Physics 201- Introduction to Electricity & Magnetism
About the Course

 

 

 

 
 

 

             In this course we will examine one of the fundamental forces- electromagnetism (the others are gravity, strong and weak).  We say electromagnetism because we now know that electricity and magnetism are intimately related.  In fact, it would be best to say that they are really two forms of the same force.  Electricity and magnetism comprise such a large percentage of our daily lives.  Things like light bulbs, radios and computers clearly rely on the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism.  But, there are so many other examples of electricity and magnetism in our lives- chemical reactions (the attraction of one ion to another), light (the motion of electrical and magnetic fields), etc.  It is not much of a stretch to say that electromagnetism is the most relevant of the fundamental forces.
           We will be building up Maxwell's equations one at a time, assembling them until we have the complete set (chapters 22- 25 & 28- 31).  Much like in mechanics where Newton's Laws describe all of the phenomena, Maxwell's Equations (plus the Lorentz force equation) will completely describe any electrical and/ or magnetic phenomena.  There is one major difference between Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations- Newton's are only valid for some range of speeds and masses whereas Maxwell's equations are valid under all conditions.  (For a complete description of mechanics one needs quantum mechanics and general relativity.)
           Chapters 26- 27 & 32 present us with some of the circuit applications of electromagnetism.  Once you understand how resistors, capacitors and inductors function, you only need to add a tad of quantum mechanics to have understand all of today's circuits.  (Chapter 44 in the "modern physics" sections gives a wonderful overview of how the building blocks of digital circuits, diodes and transistors, function at the microscopic level.)
           One small warning to go with the sales pitch: Electromagnetism can be rather mathematical and abstract.  Typically students have difficulty "seeing" fields.  Unlike blocks and pulleys, fields seem to be disconnected from our everyday experience, but the truth is they are very real.  Think about gravity and its ability to perform an "action at a distance", this is one example of a field that we've already studied.  (There must be something which tells the book to fall down when it's let go.  This is the gravitational field; we can't see it, but it is very real.)
           One last part of this introduction- how the course will be taught.  The class will be taught in a "student-centered" style using various strategies designed to promote active engagement with the material.  Most of our class time will be spent asking and answering questions, doing demonstrations, and participating in group activities.  This design is not based on a whim, rather it stems from years of educational research by some rather smart people.
 
 
 
Tellme, I'll listen.
Show me, I'll believe.
Involve me, I'll learn.
                Native American Proverb
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
                     Chinese Proverb


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Jeff Phillips
phillips@lmu.edu
Loyola Marymount University
Fall 2002