Modern Physics - Course Description

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This course examines several related themes regarding physics in the context of the modern world. It challenges students to consider the importance of understanding science and technology as factors of change in the modern world. We explore optics as a means of demonstrating the evolution of physical theories. In connection with this, we take up experimental work in the field of optics and physical colors, in which we compare the understanding of color phenomena in a holistic manner with the analysis of experimental results through modern mathematical models.
We take up questions that relate historically to the development of physics in the 20th century and their present impact. As background reading, students refer to Physics for the Rest of Us, by Roger Jones, physics professor at the University of Minnesota, for descriptions and a critique of 20th century physics. In class students discuss and report on questions arising from this work.

An important aspect of the course is to experience physics in a modern setting. To this end we take up current technological issues facing the human being in today’s world, such as the energy crisis, alternative energy sources and related technology. A field trip to Fermilab, one of the world’s prominent particle physics labs, is another gateway for students into the realm of modern physics.

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