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Physics

The word physics originates from the Greek word for nature. Physicists attempt to understand the basic principles that govern the behavior of the natural world in which we live. The courses in physics are designed to serve both students interested in science as an important part of a general education and those desiring intensive training in physical science. Students may major in physics as preparation for further professional training in physics or engineering, or as excellent background for careers in other fields such as medicine, law, astronomy, biology, geology, and secondary-school science teaching. Interested physics students at Oberlin have opportunities to work closely with faculty members on research projects during academic terms, winter terms, and summers.

Advanced Placement. Students who earn sufficiently high scores on advanced placement examinations in physics will be given credit for all or part of Physics 103 and 104 or Physics 110 and 111 according to the following schedule:
Physics B examination: Students earning a score of 4 will receive 4 hours of credit for Physics 103; students earning a score of 5 will receive 8 hours of credit for Physics 103 and 104.
Physics C examination (Mechanics): Students earning a score of 4 or 5 will receive 3 hours of credit for Physics 110.
Physics C examination (Electricity and Magnetism): Students earning a score of 5 will receive 4 hours of credit for Physics 111.
Students earning any credit through these examinations will receive full QP credit.
High-school students who might wish to major in physics should take the calculus-based Physics C courses and examinations, if possible.
Students who have received advanced placement in either physics or mathematics and who are considering physics as a possible major should consult the chair of the Physics Department upon arrival in Oberlin regarding course selection and major requirements. Although Physics 103 and 104 are not the normal prerequisites for Physics 112 and upper-level courses, the Department is prepared to arrange a transition to these courses for those who have earned credit through the Physics B examination, have good backgrounds in mathematics, and are interested in majoring in physics.
Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions. Students considering a physics major who qualify for Mathematics 134, 231 or 234 as freshmen should take those courses and Physics 110, 111. Those without advanced standing in mathematics should take Mathematics 133, 134 as freshmen and Physics 110, 111 as sophomores; such students may take the full graduate study preparation program with the exception of Physics 410 and Physics 411, and be prepared for graduate work in physics.
Physics 110, 111, and 112 provide training useful to students of any of the physical sciences or mathematics. Students majoring in the life and earth sciences are also encouraged to take these courses if they have the necessary mathematical background.
Physics 103, 104 are primarily for students majoring in the life and earth sciences. With the permission of the department an exceptional student who has taken all or part of Physics 103, 104 may use it as background for further work in physics.
Physics 50-70 are designed for College and Conservatory students whose primary interests may not lie in the natural sciences but who wish to have a first hand acquaintance with the techniques and results of physical science.
Major Work. A physics major is required to pass Physics 110, 111, 112, 314, 414, and at least three courses chosen from Physics 310, 311, 312, 410, 411, and 412. Prerequisites for these courses include Mathematics 133, 134, 231, and 234. This minimum program is appropriate for students using physics as preparation for careers in fields such as medicine, law, business, or secondary-school teaching. (Such students will also find courses in chemistry, biology, and computer science to be valuable.) Students who wish to pursue physics as a career in research or in college or university teaching should take the graduate study preparation program, which consists of all the courses listed above (i.e., it includes all six of Physics 310, 311, 312, 410, 411, and 412). A graduate of this program could pursue undelayed full-time graduate study in physics or could enter certain positions in industrial or governmental laboratories.
Computer applications are important in all branches of physics. We urge all physics majors to consult their advisors about obtaining the appropriate background.
Minor. The minor in physics consists of Physics 110, 111, 112, and two courses numbered between 200 and 450. At least three of these courses must be taken at Oberlin.
Honors. The honors program is open to outstanding senior-year major students at the invitation of the department. Students in this program will normally be expected to complete the graduate study preparation program of courses described above and must carry out a special project in experimental or theoretical physics or astrophysics under the direction of a member of the department. Honors students write a thesis based on their work and take comprehensive examinations. The physics major requirement of Physics 414 may be waived upon request for an honors student whose project is in experimental physics.
Other Programs. Students with special interests are encouraged to include physics courses in an individual major, or to plan a double major. Those interested in careers in engineering may take a physics major, or they may consider the Combined Liberal Arts and Engineering Program described in the introductory portion of the College of Arts and Sciences section of this catalog.
Winter Term. Physics faculty will consider sponsoring student-initiated experimental or theoretical (reading) projects in areas of physics or astronomy. Staff members have special interests in the areas shown below.
Mr. FitzGerald: physics of sports, investigation of cement materials. Mr. Goff: condensed matter theory, physics of sports. Ms. Ijiri: materials science (particularly magnetic materials). Mr. Scofield: experimental solid state physics, solar energy (particularly photovoltaics), electronics. Mr. Stinebring: radio astronomy, pulsars, cosmology, instrumentation, image processing. Mr. Styer: relativity for non-scientists, mini-research projects in theoretical physics.

  

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Courses for a General Audience

 

In addition to these courses, ASTR 100 may be of interest.
051. Einstein and Relativity 1 hour
1NS
An examination of the special and general theories of relativity and of how these theories have changed our conception of space and time. Notes: CR/NE grading. Enrollment Limit: 130.
Sem 2 PHYS-051-01 TuTh 10:00-10:50 Mr. Styer MODULE 1
052. The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics 1 hour
1NS, QPh
The behavior of atoms and electrons is governed by rules that seem bizarre to our eyes because our opinion of what is usual and what is strange is based on only macroscopic experience. This course investigates these strange conceptual underpinnings of quantum mechanics. Notes: Students earning credit in both PHYS 051 and PHYS 052 may also earn half quantitative proficiency certification through this course. CR/NE grading. Enrollment Limit: 125.
Sem 2 PHYS-052-01 TuTh 10:00-10:50 Mr. Styer MODULE 2
054. Musical Acoustics 3 hours
3NS, QPh
Next offered 2002-2003.
055. Principles of Solar Energy 3 hours
3NS, QPh
This course is designed to lay the science foundation for understanding a variety of topics associated with solar energy, particularly as it applies to building design. Topics to be discussed include work and energy, heat and heat storage, temperature, thermodynamics and the conversion of heat into work, the motion of the earth around the sun and the seasons, the electromagnetic spectrum, blackbody radiation, the greenhouse effect, thermal conduction, thermal insulation, windows and heat gain, electric heat pump, air-conditioning, fuel cells, DC electrical circuits, solar cells, and energy storage. Prerequisites: High school physics and CHEM 101, or consent of instructor. Enrollment Limit: 24.
Sem 1 PHYS-055-01 TuTh 9:30-10:50 Mr. Scofield
061. The Physics of Sports 3 hours
3NS, QPh
This course is pitched at a general audience proficient in algebra and possibly exposed to basic trigonometry. (Any trigonometry used in the course will be introduced as needed.) The main goal of the course is to learn how to apply some basic physics to the world of sports. While we will not be concentrating on equation derivation too much, we will learn how to apply equations and physics ideas as models for the real world. Enrollment Limit: 30
Sem 1 PHYS-061-01 TuTh 9:30-10:50 Mr. Goff
065. Nature of Electronic Materials: Deconstructing Your Computer 3 hours
3NS
Next offered 2002-2003.
066. Light and Color 3 hours
3NS
A survey of topics related to the physics of light and color, including lenses, photography, vision, color mixing, color perception, atmospheric effects (e.g., sunsets and halos), image processing, and holography. Prerequisite: High school algebra. Enrollment Limit: 24.
Sem 2 PHYS-066-01 TuTh 9:30-10:50 Ms. Keller

 

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Courses Primarily for Students Intending to Major in a Science

103. Elementary Physics I 4 hours
4NS, QPf
This course is an algebra/trig-based introduction to classical mechanics, fluids, waves, and optics, intended primarily for students in the life or earth sciences, but also accessible to non-science students having good high-school mathematics preparation. Topics to be covered include projectile motion, rotational motion, Newton's laws, gravity, energy, momentum, collisions, simple harmonic motion, geometric and physical optics, Archimedes' principle, Pascal's principle, and Bernoulli's equation. Students will be required to make extensive use of algebra and trigonometry. Those planning to major in physics should take PHYS 110 instead. Notes: May not be taken for credit in addition to PHYS 110. The laboratory is an integral part of this course and may not be taken alone.
Sem 1 PHYS-103-01 MWF 10:00-10:50 Staff Limit: 60
Laboratories
PHYS-103-02 F 1:30-4:30 Ms. Keller Limit: 20
PHYS-103-03 M 1:30-4:30 Ms. Keller Limit: 20
PHYS-103-04 Tu 1:30-4:30 Ms. Keller Limit: 20
104. Elementary Physics II 4 hours
4NS, QPf
An introduction to electricity and magnetism, special relativity, and modern physics, including applications to geology, biology, and medicine. Intended primarily for students in the life and earth sciences; those planning to major in physics should take PHYS 111 instead. Prerequisite: PHYS 103 or consent of instructor. Notes: May not be taken for credit in addition to PHYS 111. The laboratory is an integral part of this course and may not be taken alone.
Sem 2 PHYS-104-01 MWF 10:00-10:50 Staff Limit: 60
Laboratories
PHYS-104-02 M 1:30-4:30 Ms. Keller Limit: 20
PHYS-104-03 Tu 1:30-4:30 Ms. Keller Limit: 20
PHYS-104-04 F 1:30-4:30 Ms. Keller Limit: 20
110. Mechanics and Relativity 3 hours
3NS, QPf
An introductory study of Newtonian mechanics and special relativity, focusing on conceptual understanding and problem solving. Topics include point-particle dynamics, conservation principles, oscillation, systems of particles, rotation; time dilation, lenght contraction, and the relativity of simultaneity. Corequisite: MATH 134 or equivalent. Note: May not be taken for credit in addition to PHYS 103.
Sem 1 PHYS-110-01 MWF 9:00-9:50 Mr. Styer
111. Electricity, Magnetism, and Thermodynamics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
This is the second course in the three-semester calculus-based introductory sequence. Topics include electric and magnetic fields, electric and magnetic properties of matter, direct and alternating current circuits, electromagnetic phenomena, thermodynamics, and kinetic theory. Corequisite: MATH 231. Prerequisites: PHYS 110. Note: May not be taken for credit in addition to PHYS 104.
Sem 2 PHYS-111-01 MWF 9:00-9:50 Mr. Stinebring Limit: 60
Laboratories
PHYS-111-02 Tu 1:30-4:30 Mr. Goff Limit: 20
PHYS-111-03 W 1:30-4:30 Mr. Goff Limit: 20
PHYS-111-04 Th 1:30-4:30 Mr. Goff Limit: 20
112. Modern Physics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
This is the last course in the three-semester calculus-based introductory physics sequence. The course covers waves and topics in modern (twentieth-century) physics. Topics include relativistic dynamics, quantum properties of light, wave properties of matter, elementary wave mechanics, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical physics. Prerequisites: PHYS 111 and MATH 231.
Sem 1 PHYS-112-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Mr. Scofield Limit: 45
Laboratories
PHYS-112-02 Tu 1:30-4:30 Mr. Stinebring Limit: 15
PHYS-112-03 W 1:30-4:30 Mr. Stinebring Limit: 15
Ms. Keller
PHYS-112-04 Th 1:30-4:30 Mr. Stinebring Limit: 15
114. Special Laboratory 1 hour
1NS
This course is the laboratory portion of PHYS 112. It is open only to students who require it to satisfy medical school entrance requirements. Notes: May not be taken for credit in addition to PHYS 112. CR/NE grading. Consent of instructor required . Enrollment Limit: 12.
Sem 1 PHYS-114-01 Tu 1:30-4:30 Mr. Stinebring
PHYS-114-02 W 1:30-4:30 Mr. Stinebring/Ms. Keller
PHYS-114-03 Th 1:30-4:30 Mr. Stinebring
152. Dark Matter and the Fate of the Universe 2 hours
2NS
Matter in the universe makes its presence known through gravitational effects, particularly on the dynamics of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. The amount of gravitating matter in the universe is 30 to 100 times the amount of matter visible through telescopes, leading to what has been called the dark matter or missing mass problem. We will explore this forefront problem using Newtonian dynamics. We will also investigate how the density of matter and the probable existence of cosmic anti-gravity affect the eventual fate of the universe. Emphasis will be placed on the observational underpinnings of cosmology. Prerequisites: PHYS 110 (or PHYS 103 with consent of instructor). Identical to ASTR 152.
Sem 2 PHYS-152-01 TuTh 9:30-10:50 Mr. Stinebring MODULE 1
242. Electronics 3 hours
3NS, QPf
Next offered 2002-2003.
252. Astrophysics: Stellar Structure 2 hours
2NS, QPf
Identical to ASTRO 252.
Next offered 2002-2003.
254. Astrophysics: Cosmology 2 hours
2NS, QPf
An introduction to physical cosmology. An observational overview will include Hubble expansion, microwave background radiation, and the missing mass problem. The Big Bang model will be developed in detail, including inflation and the connection with particle physics. Evidence that the cosmic expansion is accelerating will be presented, and the implications of this startling fact will be explored Prerequisites: PHYS 112. Identical to ASTR 254.
Sem 2 PHYS-254-01 TuTh 9:30-10:50 Mr. Stinebring MODULE 2
310. Classical Mechanics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
Newtonian mechanics of particles and systems: Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations, oscillators, central force motion, rigid body motion, and special relativity. Some use will be made of computers. Prerequisites: PHYS 111 and MATH 234.
Sem 2 PHYS-310-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Mr. Goff
311. Electricity and Magnetism 4 hours
4NS, QPf
An in-depth study of electric and magnetic fields and their effects on matter. Vector calculus will be used extensively after a brief review of it. We will learn to solve a variety of boundary value problems using techniques useful in many areas of physics. We will explore Maxwell's equations in detail, culminating in an introduction to electromagnetic radiation. Practical topics will be interspersed throughout the course. Prerequisites: PHYS 310 and MATH 234.
Sem 2 PHYS-311-01 MWF 9:00-9:50 Staff
312. Quantum Mechanics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
A rigorous study of the foundations of quantum mechanics, with applications to one-dimensional systems, angular momentum, and the hydrogen atom. Stationary-state perturbation theory. Mathematical solutions to the Schrödinger equation will be developed. Prerequisites: PHYS 112 and PHYS 310 and MATH 234.
Sem 1 PHYS-312-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Mr. Goff
314. Intermediate Laboratory 2 hours
2NS, QPf
Introduction to physics laboratory techniques, such as the use of vacuum systems, optical devices, lock-in amplifiers, cryostats, and nuclear instrumentation. Each student attends two laboratory sessions per week and turns in short reports for each experiment with one longer report at the end of the semester. Prerequisites: PHYS 112.
Sem 1 PHYS-314-01 TuTh 1:30-4:30 Staff
410. Statistical Mechanics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
Thermodynamics, classical and quantal statistical mechanics, entropy, temperature, chemical potential, ensembles. Applications include magnetism, phase transitions, heat capacities of gases and solids, thermal radiation, ideal fermion and boson gases. Prerequisites: PHYS 312 or CHEM 339.
Sem 1 PHYS-410-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Mr. Styer
411. Electrodynamics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
Next offered 2002-2003.
412. Applied Quantum Mechanics 4 hours
4NS, QPf
The first half of this course treats atomic physics, including time-dependent perturbation theory. The second half treats an advanced topic selected by the students and instructor. Possible topics include quantal chaos, computer use in quantum mechanics, relativistic quantum field theory, quantal dissipation, and experimental tests of quantum mechanics. Prerequisites: PHYS 312.
Sem 2 PHYS-412-01 MWF 11:00-11:50 Mr. Styer
414. Advanced Laboratory 2 hours
2NS, QPf
Each student attends two laboratory sessions per week and performs, semi-independently, five to six experiments chosen from the fields of atomic, nuclear, and elementary particle physics, condensed matter physics, and optics. Phenomena typically investigated include the low-temperature resistivity of a metal, angular correlations between gamma rays emitted by Co-60, the Compton effect, superconductivity in Y-Ba-Cu-O, Johnson noise, and the Hall effect in a thin metallic film. Students must keep an organized laboratory notebook, turn in short reports describing the key results of each experiment, and write a longer paper describing one experiment in the form of a research publication. Prerequisites: PHYS 314.
Sem 2 PHYS-414-01 TuTh 1:30-4:30 Mr. Scofield
451. Special Problems in Physics 1-5 hours
1-5NS
Special course work or research projects, for students at all levels who are prepared to work independently. Note: CR/NE grading. Consent of instructor required . Projects sponsored by Mr. Goff, Mr. Scofield, Mr. Stinebring, Mr. Styer.
453. Special Problems in Physics 1-5 hours
1-5NS
The same as PHYS 451, but graded on a letter basis. Consent of instructor required . Projects sponsored by Mr. Goff, Mr. Scofield, Mr. Stinebring, Mr. Styer.
555. Research 2-6 hours
2-6NS
Projects for individual investigation. Interested students are encouraged to speak with faculty members about possible projects. Students in the Physics Honors program are required to enroll. Consent of instructor required . Projects sponsored by Mr. Goff, Mr. Scofield, Mr. Stinebring, Mr. Styer.
995. Private Reading 1-3 hours
1-3NS
Consent of instructor required . Projects sponsored by Mr. Goff, Mr. Scofield, Mr. Stinebring, Mr. Styer.

 

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