- Scale and powers of ten:
Atomic and subatomic
structure. The search for the operating system of the universe.
- Particle Physics:
Subatomic particles as probes of the structure of matter. Physicist Periodic Table. Mass, spin, and force charges. Quarks and leptons. Bosons (force messengers) and fermions (matter). Electromagnetic, weak nuclear, strong nuclear, and gravitational forces. Antiparticles. Colour confinement. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the Higgs boson.
- Newton's laws:
Newton's laws of motion. Newton's law of universal gravitation and its explanation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion. How astronomers detect extrasolar planets by watching recoiling wobbling stars. Flaws in Newton's theory. Einstein's Special Relativity. The speed of light as a limiting speed for massive objects.
- Einstein's refinements:
Time dilation. The Twin Paradox. Maxwell's unification of Electricity with Magnetism. The electromagnetic spectrum: radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays. Redshift/blueshift of photons (particles of light). The Equivalence Principle: gravity versus acceleration. GPS.
- GR and Black Holes:
Einstein's General Relativity. Spacetime as geometry.
Escape speed from gravitating objects. Anatomy of a black hole: event horizons and singularities.
How astrophysical black holes form when big stars run out of gas. How astronomers
see black holes with telescopes by looking at radiation from orbiting material. Gravitational radiation and LIGO.
- Quantum Weirdness:
Seeing colours of light. Blackbody Radiation and the Ultraviolet Catastrophe. Photons as quantized (indivisible) lumps of energy. Photoelectric Effect and Einstein's Nobel-winning explanation for it. Why you should not fear cellphone radiation. Particle-like nature of quanta.
- Quantum Wavyness:
Wavelike nature of quanta. Interference and Young's two-slit experiment.
Diffraction and the Davisson-Germer experiment. Atomic and molecular spectra.
De Broglie's bold formula for the wavelength of a quantum.
Quantization of energy. Wavefunctions and probability. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
- Cosmology -- weighing the universe:
Olbers' Paradox. Hubble's Law and causality.
Energy budget of universe and how it is measured. Dark matter and dark energy.
Experiments: cosmic microwave background radiation, Type Ia supernovae. Theories about the origin of our universe.
- Cosmology -- a brief history of time
Spontaneous symmetry breaking. ElectroWeak unification and the Higgs mechanism. Epochs: Planck scale, inflation, baryogenesis, electroweak symmetry breaking, colour confinement, big bang nucleosynthesis, matter domination, photon transparency, star formation.
- Unification of Gravity and Quantum Theory Why Einstein's gravity theory breaks down at high energy. Running coupling strengths of forces. The growth of quantum GR scattering probabilities with energy. Unification, and the motivation behind string theory.
- Supertring Theory and Duality. A brief introduction to the idea of strings as LEGO bricks of the universe.
Modern superstring theory, duality, and extra dimensions of space.
- [Fall Oral Presentations by students on a variety of topics.]
For more details, please see my grading and deadlines policies.
- The course grade is based on three essays (10% each), seminar class participation (20%), an oral presentation (17%), and a conceptual (no-algebra) written final exam (33%).
- Because this is a seminar class, which thrives on student participation, all students are expected to attend class regularly. Your course participation grade will be determined partly by your attendance record. Be polite to your fellow students: contact the prof. in advance if you can't make it on time.
- Each student gets a total of six Grace Days per semester penalty-free for written work; you must notify me three days in advance of a deadline if you wish to use one or more Grace Days for that assignment. Assignments handed in beyond the deadline (plus any Grace Days) will be assessed a lateness penalty of 5% per day. No assignment may be handed in later than one week after the due date (unless a specific accommodation has been arranged).
Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability/health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach me as well as Accessibility Services.
Equity, diversity, and excellence
At the University of Toronto, we strive to be an equitable and inclusive community, rich with diversity, protecting the human rights of all persons, and based upon understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of every person. We seek to ensure to the greatest extent possible that all students enjoy the opportunity to participate as they see fit in the full range of activities that the University offers, and to achieve their full potential as members of the University community.
Our support for equity is grounded in an institution-wide commitment to achieving a working, teaching, and learning environment that is free of discrimination and harassment as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code. In striving to become an equitable community, we will also work to eliminate, reduce or mitigate the adverse effects of any barriers to full participation in University life that we find, including physical, environmental, attitudinal, communication or technological.
Our teaching, scholarship and other activities take place in the context of a highly diverse society. Reflecting this diversity in our own community is uniquely valuable to the University as it contributes to the diversification of ideas and perspectives and thereby enriches our scholarship, teaching and other activities. We will proactively seek to increase diversity among our community members, and it is our aim to have a student body and teaching and administrative staffs that mirror the diversity of the pool of potential qualified applicants for those positions.
We believe that excellence flourishes in an environment that embraces the broadest range of people, that helps them to achieve their full potential, that facilitates the free expression of their diverse perspectives through respectful discourse, and in which high standards are maintained for students and staff alike. An equitable and inclusive learning environment creates the conditions for our student body to maximize their creativity and their contributions, thereby supporting excellence in all dimensions of the institution.
Academic integrity is fundamental to learning and scholarship at the University of Toronto. Participating honestly, respectfully, responsibly, and fairly in this academic community ensures that the U of T degree that you earn will be valued as a true indication of your individual academic achievement, and will continue to receive the respect and recognition it deserves.
Familiarize yourself with the University of Toronto's Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. It is the rule book for academic behaviour at the U of T, and you are expected to know the rules. Potential offences include, but are not limited to:
In papers and assignments:
- Using someone else's ideas or words without appropriate acknowledgement.
- Copying material word-for-word from a source (including lecture and study group notes) and not placing the words within quotation marks.
- Submitting your own work in more than one course without the permission of the instructor.
- Making up sources or facts.
- Including references to sources that you did not use.
- Obtaining or providing unauthorized assistance on any assignment including
- working in groups on assignments that are supposed to be individual work,
- having someone rewrite or add material to your work while
- Lending your work to a classmate who submits it as his/her own without your permission.
On tests and exams:
- Using or possessing any unauthorized aid, including a cell phone.
- Looking at someone else's answers
- Letting someone else look at your answers.
- Misrepresenting your identity.
- Submitting an altered test for re-grading.
- Falsifying or altering any documentation required by the University, including doctor's notes.
- Falsifying institutional documents or grades.
To remind you of these expectations, and help you avoid accidental offences, I will ask you to include a signed Academic Integrity Checklist with every assignment. If you do not include the statement, your work will not be graded.
The University of Toronto treats cases of academic misconduct very seriously. All suspected cases of academic dishonesty will be investigated following the procedures outlined in the Code. The consequences for academic misconduct can be severe, including a failure in the course and a notation on your transcript. If you have any questions about what is or is not permitted in this course, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have questions about appropriate research and citation methods, seek out additional information from me, or from other available campus resources like the U of T Writing Website. If you are experiencing personal challenges that are having an impact on your academic work, please speak to me or seek the advice of your college registrar.
Plagiarism detection software
Normally, students will be required to submit their course essays to Turnitin.com for a review of textual similarity and detection of possible plagiarism. In doing so, students will allow their essays to be included as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database, where they will be used solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. The terms that apply to the University's use of the Turnitin.com service are described on the Turnitin.com web site.
If you do not wish to submit your work in this way, you will need to provide alternative documentation to prove that your work is your own. I require electronic and hard copies of two drafts of each essay in earlier stages of development as well as the final product.