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Re: Physics2000

For the past 5 years or so, we have been teaching Modern Physics as the
second semester of our three semester calculus based intro sequence. The
sequence is roughly Mechanics (with electric and magnetic forces),
Modern, and then E&M in the third semester. We have been reasonably
pleased with the outcome, but we have not seen a significant increase in
majors as a result (but then we haven't seen a decrease either!)

The first semester is mechanics, but with electric and magnetic forces
introduced in the list of forces that we work with. So we cover
Coulomb's Law and the concept of an electric field close alongside
gravitational force and field. (We get to display little g as the
gravitational field vector.) When we get to potential energy we include
electric potential energy and electric potential. (So we define and use
the gravitational potential.) We do electric current and show the
magnetic field due to simple current configurations. We get in a bit of
DC circuits here as well. The semester finishes with oscillations and an
introduction to travelling waves.

Second semester starts with two weeks of relativity. Then some
geometrical optics, then physical optics. Once we have interference we
can start quantum. The semester finishes with particles. The quantum
content is just above that of Tipler. We've experimented with Tipler and
Halliday, Resnick, and Krane extended edition as the text for the second

The third semester reprises relativity and then does E&M in full.

We had a couple of motivations for this. One was recognizing that the
math requirements for modern were less than the math requirements for
E&M. So we hope our students can actually do one dimensional integrals
before we expect them to do line and surface integrals. The second was
that we wanted freshmen to see the cool ideas of relativity and quantum
as an inducement to major.

A key is the ability to provide significant labs for all those students
in the second semester. Fortunately Kenyon has resources and we have
also received significant grants (ILI and Howard Hughes). Students do
X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, neutron activation, gamma ray
spectroscopy, Millikan, photoelectric effect, and atomic spectra labs,
as well as optics in that semester.

Tim Sullivan

SSHS KPHOX wrote: writes:
What is the feeling of Phys-L about basing first year university physics
twentieth century physics rather than classical physics?


I am very intriguied by the idea. I find my students are aware of and
interested in SR and QM. I just ordered the CD and am anxious to see how
he brings Classical concepts, which I still hold as important, into the
same playing field of 20th c. physics.

If it works, it is about time. (no pun intended)

Ken Fox
AP/IB Physics Teacher
Smoky Hill High School
Aurora, CO