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Re: Physics2000

Larry Smith wrote:

What is the feeling of Phys-L about basing first year university physics on
twentieth century physics rather than classical physics?

I would not want to try "basing" the first year on 20th century physics
because you give up the opportunity to use the accessible macro world
for examples, demos, and labs. Atoms are a pretty abstract place to

On the other hand, it would be great to "include" more modern physics
ideas within the standard curriculum. But this is tough. Do we start
with Schroedinger? If we decide that Schroedinger is not the place to
start, do we include concepts like energy quantization? How do you
motivate energy quantization appropos of nothing?

Just consider the hydrogen atom for starters. Do you really want to
teach Coulomb's law in the context of Schroedinger's equation? How can
students understand potential if they haven't learned about force?

My own opinion is that we still start with Newtonian mechanics for a
reason. If _we_ are not bored teaching it, why should our students find
it boring? If we can be excited about Newton as we teach that, and at
the same time point out all the places Newtonian mechanics breaks down
and all the neat stuff they'll learn in the next course, or the one
after that, maybe that is good enough.