Physics and Astronomy
Professors Ruff, Pribram, Semon, Wollman (chair), Smedley, and Lin; Assistant Professor Burko; Lecturer Clough
The study of physics, generally regarded as the most fundamental of the sciences, is an important part of a liberal education. Introductory courses in physics and astronomy are designed to give a student a broad background in the fundamentals of the discipline, an introduction to the logic and philosophy of science, and insight into the understanding and applications of contemporary physics and astrophysics. Advanced courses provide greater depth and sophistication as the student's background in physics and mathematics develops. Laboratory investigation, designed to accommodate each student's particular needs, provides direct experience of the central role that experimental research plays in the advancement of science. More information on physics and astronomy can be found on the Web site (www.bates.edu/PHYS.xml).
Cross-listed Courses. Note that unless otherwise specified, when a department/program references a course or unit in the department/program, it includes courses and units cross-listed with the department/program.
Major Requirements. A major program can be structured to meet the individual needs of students planning graduate study in physics or engineering, as well as those considering careers in business, teaching, government, law, or medicine. The requirement for a major is ten courses in physics, including the following eight, usually taken in this order: Physics 108 (or First-Year Seminar 274), 222, 211, 231, 301, 308, 409 or 412 or 422, and 457 or 458. The additional two courses must include one of the following: Physics s30, s32, or s45, or any physics course numbered 300 or higher. Physics 107, s25 or First-Year Seminar 314 may count toward the major requirement if taken prior to Physics 108. Only one semester of senior thesis may count toward satisfying the minimum ten-course requirement. To learn physics effectively, it is important that courses be taken in the recommended order and, if at all possible, with the recommended background. Nevertheless, prerequisites and corequisites can be waived in appropriate circumstances, especially in cases of incoming students with strong backgrounds. Students considering graduate study in physics or engineering should take Physics 409 and 422 as well as other courses numbered 300 or higher. In exceptional cases, a student who otherwise meets the nine-course requirement may petition the department to take a comprehensive examination in lieu of the senior thesis project.
Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.
Engineering. A student interested in using physics as a basis for an engineering career should inquire about the Bates dual-degree plans with Dartmouth, Rensselaer, Columbia, Washington University in St. Louis, or Case Western Reserve (see page 26 or consult the Web page, http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Physics/engineer.html). By careful planning at registration time, similar combination curricula may sometimes be designed with other engineering institutions. Students participating in a dual-degree program declare a major in engineering.
General Education. Department-designated general education sets must include at least one course or unit having a full laboratory component. Introductory laboratory courses and units which may be used as part of a set are Physics 103, 104, 107 (or s25 or First-Year Seminar 314), 108 (or First-Year Seminar 274), Astronomy 101, and Astronomy/Geology 110. Introductory non-laboratory courses and units which may be used as part of a set are Physics 105 and 106, 110, Astronomy 104, and Astronomy/Geology 115 and s23. Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or A-Level credit may satisfy the set requirement when combined with any of the laboratory courses listed above or may satisfy the third course requirement. A student may request that the department approve a two-course set not currently designated prior to enrolling in the courses. Introductory courses which may be used only as third courses are Interdisciplinary Studies 228, Astronomy s21, Astronomy/Geology s22, and Chemistry/Physics s28. The quantitative requirement may be satisfied through any course or unit listed below except Interdisciplinary Studies 228, Astronomy s21, and Astronomy/Geology s22.
ASTR 101. An Introduction to the Large Scale.Although Immanuel Kant proposed the existence of galaxies more than 200 years ago, most of what is known about galaxies has been learned in recent decades. Driving this sudden explosion of knowledge are the new technologies of radio, infrared, X-ray, and gamma-ray astronomy. This course explores the methods of contemporary astronomical research as they have been applied to the modern discovery of the galaxies. Laboratory exercises introduce various techniques of data acquisition in astronomy. Facilities include the Stephens Observatory 0.3-meter telescope, the planetarium, and portable telescopes. Enrollment limited to 64. Normally offered every year. E. Wollman.
ASTR 104. The Evolution of Cosmology.As long as there have been natural scientists, there have been efforts to comprehend the size, organization, and internal motions of the universe as a whole. The application of Einstein's general theory of relativity to these questions has yielded new and unexpected possibilities. This course traces essential developments in our understanding of the physical universe, with special attention to contemporary models. Enrollment limited to 64. Normally offered every year. E. Wollman.
AT/GE 110. Lunar and Planetary Science.An introduction to the solar system using the methods of physics and geology. The historical development of our understanding of planetary motion leads to the contemporary view of celestial mechanics essential to exploration by spacecraft. The composition, formation, and age of the solar system are examined, together with the physical processes involved in the development of planetary interiors and surfaces. Basic algebra and geometry are used throughout. Laboratory work emphasizes the principles of remote sensing and exploration technology. Nighttime telescope work is expected. Not open to students who have received credit for Geology 110 or Astronomy 110. Enrollment limited to 56. Normally offered every year. G. Clough.
Short Term Courses
AT/GE 115. Impacts and Mass Extinctions.What happens when a ten-kilometer rock, traveling at forty kilometers per second, hits the Earth? As the dinosaurs discovered sixty-five million years ago, it is not a pretty picture. Scientists now believe that such catastrophically violent collisions, apparently common in the past, are inevitable in the future as well. But impacts alone may not explain the mass extinction events that have shaped the history of life on Earth; global-scale volcanism and climate change are examples of more familiar processes. This course examines the role of impacts in the Earth's history and the heated debate regarding the causes of mass extinctions. Not open to students who have received credit for Geology 115 or Astronomy 115. Enrollment limited to 64. Offered with varying frequency. J. Creasy, E. Wollman.
ASTR s21. Planetarium Production.Since 1963, the College's Ladd Planetarium has been a resource for school and civic groups in the Lewiston-Auburn area. In this unit, students conceive, write, and produce planetarium shows for public presentation and educational outreach. Recommended background: one course in astronomy. Enrollment limited to 15. Normally offered every other year. E. Wollman.
AT/GE s22. The Exploration of Space.This unit is an intensive introduction to space exploration, emphasizing the science and technology upon which it is based. The unit is conducted as multiple parallel short courses, with topics including the mechanical engineering of spacecraft design, the mathematics of space navigation, the political history of space exploration, and the significance of exploration in the human experience. The unit makes extensive use of NASA data, films, and other materials. Recommended background: proficiency in high school algebra and trigonometry. Not open to students who have received credit for Geology s22 or Astronomy s22. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. Offered with varying frequency. G. Clough.
ASTR s23. Does E.T. Exist?: Life in the Universe.Few topics have captured our imagination as much as the following questions: How did life begin on Earth? What are the most extreme conditions under which life can exist? How likely is life beyond Earth? How can we find it if it does exist? This unit offers an introduction to the new science ofastrobiology—the study of life in the universe—which addresses these questions. A multidisciplinary discipline, astrobiology touches on concepts from a wide range of sciences, mostly astronomy and physics, but also geology, biology, chemistry, and cosmology. New course beginning Short Term 2005. Offered with varying frequency. Staff.
PHYS 103. Musical Acoustics.An introduction to the science of sound and the acoustics of musical instruments through the study of mechanical vibrations and waves. Concepts such as resonance, standing waves, and Fourier synthesis and analysis are developed and applied to theoretical and laboratory investigations of musical sound. Additional topics include hearing, psychoacoustics, and musical scales and harmony. No background in physics or mathematics beyond algebra is assumed. Demonstrations and laboratory exercises are integrated with class work. Enrollment limited to 72. Normally offered every other year. J. Smedley.
PHYS 104. Physics of Electronic Sound.An introduction to electromagnetism and electronics through the analysis of high fidelity sound recording and reproduction, as well as room acoustics. Demonstrations and laboratory exercises are integrated with class work. Enrollment limited to 64. Normally offered every other year. J. Smedley.
PHYS 105. Physics in Everyday Life.Designed for nonscience majors, this course introduces physics by studying objects in our everyday environment and the principles upon which they are based. Laws of motion, electric and magnetic forces, light and optics, and other physics topics are examined through the study of colored paints, cameras, microwave ovens, radios, televisions, telephones, photocopying machines, laser printers, electrostatic air filters, electric power generation and distribution, lasers, medical imaging, nuclear radiation, and nuclear bombs. Recommended background: high school algebra and geometry. Enrollment limited to 64. Offered with varying frequency. M. Semon.
PHYS 106. Energy and Environment.This course examines energy as a fundamental concept in physics and an essential element in the functioning of human society. Basic principles of energy conservation and transformation are developed in order to understand the different types of energy resources, how they are utilized, and resultant environmental consequences. No background in physics or mathematics beyond algebra is assumed. Enrollment limited to 72. Normally offered every other year. J. Smedley.
PHYS 107. Classical Physics.A calculus-based introduction to Newtonian mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and geometrical optics. Topics include kinematics and dynamics of motion, applications of Newton's laws, energy and momentum conservation, rotational motion, electric and magnetic fields and forces, electric circuits, the laws of reflection and refraction, and the theory of basic optical instruments. Laboratory investigations of these topics are computerized for data acquisition and analysis. Prerequisite(s) or corequisite(s): Mathematics 105. Not open to students who have received credit for First-Year Seminar 314. Enrollment limited to 72 per section. Normally offered every year. M. Semon.
PHYS 108. Modern Physics.This course applies the material covered in Physics 107 to a study of physical optics and modern physics, including the wave-particle duality of light and matter, quantum effects, special relativity, nuclear physics, and elementary particles. Laboratory work includes experiments such as the charge-to-mass ratio for electrons, the photoelectric effect, and electron diffraction. Prerequisite(s): Physics 107, s25 or First-Year Seminar 314. Not open to students who have received credit for First-Year Seminar 274. Enrollment limited to 72 per section. Normally offered every year. H. Lin.
PHYS 110. Physics, Culture, and Society: Liberal Arts Physics.This course presents science in general—and physics in particular—as a human endeavor in its philosophical, historical, and social contexts. Its main themes include scientific literacy and the scientific approach to knowledge: What is science? How is science different from nonscience or pseudoscience? The course also considers science's societal connection to our everyday life and the future of our planet through such topics as ozone depletion, global warming, energy resources and their rational use, alternative energy sources, and nuclear weapons. In the context of the course's themes, students discuss the classical theories of mechanics and electromagnetism, as well as our modern view of the universe including relativity and quantum mechanics. New course beginning Winter 2005. Offered with varying frequency. Staff.
PHYS 211. Newtonian Mechanics.A rigorous study of Newtonian mechanics. Beginning with Newton's laws, the concepts of energy, momentum, and angular momentum are developed and applied to gravitational, harmonic, and rigid-body motions. Prerequisite(s): Physics 107, s25, or First-Year Seminar 314, and Mathematics 106. Open to first-year students. Normally offered every year. G. Ruff.
PHYS 222. Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves.A detailed study of the basic concepts and fundamental experiments of electromagnetism. The development proceeds historically, culminating with Maxwell's equations. Topics include the electric and magnetic fields produced by charge and current distributions, forces and torques on such distributions in external fields, properties of dielectrics and magnetic materials, electromagnetic induction, and electromagnetic waves. Prerequisite(s): Physics 107, s25, or First-Year Seminar 314, and Mathematics 106. Open to first-year students. Normally offered every year. M. Semon.
INDS 228. Caring for Creation: Physics, Religion, and the Environment.This course considers scientific and religious accounts of the origin of the universe, examines the relations between these accounts, and explores the way they shape our deepest attitudes toward the natural world. Topics of discussion include the biblical creation stories, contemporary scientific cosmology, the interplay between these scientific and religious ideas, and the roles they both can play in forming a response to environmental problems. Cross-listed in environmental studies, physics, and religion. Not open to students who have received credit for Environmental Studies 228, Physics 228, or Religion 228. Enrollment limited to 40. Offered with varying frequency. J. Smedley, T. Tracy.
PHYS 231. Laboratory Physics I.Students perform selected experiments important in the development of contemporary physics. They also are introduced to the use of computers, electronic instruments, machine tools, and vacuum systems. Prerequisite(s): Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274, and Physics 211, 222, or s30. Enrollment limited to 12. Normally offered every semester. G. Ruff.
PHYS 232. Laboratory Physics II.For students with a special interest in experimental research, this course provides an opportunity for open-ended experiments and developmental projects. Prerequisite(s): Physics 231 and s30. Normally offered every semester. G. Ruff.
PHYS 301. Mathematical Methods of Physics.A study of selected mathematical techniques necessary for advanced work in physics and other sciences. The interpretation of functions as vectors in Hilbert space provides a unifying theme for developing Fourier analysis, special functions, methods for solving ordinary and partial differential equations, and techniques of vector calculus. These methods are applied to selected problems in acoustics, heat flow, electromagnetic fields, and classical and quantum mechanics. Prerequisite(s) or corequisite(s): Mathematics 206. Normally offered every year. M. Semon.
PHYS 308. Introductory Quantum Mechanics.An investigation of the basic principles of quantum mechanics in the Schrödinger representation and the application of these principles to tunneling, the harmonic oscillator, and the hydrogen atom. Basic theoretical concepts such as Hermitian operators, Ehrenfest's theorem, commutation relations, and uncertainty principles are developed as the course proceeds. Prerequisite(s): Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274, and Physics 211, and 301. Normally offered every year. H. Lin.
PHYS 315. Acoustics.A mathematical introduction to acoustics, including the vibration of strings, bars, plates, and membranes. The acoustic wave equation is developed and applied to reflection, transmission, radiation, and absorption of sound waves, as well as to the acoustics of pipes and resonators. Acoustical principles also are applied to musical instruments, the human voice, and environmental noise. Prerequisite(s): Physics 211 or 222, and 301. Normally offered every other year. J. Smedley.
PHYS 341. Solid State Physics.A study of crystal structures and the electronic properties of solids, together with an investigation of some active areas of research. Topics include crystal binding, X-ray diffraction, lattice vibrations, metals, insulators, semiconductors, electronic devices, superconductivity, and magnetism. Prerequisite(s): Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274, and Physics 301. Prerequisite or corequisite(s): Physics 222. Recommended background: Physics 308. Normally offered every other year. J. Pribram.
PHYS 360. Independent Study.Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study per semester. Normally offered every semester. Staff.
PHYS 361. Thermal Physics.The theory of equilibrium states is developed in a general way and applied to specific thermodynamic systems. The concepts of classical and quantum statistical mechanics are formulated. The ability to understand partial derivatives is expected. Prerequisite(s): Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274. Prerequisite(s) or corequisite(s): Mathematics 206, and Physics 211 or 222. Normally offered every other year. Staff.
PHYS 370. Einstein's Theory of General Relativity: An Introduction.Einstein's theory of general relativity is one of the two major revolutions in twentieth-century physics. It is the best theory that we have to explain gravitational phenomena and the fabric of space and time themselves. General relativity is becoming increasingly important for our understanding of the universe; in fact, no deep understanding of the universe can be gained without insights into the concept. General relativity is also often described as a beautiful and aesthetically elegant theory. This course provides an introduction to general relativity using a minimum of new mathematics. It focuses on applications of the theory, including gravitational collapse and black holes, gravitational waves, and cosmological models.
Prerequisite(s): Physics 222. New course beginning Winter 2005. Offered with varying frequency. Staff.
PHYS 373. Classical and Modern Optics.A general course on light treated as an electromagnetic wave, including the theory and operation of common optical instruments. A significant part of the course is devoted to topics in modern optics, such as the use of lasers and the nonlinear effects produced by intense light sources. Prerequisite(s): Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274, and Physics 222. Normally offered every other year. H. Lin.
PHYS 385. Electromagnetic Radiation and Cosmology.This course develops fundamentals of astrophysics through a study of modern physical cosmology, with special attention to the role of electromagnetic radiation as both agent in and informant about the universe. Specific topics include the dynamics and thermodynamics of cosmic expansion, early universe nucleosynthesis, the cosmic microwave background radiation, structure formation, and dark matter. Both standard and nonstandard models are considered. Prerequisite(s): Physics 211 and 222. Normally offered every other year. E. Wollman.
PHYS 409. Quantum Theory.A formal development of quantum theory using Dirac notation, including application to the two-dimensional harmonic oscillator and the hydrogen atom. The general theory of angular momentum and time-independent perturbation theory are developed and used to derive the fine and hyperfine structures of hydrogen; the Stark, Zeeman, and Paschen-Back effects; and the polarizability and electric dipole moments of simple atoms. Time-dependent perturbation theory is developed and applied to simple radiation problems. Prerequisite(s): Physics 308. Normally offered every year. J. Smedley.
PHYS 412. Advanced Classical Mechanics.A development of the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of classical mechanics, together with the ideas of symmetry and invariance and their relation to fundamental conservation laws. Additional topics include kinematics and dynamics in noninertial reference frames, a detailed analysis of rigid-body motion, and the theory of small oscillations and normal modes. Prerequisite(s): Physics 211 and 301. Normally offered every other year. M. Semon.
PHYS 422. Electromagnetic Theory.Starting from Maxwell's equations, this course develops electrostatics from solutions to Poisson's equation, magnetostatics using the vector potential, electrodynamics with scalar and vector potentials, and properties of electromagnetic waves. Simple radiation problems are discussed, as well as the relativistic formulation of electrodynamics. Prerequisite(s): Physics 222 and 301. Normally offered every year. J. Smedley.
PHYS 457. Senior Thesis.An independent study program for students working on a research problem in a field of interest, culminating in the writing of a senior thesis. Students register for Physics 457 in the fall semester and for Physics 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both Physics 457 and 458. Instructor permission is required. Normally offered every year. Staff.
PHYS 457, 458. Senior Thesis.An independent study program for students working on a research problem in a field of interest, culminating in the writing of a senior thesis. Students register for Physics 457 in the fall semester and for Physics 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both Physics 457 and 458. Instructor permission is required. Normally offered every year. Staff.
Short Term Courses
PHYS 458. Senior Thesis.An independent study program for students working on a research problem in a field of interest, culminating in the writing of a senior thesis. Students register for Physics 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both Physics 457 and 458. Instructor permission is required. Normally offered every year. Staff.
PHYS s25. Alternative Introduction to Physics.The study of physics is a creative and satisfying intellectual adventure shared by a relatively small number of people, most of whom are male. The instructors believe that by taking advantage of the Short Term schedule's flexibility, this experience can be made attractive to a more diverse group. Physics s25 is an alternative to Physics 107; it emphasizes student-directed laboratory exploration, classroom discussion, and collaboration. As a complementary activity, visiting middle school students may participate in laboratory investigations designed by the course participants. Ongoing group discussion of unit activities and procedures is aimed at creating a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. Students who are interested in physics but discouraged by negative perceptions of the field are especially encouraged to enroll. Recommended background: Mathematics 105 or high school calculus. Open to first-year students, to whom preference is given. Not open to students who have received credit for Physics 107 or First-Year Seminar 314. Enrollment limited to 16. Normally offered every year. H. Lin.
CH/PH s28. Digital Signals.Digitized signals are playing an increasing role in scientific measurements, telecommunications, and consumer electronics. While it is often claimed that "the future is digital," there are trade-offs and limitations associated with any signal processing technique. This unit exposes students to the realities of analog and digital data acquisition, basic forms of signal processing, and their application to scientific measurements and to consumer electronics, including audio. Hands-on experience is gained by constructing simple electronic circuits and creating signal acquisition and manipulation software. No previous electronics or computer programming experience is necessary. Recommended background: Mathematics 105. Not open to students who have received credit for Chemistry s28 or Physics s28. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 15. Offered with varying frequency. M. Côté.
PHYS s30. Electronics.A laboratory-oriented study of the basic principles and characteristics of semiconductor devices and their applications in circuits and instruments found in a research laboratory. Both analog and digital systems are included. Prerequisite(s): Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274. Enrollment limited to 12. Normally offered every year. G. Ruff.
PHYS s32. Physics and the Calculus of Variations.This unit begins by developing the calculus of variations and applying it to problems it was invented to solve (e.g., finding paths of least distance and surfaces of minimum area). It then uses the calculus of variations to derive classical mechanics from Hamilton's Principle (that systems evolve in the way that minimizes the difference between their potential and kinetic energies), and geometrical optics from Fermat's Principle (that light follows the path of least time). The unit ends by studying the role of variational principles in current theories of particles and fields. Prerequisite(s): Mathematics 206. Recommended background: Physics 301. Offered with varying frequency. M. Semon.
PHYS s33. Engineering Physics.An investigation of topics in applied physics that are fundamental to the fields of mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Topics include statics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and electrical networks. Prerequisite(s): Physics 107, s25, or First-Year Seminar 314, and Mathematics 106. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 20. Offered with varying frequency. Staff.
PHYS s45. Seminar in Theoretical Physics.An intensive investigation into a contemporary field of physics. Special topics vary from year to year. Areas of investigation have included general relativity, relativistic quantum mechanics, the quantum theory of scattering, quantum optics, and variational methods and principles. Offered with varying frequency. M. Semon.
PHYS s50. Independent Study.Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study during a Short Term. Normally offered every year. Staff.