they'll be discussed in Week 2-11 colloquia. Get as specific as you can about what fascinates you, and let me know by Thu.04.Feb.
🔹 The Zoom recording from this week's seminar class turned out to be enormous, so I had to compress it down before I could post it to Quercus on our Seminar Class Recordings page. Also - my apologies - I forgot that my image would be mirrored on the video compared to what I see on my screen, so when I pointed in certain directions I actually meant to point in the mirror image direction. I will endeavour not to make the same mistake in future.
🔹 I decided to allow handing in Final Project individual reports up to five days late without penalty if necessary, to reduce end-semester stress a bit. Apr.13 will be the last possible date for handing these in, because I must submit all final grades no later than five business days after classes end. The Final Project group oral presentation slides will still be due by Apr.08, the last class, because that is oral presentations day. (For the student on the other side of the world, a special separate oral presentation will be held within 24 hours of the others, with me as the audience.)
- Jan.16: ⭐️ The pre-class readings for Week 2 are posted. I recommend reading about ten pages of Knight, and I also wrote about five more pages myself. If you run out of time, you can skip the stuff I wrote. Please give me feedback on Piazza about how the readings are going - I do not want to be a mean old professor who accidentally makes you work too hard! :)
- Jan.14b: 🔹 It was a genuine privilege and pleasure to meet you all today. By popular demand, I restored the passcode for our Zoom classroom back to the one that people liked. See Quercus for details.
- Jan.14a: 🔹 Today in the first half of class I will mostly explain how the course will be organized, and answer student questions or concerns about any aspect of that. We will also pick a time to hold office hours. In the second half of class, we will take a bit of time to introduce ourselves to each other, and start getting comfortable with having active discussions in small groups and amongst the whole class. Then I will say a little bit about some basic physics involved in today's colloquium, so that we can then attend the first part of it together. Then we will come back to class and chat some more amongst ourselves, to ensure that you feel confident that you can handle the work expected in this course going forward.
- Jan.11: 🔹 I look forward to meeting you all in our first Zoom class on Thursday 14th January 2021 at 2:10pm. See Quercus for details.