Physics 340- Spring 2018

From Atoms to the universe

The Course structure and content

Miterm Mar 1 11AM

Final Exam Apr 17 12:00 Noon Hennings 302


There will be "problem solving" tutorials where you can come to ask questions about the material in the course. The time and place is to be determined to maximize your ability to come to it, and my availability. The time will be arranged to be of maximal convenience to you and me.

Note: I send emails to the class via the registrar's email lists for this course. Please make sure that you have registered your email with the university. Unfortunately some service providers see this as an indication that this is spam and dumps the mail into a junk, or spam, or other labelled folder. I do not know how to get around this as I do not want to give everyone everyone else's email, I do not want to enter all 50 separate email addresses as separate emails, but I want people to get them.

Please remember to look into your junk/spam/... folder as well if you do not get the emails for this class.


This course will start with three historical strands.


From the Greeks to the Kepler-- This was largely a descriptive process, in which the physicists were trying to understand the heavens and the motions of the heavens by using some elementary principles which they believed underlay motion in the heavens. From the early Greeks, through Hipparchus, Ptolemy, to Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Kepler, an astonishingly accurate description of the motion of the heavens was developed.


In a totally different area, the question "Why do some notes sound good together and some uncomfortable? exercised the minds of some of the worlds top physicists. From Pythagoras, to Kepler, this question drove development of mathematics, of experiment and theories. It was only in the 19th century that the question received a satisfactory understanding and turned out rely on on an intimate combination of Physics, Physiology and brain science.


Why do things move. From Aristotle to Newton this question was a dominant strand in physics. With Newton, it finally achieved the form which still is with us today. This part will include Newton's theory of gravity which finally gave the answer as to how the heavens moved.

Relativity and Einstein's revolution:

. The beginning of the 20th century saw a major break with the Newtonian paradigm and in no place more so that in the understanding of what gravity is, largely driven by the kind of speculative thought displayed in Greek thought. This revolution altered not only our thoughts of what gravity is, but also what time and space are.

Quantum Revolution:

If there is time, I will also go into a brief introduction to the Quantum revolution which also took place in the early 20th century. Introducing probability as a fundamental aspect of physics, and of the world, this is a theory which still puzzles physicists with its counter-intuitive picture of the world.


[Note the following without links are plans, which may change] ------------------------------------------------------ copyright W Unruh (2018)