Physics 340- Spring 2018
From Atoms to the universe
The Course structure and content
Tutorials There will be "problem solving" tutorials where you can
come to ask questions about the material in the course. The time and place
is to be determined to maximize your ability to come to it, and my
The time will be arranged to be of maximal convenience to you and me.
Note: I send emails to the class via the registrar's email lists for
this course. Please make sure that you have registered your email with the
Unfortunately some service providers see this as an indication that this
is spam and dumps the mail into a junk, or spam, or other labelled
folder. I do not know how to get around this as I do not want to give
everyone everyone else's email, I do not want to enter all 50 separate
email addresses as separate emails, but I want people to get them.
Please remember to look into your junk/spam/... folder as well if you do not
get the emails for this class.
This course will start with three historical strands.
Astronomy: From the Greeks to the Kepler-- This was largely a descriptive
process, in which the physicists were trying to understand the heavens and the
motions of the heavens by using some elementary principles which they believed
underlay motion in the heavens. From the early Greeks, through Hipparchus,
Ptolemy, to Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Kepler, an astonishingly accurate
description of the motion of the heavens was developed.
Harmony: In a totally different area, the question "Why do some notes
sound good together and some uncomfortable? exercised the minds of some of the
worlds top physicists. From Pythagoras, to Kepler, this question drove
development of mathematics, of experiment and theories. It was only in the
19th century that the question received a satisfactory understanding and
turned out rely on on an intimate combination of Physics, Physiology and brain
Dynamics: Why do things move. From Aristotle to Newton this question was a
dominant strand in physics. With Newton, it finally achieved the form which
still is with us today. This part will include Newton's theory of gravity
which finally gave the answer as to how the heavens moved.
Relativity and Einstein's revolution:. The beginning of the 20th century
saw a major break with the Newtonian paradigm and in no place more so that in
the understanding of what gravity is, largely driven by the kind of
speculative thought displayed in Greek thought. This revolution altered not
only our thoughts of what gravity is, but also what time and space are.
Quantum Revolution: If there is time, I will also go into a brief introduction to the Quantum
revolution which also took place in the early 20th century. Introducing
probability as a fundamental aspect of physics, and of the world, this is a
theory which still puzzles physicists with its counter-intuitive picture of the