Course Descriptions

Phys 102: Introduction to Astronomy (with Lab)   
  • People of every time and culture have studied the skies, named the arrangements of stars and used the apparent motions of the sun and moon to mark time. This course, designed for the non-scientist, surveys the known contents of the universe with the objective of giving the student familiarity with them. The dynamic natures of celestial objects are also explored by study of their motions, interactions and evolutions. To foster appreciation for the methods of science, attention is given to western culture's slow path toward understanding the cosmos and our place within it. This course is taught in studio format; lectures are combined with laboratory experiences, fostering interaction among the students and instructor. Major credit restricted.
Phys 103, 104: College Physics I & II   
  • This course is designed to provide a general survey of physics. It emphasizes the relationship between basic physical principles and observations, both in the laboratory and in everyday events around us. It covers topics in mechanics, wave phenomena, electricity and magnetism, and modern physics. The mathematical level of presentation assumes elementary algebra and basic trigonometry. While it serves as the appropriate physics course for students in the life sciences, it is designed to be accessible to all who have an interest in the subject. There is one laboratory period per week in addition to class work.
Phys 105, 107: Energy   
  • This course explores the nature of energy, its application in modern society and a variety of issues associated with that use. The course covers the physical principles of energy, particularly of electrical energy, electromagnetic (optical) energy, nuclear energy and thermodynamics. We discuss the role of energy in society, fossil fuels, electric power plants, automobiles, global warming and the ozone layer and energy conservation; other topics may include nuclear, solar and other sources of energy. This course makes extensive use of elementary algebra and scientific notation. Physics 107 has a lab component; 105 is taught in a lecture format with shorter integrated lab activities. One of these courses is typically offered every other year. Also offered as Environmental Studies 105, 107.
Phys 110: The Scientific Revolution   
  • This course covers the development of scientific thought in the period 1500 to 1725. It examines the changing views of nature in the fields of anatomy and physiology, astronomy, and physics. Although the primary focus is on specific scientific developments, they are discussed with the context of concurrent social, economic and religious changes. Major credit restricted. Also offered as History 110 and through European Studies.
Phys 112: Global Climate   
  • Climate is perhaps the single most important and pervasive factor controlling global ecosystems and human well-being. This interdisciplinary course examines global climate from an historical perspective, beginning with the formation of the solar system and continuing through geologic time to the present. Topics covered include the development of the atmosphere; the workings of the global "heat engine" of atmosphere, oceans, and continents; evidence for past climate change; causes of global climate change; the effects of climate change on human evolution, and the effects of human evolution on the global climate system. This is a studio lab course. Also offered as Geology 112 and Environmental Studies 112.
Phys 151, 152: University Physics   
  • Organized according to the major unifying principles of physics, University Physics is a general study of conservation laws, Newtonian dynamics, special relativity, electricity and magnetism, thermal and statistical physics and the quantum nature of light and matter. The material is presented at the level of elementary calculus. There is one laboratory period per week in addition to class work. These courses are recommended for all students majoring in the physical sciences or completing the 3+2 engineering program. Corequisite: Math 135 (Calculus I), 136 (Calculus II).
Phys 221, 222: Modern Physics   
  • A systematic study of the new ideas and discoveries that have transformed physics in the 20th century. Topics include special relativity, atomic structure, wave-particle duality, basic quantum mechanics, solid-state physics, nuclear structure, and elementary particles. One laboratory per week in addition to class work. Prerequisites: Math 136 (Calculus I) and Physics 104 or 152.
Phys 307: Classical Mechanics   
  • A formal presentation of the principles of Newtonian mechanics at the intermediate level. Topics include dynamics of particles and rigid bodies, resonance, rotating reference frames, planetary motion, wave motion, and LaGrange's equations. Prerequisites: Physics 152, Mathematics 205 (Multivariable Calculus).
Phys 308: Electricity and Magnetism   
  • A formal study of electricity and magnetism leading to Maxwell's equations and physical optics. Prerequisites: Physics 152, Physics/Mathematics 333 or permission of instructor.
Phys 311: 19th and 20th Century Science   
  • In this course we examine a few of the major scientific developments of the 19th and 20th centuries in some detail. Topics include evolution, genetics, and a synthesis of the two; the wave theory of light and special relativity; the discovery of the atomic and nuclear structure of matter; and the Manhattan Project. We also examine the various ways historians of science go about constructing the stories they write as well as some of the historiographic issues they face. Also offered as History 311 and through European Studies.

Phys 317: Instrumentation Lab (0.5 unit)   
  • This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of instrumentation used in the physics lab. Computer techniques for acquiring data and controlling experiments are taught. A primary goal of this lab is to foster a spirit of independence in the student researcher. Each student will complete an independent project. Corequisite: Physics 307 or permission of the instructor.
Phys 318: Electronics Lab (0.5 unit)   
  • This course is designed to teach basic electronics. Students learn enough in this course to put together simple circuits such as voltage dividers, filters and amplifiers. A primary goal of this lab is to foster a spirit of independence in the student researcher. Each student will complete an independent project. Prerequisite: Physics 152 and Math 136.
Phys 333: Mathematical Methods of Physics   
  • Important problems in the physical sciences and engineering often require powerful mathematical methods for their solution. While this course provides an introduction to these methods and emphasizes their application to problems drawn from diverse areas of classical and modern physics, careful attention is paid to the mathematical formalism. Some representative topics may include the integral theorems of Green, Gauss, and Stokes; Fourier and Laplace transforms; selected techniques from the theory of ordinary and partial differential equations; and calculus of variations with applications to Lagrangian mechanics. The course also introduces students to the computer algebra system Mathematica as an aid in visualization and problem-solving. Prerequisite: Physics 152, Math 205 (Multivariable Calculus). Also offered as Math 333.
Phys 401, 402: Quantum Mechanics   
  • Intended for physics majors preparing for graduate study in physics and closely related areas, this course applies methods of advanced analysis to quantum mechanics and other topics. Prerequisite: Physics 307, 308, or permission of the department.
Phys 403, 404: Topics in Advanced Physics   
  • Seminars, projects or participation in faculty research designed to meet individual needs of advanced students. Offered on demand. Prerequisite: Physics 307, 308, or permission of the department.
Phys 451, 452, 453, 454: Seminar in Contemporary Physics (0.5 unit each)
  • A weekly seminar in which students and faculty present reports on current research in physics. Representative topics are solar neutrinos, high-temperature superconductivity, the search for gravity waves and quantum chaos. Students are introduced to physics literature and data bases. Students will assemble a comprehensive literature review and research project proposal on a topic of their choice to be presented to the department at the end of the semester. Second-semester juniors can use this course as an opportunity to select their senior research project. Up to four semesters of enrollment are permitted at one-half course unit per semester. Prerequisite: Physics 222 or permission of instructor.
Phys 489, 490: SYE: Advanced Laboratory   
  • This laboratory course for physics majors consists of an individual project selected from an area of common interest between the student and one faculty member. A written report of the project is defended at an oral presentation. Prerequisite or corequisite: Physics 308, 317 and 318 or permission of the department.
Phys 498, 499: SYE: Advanced Laboratory (Honors Research)    
  • These are the honors versions of SYE: Advanced Laboratory. A written report of the project is defended at an oral presentation. Prerequisite or corequisite: Physics 308, 317 and 318 or permission of the department.