Physics 241 Spring 2014 Home Page



Introduction to Modern Physics



    Science is an adventure of the whole human race to learn to live in

    and perhaps to love the universe in which they are. To be a part of

    it is to understand, to understand oneself, to begin to feel that

    there is a capacity within man, far beyond what he felt he had, of

    an infinite extension of human possibilities.


    I.I. Rabi in G. Holton, F.J. Rutherford, F. Watson, _Project Physics

    Course_, Hot, Reinhart & Winston, New York (1970,1981), preface.


Physics 241 provides an overview of the modern physics for students of

Science with 2 semesters of university physics.



Contact information:


    Prof. Duncan Carlsmith, 4285

    Chamberlin, 262-2485,


    Office Hours: MWF after class or by appointment



Questions about accessibility to Physics 241 web materials should be directed

to Professor Carlsmith.




Course information:


General information: This course comprises lectures, discussions, online research activities, and some writing. It covers conceptually difficult subjects including relativity, quantum physics, and cosmology and will challenge you to think in new ways, while building some soft skills.


Text: The text "Modern Physics" by Paul A. Tipler and Ralph A. Llewellyn, 6th Edition, W.H. Freeman and Co, ISBN-13: 978-1-4292-5078-8 is available at the University Bookstore and through online sources. The 5th edition is similar in content but the required exercise problems are not entirely the same. The 5th may be less expensive but you will be responsible for finding the assigned problem statements. The student solutions manual is recommended but optional.


Topics and assignment schedule: Please see detailed syllabus available at and at the LEARN@UW Physics 241 course website.


Lectures: Lecture attendance is required. Lectures will review material in the text, provide some worked examples, and demonstrate some physical phenomena. Do not be shy about asking and answering questions during lecture. When called upon or when asking a question, please state your full name to assist the instructor and classmates in getting to know you.


Exams: Two 50-minute exams will be offered in discussion section (26 Feb and 2 Apr) and a 3rd exam will be offered 13 May at a location to be determined. Be sure you can make all of the discussion section meetings and all of the exam times. If you are unable to do so, you should drop the class. Exams will be graded on a scale of 100 points and will comprise several conceptual short answer questions and select problems similar to the exercises and examples found in the text.


Homework: Exercises (generally 8 problems per week) from the text are assigned on the syllabus and will be due at the end of the discussion section. Some of these problems are straightforward applications/illustrations of material in the text. Others are challenging and may require some web research. Prepare a legible neat derivation of your solution of each assigned problem demonstrating your understanding. Use words to explain the problem and the steps in your solution. A 2nd draft is recommended. Numerical answers will generally be found in the back of the text. No credit will be given for a numerical answer alone. While you are encouraged to seek advice in and outside of class, do not plagiarize. You must show that you have independently worked and understood the problem. Use only 8.5*11 inch paper and place your name and student ID number atop EACH page. Staple your solution sheets together. Paper clips or other fasteners are not acceptable. Prepare solutions prior to discussion in pencil. You will have opportunities to work with other students during discussion to hone them. It is recommended that you bring your own stapler to discussion. Homework will be graded with a scale of 5 points per problem. Do not fall behind on completing the exercises. They are essential preparation for the exams and an important component of your grade. Working additional problems is strongly recommended.


Social bookmarking: A social bookmarking activity will be conducted online. This activity will provide an introduction to topical news and developments in physics. Instructions for joining the private group and for conducting library research in science will be provided in class. In alternate weeks, you will post a link to a published paper (a link to a science news article that you have discovered may be included), on a subject pertinent to the material covered in that week and in the previous week. Before you post, check that the content has not already been posted by another participant. In addition, you will include in your post a 1-2 paragraph summary and reflection comment that may excite other participants. In intervening weeks, you will read and provide a reflective comment on 5 posts by other students. Examples will be provided of acceptable information and comments and the grading rubric. Extra points may be allotted in proportion to the number of comments received on your posts. These posts and reflections are due by Friday midnight on the weeks indicated in the syllabus.


Discussion: Discussion sections will take place in a new collaborative learning environment in 3425 (or 2301) Sterling Hall. This space provides pods for student interaction, each pod hosting an electronic display and a mobile white board. About half of some discussion periods will be devoted to tutorials in library research, social bookmarking research, and other matters. Students will work in groups on problems and present their solutions to the class. Some of these problems will be assigned exercises and some not. Time will be reserved for students to discuss and hone the exercise solutions they have prepared to hand in.


Laptop: Bring a laptop or tablet to each discussion. You must purchase and bring your own dongle/connector to share your device display onto the pod display. The dongle will serve you well outside this class in presentations. An HDMI digital connection (preferred) and VGA connection are available.


Paper: A 4-page single-spaced paper on a topic covered in the last ten years of the "Physics Today" ( is required. This paper should introduce the topic and refer to and cite at least three published journal articles (not blogs or magazines). It must be prepared in LaTEX format and delivered as a pdf file electronically to the LEARN@UW dropbox one week before the last class day. It will be graded on the equivalent of a letter-grade basis including content, understanding, and execution. Instructions for learning LaTex will be provided in discussion section. LaTex is the default method of document creation in physics. Students are encouraged to visit the UW writing center and cultivate classmates to improve their papers.


Grade: The components of your grade are Exam 1 (20%), Exam 2 (20%), Exam 3 (20%), Homework exercises (20%), Bookmarking (5%), and Paper (5%).


LEARN@UW: At the LEARN@UW Physics241 website, you may access your grades on an item by item basis, the course information and syllabus, lecture slides, the dropbox, and homework solutions. You may consult the instructor via video conferencing and consult other students via Piazza. Piazza is an interactive, student-driven online service for managing questions and answers in both online and face-to-face classes. Piazza gives students a class space to ask and help answer course-related questions in a timely manner outside of class. Students can collaboratively work on answers by adding, modifying, or deleting content. Instructors can view students' questions and answers, post their own questions and answers, and endorse the best responses.





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