Foundations of Wave Phenomena

Phys 3750 Fall 2019

Instructor: James T. Wheeler
Office: SER 228
Phone: 435 770-7601
Office Hours: TBA
Lecture spacetime: ENGR 204; Tu, Th, 9:00 – 10:15 AM
Course Web Site: Waves
Credits: 3 semester credit hours
Prerequisites: Phyx 2710, Math 2210; Math 2250 (may be taken concurrently)
Required Texts (Open access; click links below):
1. Foundations of Wave Phenomena by C. G. Torre
2. D. Mark Riffe Lecture Notes
3. Any additional notes as we progress: Lecture Notes
Notes on Exams:
See assignments page.
While the central goal of Foundations of Wave Phenomena is to upgrade your mathematical ability, there is more to be said about it.
Most importantly, the most basic descriptions of modern physics–quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, electrodynamics, general relativity, that is, everything from the standard model of particle physics to computers and lasers and the cosmos–are expressed in terms of waves. We compute the “wave function” in quantum mechanics; quantum electrodynamics describes the quantization and interactions of Dirac waves (electrons!) and electromagnetic waves (photons!); the detection of gravitational waves lies at the cutting edge of general relativity and our understanding of gravity. No area of physics is free of the knowledge and techniques you will learn in this course.
In addition, the mathematics you learn here is not the math you'll get in the Math Department. Of course, there is significant overlap, but in physics the math is tied to models of the physical world. This (often, not always!) allows us to take some shortcuts, employing physical intuition to guide us to answers. Naturally, the rigor is there, and I will present it any time you ask for more, but the focus will be on how physicists solve problems.
Finally, with these goals in mind, any time I use some mathematics or physics that is new or unclear to you, ask for more detail.
There are additional benefits to this course:
Soon I will post a tentative schedule for lectures, readings, homework and exams. The exact dates are subject to change depending on our progress.
  1. Lectures: Most class periods will cover the material that is presented in Profs. Torre’s and Riffe’s texts. There will be a few deviations from this as we go along. Dr. Torre's book and Dr. Riffe's notes are available at the links above or at Riffe lectures
  2. Homework: Doing homework is ESSENTIAL to learning physics. Without working through problems yourself, you cannot master these techniques. You can expect exam problems to be similar to any of the assigned homework problems.
  3. If you find yourself confused or stuck on a particular topic or are spending an inordinate amount of time on any given homework problem you should try one or more of the following
    1. Review the relevant Lecture Notes and/or section in the texts. Dr. Riffe's website (Riffe lectures) contains numerous helpful links.
    2. It may be extremely helpful to review material from prerequisite or concurrent math courses.
    3. Google. You know how to do this. There are roughly one gazillion YouTube videos and physics chat rooms on this material.
    4. Discuss problems with other students in the class. Try to get ideas of how to start rather than complete solutions.
    5. Email me. I monitor my email constantly, and will try to get back to you quickly.
    6. Meet with me. I'll have office hours; after class is always a good time, or schedule an appointment
  4. Exams (Yes, this is a resource. Reviewing material for an exam and the exam itself are excellent learning opportunities.)
    1. There will be a total of four exams, three during the semester and one during the final-exam time slot. The final exam is comprehensive. The tentative dates for the midterm exams will be included on the course schedule.
I may modify this scale to include participation. As is typical of upper-division physics classes, there is no set scale for the assignment of grades. Historically, the class GPA is close to 3.1 (slightly greater than a B).
  1. To be successful in this course you must be able to utilize the math that we are currently studying (or have previously studied) to a variety of problems.
  2. Participation: I expect you to participate in all aspects of the course. This includes preparing for and attending the lecture, reading the lecture notes, and doing the homework. I expect you to answer and ask questions in class.
  3. Effort: You must put in the requisite effort to learn the material in the course so that you are prepared to pass the exams. This includes the steps listed above to get additional help, if needed.
  4. Ownership: The instructor expects you, the student, to take ownership of the learning process. You are ultimately responsible for what you learn.
Students with ADA-documented physical, sensory, emotional or medical impairments may be eligible for reasonable accommodations. Veterans may also be eligible for services. All accommodations must be coordinated through the Disability Resource Center (DRC) in Room 101 of the University Inn, (435)797- 2444 voice. Please contact the DRC as early in the semester as possible. Alternate format materials (Braille, large print or digital) are available with advance notice.
The instructor reserves the right to make changes or correct errors in this syllabus.