about the course

         You’ve studied normal forces already, but what’s behind them? Ever wonder how the parts inside your computer (hard drives, processors, etc.) function? How does your eye focus and process images? These are just a few of the questions that we will be able to address this semester. While you’ve already studied an enormous amount of physics, there is even more to be studied. In fact, this yet-to-be-studied material is key to our daily lives and the structure of the universe.
        There are four main parts to our journey- electricity, magnetism, optics and modern physics (relativity and quantum physics). We will study each part separately, as well as see how they are connected. First, we will study charged particles and their interactions (chapters 17 & 18). Then we will look at moving charges, or current, which has all sorts of applications in circuits and electronics (chapters 19 & 20).
        Interestingly enough, moving charges not only turn on light bulbs and power our stereos, they also are responsible for creating magnetic fields (chapter 21). We’ll spend some time studying how magnetic fields are created and how they interact with other charges. Chapter 22 presents us with a new wrinkle in this electricity- magnetism connection. If we allow the magnetic system to change in time, we can create an electric field. This interplay between electricity and magnetism continues with light (chapter 23).
        We’ll spend a portion of our time studying light and its properties (chapters 24- 26). From here we’ll extend our ideas to atoms and other small particles which aren’t as different from light as you might assume (chapters 28 & 29). Along the way we’ll also study what would happen if you were to find yourself on a train traveling at 2 x 108 m/s (chapter 27).
        One small warning to go with the sales pitch: electricity and magnetism can be a bit 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.

 

Tell me, 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