course schedule you will notice that we have three separate units
on light. In each of those units we will describe the same thing,
light, three different ways. Don’t think that two of the models
are incorrect and the third is the correct one. All three in fact
do a fantastic job of describing certain aspects of light, but none
of them can adequately describe all features. The key is knowing
which of the models is most useful for a given situation. Also,
this shows how man-made models are, in fact, models for the real
object. Just as a paper airplane is a model of a much large &
complex object, our models of light are incomplete representations
of the real thing.
of what we will discuss this semester is non-intuitive. That’s
not to say that it is more complicated than any of the physics you’ve
already studied. It’s just that you have very little experience
moving at speeds above 107m/s or being less than 10-10m
tall. You know what happens to objects that move approximately 1m/s
or are 1m tall since that is your natural speed and size. This is
what Newton modeled for us and is known collectively as classical
mechanics. It turns out though that at fast speeds or very small
distances you need to use non-classical ("modern") physics.
very last unit, thermodynamics, returns us to where our physics
journey began- motion. In this nearly month-long unit we will discuss
the behavior of systems that have many moving particles, such as
atoms. While we have seen many of the key ideas before, such as
conservation of energy, we obviously missed some things. For example,
we never talked about the temperature increase when two objects
are rubbed together. You may have noticed that the objects get warmer
due to frictional heating, but just how much does the temperature
go up? To describe these large systems, we don’t want to try
and give the position and velocity of all 1023 particles.
Instead, we will rely on probabilities to say where most of the
particles are and what the average speed is.
By the end of this course students will …
… have improved their problem solving and critical thinking
skills through individually and group worked activities.
… be familiar with the fundamentals of physics, particularly
concepts and the meaning behind the equations and theorems.
… be familiar with the fundamentals of laboratory work including
data collection, error analysis, and presentation of results.
… ,in short, be prepared for future science and engineering
courses as well as life in the 21st century.
Thoughts About Understanding
thinking and understanding on a conceptual level are complex skills
that are not easily mastered, but are ones that can provide a lifetime
of benefits. There are a couple points that I’d like to mention.
does not come quickly or easily. Don’t give up if you don’t
know how to proceed when you first look at a problem. Keep at
does not equal understanding. Just knowing the names of something
or the equations, does not mean that you know what’s going
on. Names and equations are important, but they are not the end
goal, only on part of the bigger picture.