Physics and Astronomy

Professors Semon, Wollman, Smedley (chair), and Lin; Assistant Professors Childress and Lundblad; Lecturer Clough


Physics, the study of space, time, matter, and energy, is a fundamental component of a liberal education. Introductory courses in physics and astronomy are designed to give students 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).

Major Requirements. The major in physics 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 be selected from the following: Physics 107 (only if taken prior to 108), 214, 216, 225, 232, s30, or any physics course numbered 300 or higher. 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 ten-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, www.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 Information for the Class of 2010. Department-designated General Education sets must include at least one course having a full laboratory component. Introductory laboratory courses that may be used as part of a set are Physics 103, 104, 107, 108 (or First-Year Seminar 274), Astronomy 101, and Astronomy/Geology 110. Introductory nonlaboratory courses that may be used as part of a set are Physics 105, 106, and s26, Astronomy 104, and Astronomy/Geology 115. 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 that may be used only as third courses are Interdisciplinary Studies 228, Chemistry/Physics s28, First-Year Seminar 084, and First-Year Seminar 340. The quantitative requirement may be satisfied through any course listed below except Interdisciplinary Studies 228.

Astronomy
Courses
ASTR 101. The Milky Way Galaxy.Not until the first half of the twentieth century did astronomers arrive at a reliable understanding of the enormity and overall structure of the Milky Way Galaxy. In more recent decades, observations of electromagnetic radiation across the spectrum from radio waves to gamma rays have revealed galactic features and phenomena that were not even imagined a century ago. This course explores the history of the discovery of our galaxy, from the invention of the telescope to the modern era of Earth-orbiting observatories. Enrollment limited to 64. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every year. E. Wollman.
Concentrations
ASTR 104. Cosmology in the Twentieth Century.The twentieth century saw the emergence of a coherent scientific understanding of the physical universe as a whole. According to this understanding, the universe has evolved from a hot, dense, and rapidly expanding soup of elementary particles into the system of galaxies we see today. But the picture is not complete, and topping the list of unresolved puzzles is the identity of the so-called dark matter. We cannot see the dark matter (hence its name), but we do measure its gravitational influences on matter we can see. The disconcerting conclusion is that there is much more dark matter than visible matter. This course examines the development of modern cosmology, with attention to both that which seems to be well-understood and that which is not yet understood. Enrollment limited to 64. [S] [Q] Normally offered every year. E. Wollman.
Concentrations
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. Enrollment limited to 56. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every year. G. Clough.
Concentrations
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. Enrollment limited to 64. [S] [Q] E. Wollman.
Concentrations
Physics
Courses
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. Laboratory work, problem solving, and simulations are intergrated into class activities. Enrollment limited to 72. [S] [L] [Q] J. Smedley.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] M. Semon.
Concentrations
PHYS 106. Energy and Environment.This course examines energy as a fundamental concept in physics and an essential element of human society. Basic principles of energy conservation and transformation are developed in order to understand sustainable and nonsustainable energy resources, how they are utilized, and their environmental impacts. No background in physics or mathematics beyond algebra is assumed. Not open to students who have received credit for Chemistry 105. Enrollment limited to 72. [S] [Q] J. Smedley.
ConcentrationsInterdisciplinary Programs

This course counts toward the following Interdisciplinary Program(s)

PHYS 107. Classical Physics.A calculus-based introduction to Newtonian mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Topics include kinematics and dynamics of motion, applications of Newton's laws, energy and momentum conservation, rotational motion, electric and magnetic fields and forces, and electric circuits. 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 Seminars 314. Enrollment limited to 72 per section. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every year. M. Semon.
Concentrations
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: Physics 107. Not open to students who have received credit for First-Year Seminars 274. Enrollment limited to 72 per section. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every year. L. Childress.
Concentrations
PHYS 112. Physics of Sports.Concepts in Newtonian mechanics are developed through the study of motions associated with a wide range of sports activities. Experiments, problem solving, and computer work are integrated into each class meeting. Enrollment limited to 24. [S] [L] [Q] J. Smedley.
Concentrations
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 or First-Year Seminar 314, Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274, and Mathematics 106. Open to first-year students. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every year. H. Lin.
Concentrations
PHYS 214. Renewable Energy.Renewable energy sources, including solar, gravitational, and geothermal energy, are considered essential to the pursuit of a sustainable future for technological society. This course focuses on the physics of renewable energy, with some attention to problems inhibiting its development. Prerequisite(s): Mathematics 106 and Physics 108. [S] [Q] J. Smedley.
Concentrations
PHYS 216. Scientific Computing and Numerical Analysis.Computing touches every area of physics, from experimental data acquisition and analysis to theoretical predictions. This course provides an introduction to computing and programming with an emphasis on scientific applications. Students learn functional and object-oriented programming, how to use mathematical computing software, and scientific typesetting. Prerequisite(s): Mathematics 106, Physics 107 or First-Year Seminar 314, and Physics 108 or First-Year Seminar 274. Enrollment limited to 20. [S] [Q] Staff.
Concentrations
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): Mathematics 106 and one of the following: Physics 107, First-Year Seminar 274 or 314. Open to first-year students. [S] [Q] Normally offered every year. H. Lin.
Concentrations
PHYS 225. The Physics of Fluids.We are surrounded by fluids, inside and out, and their properties govern much of our everyday experience. As a consequence, the study of fluids underlies a broad spectrum of scientific inquiry ranging from organismic locomotion to meteorology. This course examines fluids and fluid flow, emphasizing the relation between conceptual and simple mathematical descriptions of fluid phenomena. Fundamental topics including viscosity, surface tension, buoyancy, lift, and drag are complemented by applications from engineering, biology, and geophysics. These concepts provide the framework for students to explore a topic of their choice in a final project. Prerequisite(s): Mathematics 106 and Physics 107 or First-Year Seminar 314. Recommended background: Mathematics 206. [Q] L. Childress.
Concentrations
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 religious studies. Enrollment limited to 40. [S] J. Smedley, T. Tracy.
ConcentrationsInterdisciplinary Programs

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

This course counts toward the following Interdisciplinary Program(s)

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. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every semester. H. Lin.
Concentrations
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. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every semester. H. Lin.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] Normally offered every year. E. Wollman.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] Normally offered every year. L. Childress.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] L. Childress.
Concentrations
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.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] Staff.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] H. Lin.
Concentrations
PHYS 381. Astrophysics.This course investigates the physics of astronomical phenomena and the instruments and techniques with which these phenomena are studied. Topics, which vary from year to year, include stellar structure and evolution, the interstellar medium, galaxies and galaxy clusters, dark matter, cosmic background radiation, and physical cosmology. Prerequisite(s): Physics 211, 222, and 301. Not open to students who have received credit for Astronomy 381. [S] [Q] E. Wollman.
Concentrations
PHYS 409. Quantum Theory.A formal treatment of quantum theory using Dirac notation, including an introduction to approximation methods and applications. The general theory of angular momentum and time-independent perturbation theory are developed and used to derive the fine and hyperfine structures of hydrogen. Additioinal topics may include quantum statistis, quantum dynamics, and time-dependent perturbation theory. Prerequisite(s): Physics 308. [S] [Q] Normally offered every year. M. Semon.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] Staff.
Concentrations
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. [S] [Q] Normally offered every year. N. Lundblad.
Concentrations
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. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff.
Concentrations
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. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff.
Concentrations
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. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff.
Concentrations
Short Term Courses
PHYS s26. Imaging Details: The Quest for Resolution.Since the beginning of the seventeenth century, when lenses were first combined to magnify, the yearning to see beyond the limits of our eyes has yielded steady advances in imaging capabilities. In the twentieth century exotic imaging systems emerged such as the electron microscope, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and the scanning tunneling microscope. These systems rely on quantum effects; conventional optical lenses play no part in how they work. This hands-on course investigates a few of the most important conventional and exotic imaging systems, with special attention to the quest to resolve ever-finer details. Enrollment limited to 16. [S] [Q] E. Wollman.
Concentrations
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 course 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. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 15. [Q] M. Côté.
Concentrations
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. [S] [L] [Q] Normally offered every year. L. Childress, N. Lundblad.
Concentrations
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.
Concentrations