Physics Courses

Phys102 - Introduction to Astronomy (with lab)

People of every time and culture have studied the skies, named the arrangements of stars and used the apparent motions of the sun and moon to mark time. This course, designed for the non-scientist, surveys the known contents of the universe and explores the dynamic natures of celestial objects through study of their motions, interactions and evolutions. To foster appreciation for the methods of science, naked-eye observations are required of each student and attention is given to Western culture’s slow path toward understanding the cosmos and our place within it. Physics 102 is taught in studio format; lectures are combined with laboratory experiences, fostering interaction among the students and instructor. Major credit restricted.

Phys103 - College Physics (with lab 1.25 units)

This course is the first of a two-semester sequence designed to provide a general survey of physics.  It emphasizes the relationship between basic physical principles and observations, both in the laboratory and in everyday events around us.  It covers topics in mechanics and wave phenomena.  The mathematical level of presentation assumes elementary algebra and basic trigonometry.  While it serves as the appropriate physics course for students in the life sciences, it is designed to be accessible to all who have an interest in the subject.  There is one laboratory period per week in addition to classwork.  Offered Fall semester only.

Phys104 - College Physics (with lab 1.25 units)

This course is the second of a two-semester sequence designed to provide a general survey of physics.  It emphasizes the relationship between basic physical principles and observations, both in the laboratory and in everyday events around us.  It covers topics in electricity and magnetism and modern physics.  The mathematical level of presentation assumes elementary algebra and basic trigonometry.  While it serves as the appropriate physics course for students in the life sciences, it is designed to be accessible to all who have an interest in the subject.  There is one laboratory period per week in addition to classwork.  Prerequisite: PHYS 103 or 151.  Offered Spring semester only.

Phys105 - Energy

This course covers the nature of energy, its application in modern society and a variety of issues associated with that use. We will study the physical principles of mechanical, thermal, electrical, optical and nuclear energy in order to better understand the role of energy in society, focusing on fossil fuels, electric power plants, automobiles, global warming, the ozone layer and energy conservation, as well as nuclear, solar and other power sources. This course makes extensive use of elementary algebra and scientific notation. Major credit restricted.. Also offered as ENVS 105.

Phys110 - The Scientific Revolution

This course covers the development of scientific thought in the period 1500 to 1725. It examines changing views of nature in the fields of anatomy and physiology, astronomy and physics. Although the primary focus is on specific scientific developments, they are discussed in the context of concurrent social, economic and religious changes. Major credit restricted. Also offered as HIST 110 and through European Studies.

Phys112 - Global Climate

Climate is perhaps the single most important and pervasive factor controlling global ecosystems and human well-being. This interdisciplinary course examines global climate from a historical perspective, beginning with the formation of the solar system and continuing through geologic time to the present. Topics include the development of the atmosphere; the workings of the global heat engine of atmosphere, oceans and continents; evidence for past climate change; causes of global climate change; the effects of climate change on human evolution; and the effects of human evolution on the global climate system. This is a studio lab course. Major credit restricted.  Also offered as ENVS 112 and GEOL 112.

Phys151 - University Physics (with lab 1.25 units)

This course is the first of a two-semester sequence organized according to the major unifying principles of physics.  It is a general study of conservation laws, Newtonian dynamics, and special relativity.  The material is presented at the level of elementary calculus.  There is one laboratory period per week in addition to classwork.  These courses are recommended for all students majoring in the physical sciences or completing the 3+2 engineering program.  Co-requisite: MATH 135.  Offered Fall semester only.

Phys152 - University Physics (with lab 1.25 units)

This course is the second of a two-semester sequence organized according to the major unifying principles of physics.  It is a general study of electricity and magnetism, thermal and statistical physics, and the quantum nature of light and matter.  The material is presented at the level of elementary calculus.  There is one laboratory period per week in addition to classwork.  These courses are recommended for all students majoring in the physical sciences or completing the 3+2 engineering program.  A grade of 2.0 or higher in this course is required as a prerequisite for enrollment in PHYS 221.  Co-requisite: MATH 136.  Prerequisite: PHYS 103 or 151.  Offered Spring semester only.

Phys221 - Modern Physics (with lab 1.25 units)

This course is the first of a two-semester sequence providing a systematic study of the ideas and discoveries that transformed physics in the twentieth century.  Topics in this course include special relativity, atomic structure, the wave-particle duality, and basic quantum mechanics.  There is one laboratory per week in addition to classwork.  Prerequisites: MATH 136 and a grade of 2.0 or higher in PHYS 104 or 152.  Offered Fall semester only.

Phys222 - Modern Physics  (with lab 1.25 units)

This course is the second of a two-semester sequence providing a systematic study of the ideas and discoveries that transformed physics in the twentieth century.  Topics in this course include the quantum mechanical model of hydrogen, statistical mechanics, and applications such as solid-state physics, nuclear structure and reactions, and elementary particles.  There is one laboratory per week in addition to classwork.  Prerequisites: MATH 205 and a grade of 2.0 or higher in PHYS 221.  Offered Spring semester only.

Phys307 - Classical Mechanics

The principles of Newtonian mechanics at the intermediate level; topics include the dynamics of particles and rigid bodies, resonance, rotating reference frames, planetary motion, wave motion and Lagrange’s equations. Prerequisites: PHYS 152, MATH 205.

Phys308 - Electricity and Magnetism

This course is the study of electricity and magnetism leading to Maxwell’s equations and physical optics. Prerequisites: PHYS 152, PHYS/MATH 333 or permission of instructor.

Phys311 - Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Science

In this course, we examine a few of the major scientific developments of the 19th and 20th centuries in some detail. Topics include evolution, genetics and a synthesis of the two; the wave theory of light; the discovery of the atomic and nuclear structure of matter; and the Manhattan Project. We also examine the various ways historians of science construct the stories they write as well as some of the historiographic issues they face. Also offered as HIST 311 and through European Studies.

Phys317 - Instrumentation Lab (0.5 unit)

This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of instrumentation used in the physics lab. Computer techniques for acquiring data and controlling experiments are taught. A primary goal of this lab is to foster a spirit of independence in the student researcher. Each student must complete an independent project. Co-requisite: PHYS 307 or permission of instructor.

Phys318 - Electronics Lab (0.5 unit)

This course is designed to teach basic electronics. Students learn enough in this course to put together simple circuits such as voltage dividers, filters and amplifiers. A primary goal of this lab is to foster a spirit of independence in the student researcher. Each student must complete an independent project. Prerequisites: PHYS 152 and MATH 136.

Phys333 - Mathematical Methods of Physics

Solving important problems in the physical sciences and engineering often require powerful mathematical methods. This course provides an introduction to these methods, and emphasizes their application to problems drawn from diverse areas of classical and modern physics. Some representative topics include the theorems of Gauss and Stokes; Fourier series; and selected techniques from the theory of ordinary and partial differential equations. The course also introduces students to Mathematica as an aid in visualization and problem-solving.  Prerequisites: PHYS 152, MATH 205. Also offered as MATH 333.

Phys401, 402 - Quantum Mechanics

Intended for physics majors preparing for graduate study in physics and closely related areas, this course applies methods of advanced analysis to quantum mechanics and other topics. Prerequisite: PHYS 307, 308 or permission of the department.

Phys403, 404 - Topics in Advanced Physics

Seminars, projects or participation in faculty research designed to meet individual needs of advanced students. Offered on demand. Prerequisite: PHYS 307, 308 or permission of the department.

Phys451, 452, 453, 454 - Seminar in Contemporary Physics (0.5 unit each)

A weekly seminar in which students and faculty present reports derived from the physics literature on current research in physics. Representative topics are solar neutrinos, high-temperature superconductivity, the search for gravity waves and quantum chaos. Students are introduced to physics literature and databases. Students will assemble a comprehensive literature review and research project proposal on a topic of their choice to be presented to the department at the end of the semester. Second semester juniors can use this course as an opportunity to select their senior research project. Up to four semesters of enrollment are permitted, at one-half course unit per semester. Prerequisite: PHYS 222 or permission of the instructor.

Phys489, 490, 498, 499 - SYE: Advanced Laboratory

This course for physics majors consists of an individual project selected from an area of common interest between the student and one faculty member. A written report of the project is defended at an oral presentation. PHYS 498 and 499 are the honors versions of this course. Prerequisites or co-requisites: PHYS 308, 317 and 318, or permission of the department.