Physics 252: Modern Physics

Spring 1998

Teacher: Michael Fowler

Rooms 307 and 102, Physics Bldg.
Phone: 924-6579, E-mail:

For premodern physics, check out my course on Galileo and Einstein.

Some cool applets here!

Index of Lectures

Special Relativity

12 lectures
Galilean Relativity and the Invariance of Newton's Laws.
The Speed of Light
The Michelson-Morley Experiment.
Special Relativity
Time dilation and length contraction.
The relativity of simultaneity.
The Lorentz transformations.
A worked example of time dilation.
The twins and other paradoxes, and the Doppler effect.
Velocity Addition.
Relativistic dynamics: mass, relativistic momentum and energy.
Equivalence of mass and energy: Einstein's Box.
Relativistic energy-momentum formula.
Particle Creation.
Electric and Magnetic fields in Relativity.
Remarks on General Relativity.

Brief Review of the Kinetic Theory of Gases


4 lectures
Blackbody Radiation.
The Photoelectric Effect.
Rays and Particles.


6 lectures
Brief Historical Review.
Atomic Spectra
Early Atomic Models: Vortices and Pudding
Thomson's model.
Rutherford's scattering experiment.
Rutherford's Experiment and the Beginning of Nuclear Physics.
The Bohr Atom.

Particles and Waves

4 lectures
From the Bohr Atom to De Broglie's Waves.
Wave Packets and the Uncertainty Principle.
Probabilities, Amplitudes and Probability Amplitudes.
Unequal Phase and Group Velocities
Equal Phase and Group Velocities
More on the Uncertainty Principle.

Schrodinger's Equation

6 lectures
Wave Equations for Photons and Electrons.
Electron in a Box.
Finite Square Well
Simple harmonic oscillator.
Barrier penetration.
Two-dimensional Wells.
Three dimensional waves,the hydrogen atom, angular momentum.

Many Electron Atoms

3 lectures
Symmetry of the wavefunction: fermions and bosons.
Angular Momentum, Electron spin, The periodic table.

Nuclear Physics

3 lectures
Stable and unstable nuclei, decay mechanisms, nuclear fission.

Homeworks, Tests, and Grading Policy

Weekly unpledged homeworks Friday to Friday.
Pledged homeworks Friday February 20, Friday April 17.
In-class midterm Wednesday March 18 .
Final Exam: Tuesday, May 5, 1400-1700.

Grading: Unpledged homeworks total 30%, pledged homeworks 10% each, midterm 15%, final 35%. Textbook: Special Relativity, A. P. French, Norton.

Homework Assignments

Due Friday, January 23: French, Special Relativity, Chapter 2: 5, 6, 7.

Due Friday, January 30: French, Special Relativity, Chapter 4: 1, 3, 5, 11, 14.

Due Friday, February 6: French, Special Relativity, Chapter 4: 9, 10. Ch. 5: 7, 9, 11.

Due Friday, February 13: French, Special Relativity, Chapter 4: 16, 19. Ch. 5: 20, 22. Ch. 6: 7.

Due Friday, February 20: French, Special Relativity, Chapter 1: 5, 14. Ch. 5: 16, 17. Ch. 6: 4, 9, 12, 14.

PLEDGED Due Friday, February 27: French, Special Relativity, 1-3, 1-11, 4-12, 5-19, 6-5, 7-1.

Homework Due Friday, March 6.

Homework Due Wednesday, March 18.

Due Friday, March 27: French, Special Relativity, Chapter 6: 20, Ch 7: 3, 9, 10.

Homework Due Friday, April 3.

Homework Due Friday, April 10.

Pledged Homework Due Friday, April 17.

Midterm Review Sheet

1997 Midterm

1998 Midterm

1997 Final

Final Review Sheet

GRADER:Our grader is Hong Tao Zhang. His e-mail is His desk is in room 42.

Lots of historic papers can be found here.

Spring 1998 Class