Phys 461/561 (Applications of Modern Physics) Spring 2015

Hello - signup for this course! It might be too hard to do (for the faculty person, not the student), but I am working to revamp it and Spring 2015 is the first really good try.  Could be a great ride, or at least an interesting one! (or could be a bust)

Course meets Tues and Thursdays 9:30-10:45 in LaTourette 227.


The problem - as students might know, is that there isn't a good textbook for this course. 15-20-30 years ago, Phys 460-461 used Eisberg and Resnick, but that is out of print, and getting way dated  (copyright 1981?) and is at a simpler level than QM is currently taught to UG. Students now are being led through more advanced topics in UG QM than they were 15-20 years ago.

Yes, the Phys 460 has gotten 'harder', that is, pedagogically, standard texts bring down operator methods to undergraduates and delve into them more than 15 years ago. Students come out of Phys 460 with deeper pockets of knowledge and expertise in great tools and concepts of QM. (Maybe, or maybe they are just more confused).

After that - students at that point can be pointed to some faculty member's baby (a specialized course that he/she wants to teach and which is a lot more satisfying to teach when the student has all the advanced UG physics core knowledge at their disposal) 

But is is pedgaogically or professionally better for seniors to specialize when they are seniors? that is to only see one subfield using their core knowledge? Or is it better for someone still an apprentice in physics to do a  survey course that introduces them to a variety of subfields and also is satisfying because it uses their advanced course core knowledge? (particularly focused on QM).

Some faculty, I have to admit, prefer to tell students that the best thing to be is to take that faculty members specialized course  and that it isn't very important to know much about the other subfields. ("After all, I never had to use them in my specialty") .

Some faculty (of which I am one) think that UG are better served by a high-level survey course.  

But, then we come to the reality - one just doesn't exist right now at the right level.

We have tried to limp along more years than we should have either just repeating the last half of the Eisberg and Resnick textbook via old slides that the instructor had from the past (this was one faculty member's solution) or trying various  textbooks that had a few items relevant to 461, but still were too limited so needed work to supplement. Neither were good, and both were unsatisfactory to all faculty. (Hence the suggestion clamoring to ignore the problem, get rid of the course,  and have  interested faculty members teach their own research bits since obviously, in each faculty's opinion, his/her bits are the most important/valid/interesting piece of physics anyway. 
So - what is the plan for Phys 461/561 for Spring 2015

Well - We (royal we, meaning Thompson, although Lurio has promised a chapter on QM based explanation of the Faraday effect) are working on an NIU set of notes (i.e., trying to write course notes that are up to date, and that are at the right level, as well as introduce fundamental concepts in a variety of physics subfields. (high energy physics, condensed matter physics, materials physics, atomic-molecular-optics, materials physics, ...) as well as covering more of the theoretical underpinnings at an advanced level related to the Phys 374 labs that the students have completed.

They might be ready by this Spring - they might be good, they might be bad, they might be incomplete this semester - but come along for the ride!

The fall back plan is to use the notes, and in addition, work with a collection of classic articles from the subfields (and a few judiciously chosen recent articles). To work on the typical topics that fall in such a survey course, but do them at a higher level than the old Eisberg and Resnick and try to exercise more of the core physics that students have brought into the class.

Sincerely,
Professor C. Thompson
Comments