Relativity and Quanta -- Physics 200 -- Fall 2006

Lecturer: W. Unruh. 311B Hennings bldg (East side of bldg inside Rm 311).
Tel: 822 3273 FAX: 822 5324

Teaching Assistants and Markers:
Steven Conboy Henn 414--- 561-3626
Jianyang He Henn 265---822-3714
Donovan Young Henn 277--- 822-5096
Note, in Hennings, even numbered rooms are on the west side and odd on the east. (and 200 level rooms greater than 50 are on a hidden corridor accessible only to illuminated). There is no connection between even and odd on the fourth floor.

Re marking of assignments, each marker will initial the assignments they mark and please take up queries with the marker first. If that is not satisfactory, or if you have trouble getting in touch with the marker, then come to see me.

This course has tutorials to which each of you has registered. The tutorials will begin next week (week of Sept 11). They will be used both to do examples and to help you with questions you have.

Web Site:
(For Assignments, Solutions, extra notes, this blurb, etc.)

Text:The suggested reference book for the first half of the course is A French "Special Relativity". Some students last year found this book to be unhelpful, others found it useful.
E. Taylor and J.A.Wheeler "Spacetime Physics: Introduction to Special Relativity" is a supplementary book which has a different approach to the subject (much more a space-time geometric approach) which some students find helpful. It also has an extensive discussion on the various "paradoxes" of Special Relativity.

The text for the second half of the course is T. Jordan "Quantum Mechanics in Simple Matrix Form" which covers the material roughly in the way in which I do. This book is not entirely satisfactory (ie, I cover the material in a slightly different fashion) but it does a lot of the same things I do, where no other textbook I have found does.

Course Times: Lectures MWF 13:00 Hennings 200

Course components: (The mark distributions are approximate) I have not made the above mark distribution definite as I want freedom to be able to adjust marks to take into account hap stances of the year.

I expect everyone to pass, although offer no guarantees and my expectation has not been met in the past. If you put in the time to do the assignments and think about the material, you should pass, but this course will definitely require you to work and think, both because of the non-intuitive nature of the material and because you are physicists and that is what physicists do.

Purpose of the Course

The purpose of the course is to begin to think about what has been called "modern physics" (ie it is less than 100 years old), namely the fields of special relativity and quantum mechanics, the two outstanding accomplishments of the first quarter of the 20th century. Both require rather different styles of thought than you have been trained to use in the largely classical physics you have been taught until now.

Special Relativity brings out new ways of thinking about space and time, and your old training about the nature of both of these will at times get in your way. Part of the purpose of the course is to highlight these, looking for example at various paradoxes (well they are paradoxical only because of the clash between the conventional way you have thought about space and time since you were 5 years old, and the way the concepts are used in special relativity). There are new techniques you will need to learn, and old techniques (eg, energy and momentum conservation) that you will need to think about differently.

I will be teaching the quantum mechanics in a different way than it is often taught. Instead of an emphasis of on atoms and Schroedinger equations, I will be spending time examining the simplest of quantum systems, a so called two level system. Ie, the approach will be much closer to Heisenberg's development of the field than to Schroedinger's. While mathematically equivalent, the intuitions they develop differ, and I believe the Heisenberg approach to a less misleading one. I hope to get to both the Bell arguments that show that quantum systems are distinctly different from any classical systems, and also to the use of quantum systems is areas such as quantum communication.

By the end of the course I will expect you to be able to do non-trivial calculations in both of these areas, and to begin to think like a 20th (never mind 21st) century physicist.

My assignments and exams (Midterm and Final) tend to emphasis understanding over memorization. You will be applying the material you have learned to problems you may not have seen before.

Do not be afraid of asking questions, or of coming to talk after classes. My office hours are generally any time-- I usually get in 9:30 and leave after 5. If the load of random drop-ins becomes to heavy, these hours may get made more definite.

My own research covers both of these areas (being concerned with the quantum aspects of gravity and thus encompassing both fundamental aspects of both relativity and quantum mechanics). Of course knowing the subject and anticipating the questions and problems the students will have in understanding it are not necessarily the same thing, so we will both be teaching each other. I hope we both have fun with two of the most fascinating areas of physics, even though it will be hard work.

Working together, plagiarism, etc

As you presumably know by now, the university strongly frowns on plagiarism, copying other's work and other academic misconduct. This can result in penalties ranging from obtaining zero for the course to expulsion from the university. Don't do it. This includes copying another student's assignment.

That stated, I do not mind you working together on the problem sets, but each student must hand in their own work. Ie, once you have understood the material by discussing it together, you are to write up the answers in your own words. If I find that you have simply copied another students work, even if you worked together, both of you will be called in to explain, and both are likely to get 0 on that assignment.
No working together, or copying, or allowing others to copy your work is allowed on any test or exam.