NS 546/SC 546 Concepts in Modern Physics I: Quantum Physics

Physics content: Experimental foundations of quantum physics, such as blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect, and wave-particle duality.

Philosophy and History of Physics: An investigation of Millikan’s oil drop experiment; development of quantum physics.

Physics Education Research: Misconceptions about atomic structure.

Course Schedule (.pdf)

Course Link

NS 546 Concepts in Modern Physics I: Quantum Physics

In-Class: Session 1: Atomism and Anti-Atomism: Measuring Pinheads

Discussion: Experiments on the Nature of Matter
Laboratory experiment: “The Millikan oil-drop experiment” &
Thomoson’s e/m experiment.
Physics Theory and Examples:
The Electical Nature of Matter and some models of the Atom

Online: Session 2:

Mathematics and Problem-Solving: Counting and Weighing Pin Heads
Reading assignment:

  • Sections from Cutnell & Johnson: 29.1-29.3, 29.5-29.6

  • Holton, G. (1978). The scientific imagination: case studies. p. 25-83. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Online Discussion:  What is “good” data?

In-Class: Session 3: Trouble in Paradise

Laboratory experiment: “Atomic Spectra”
Physics Theory and Examples: Blackbody Demonstration  and
the Photoelectric Effect”
Philosophy/History/Education Research: Millikan and Ehrenfast controversy

Online: Session 4:

Mathematics and Problem-Solving: Calculating the Bohr Radius
Reading assignmen:

  • Bohr, N. (1913). “On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules”, Philosophical Magazine 26, 1-25.

  • Toulmin, S. and Goodfield, J. (1962). ‘Entering the Quantum World’ (Ch. 12) and ‘Sharpening the Focus’ (Ch. 13). The architecture of matter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Online Discussion:  Historical Models of the Atom

In-Class: Session 5: Knocking Things Around with Light

Laboratory experiment:  Photo Electric Effect
Physics Theory and Examples: Atomic Models Galore: Thomson, Rutherford and Bohr

Online: Session 6:

Mathematics and Problem-Solving: Calculating Planck’s Constant
Reading assignment for Friday Dec. 1st :

  • Sections from Cutnell & Johnson: 29.3-29.7

  • L. Bao and E. Redish, “Understanding Probabilistic Interpretations of Physical Systems: A Prerequisite to Learning Quantum Physics,” Am. J. Phys. 70, 210-217 (2002)

Online Discussion: Students misconceptions about probability

In-Class: Session 7: Certainty and Gambling with Gauss and Schrödinger

Physics Theory and Examples:Classical Probability, Schrödinger and Quantum Probability, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
Reading: Sections from Cutnell & Johnson: 29.6, 30.5-30.6

Online: Session 8:

Take Home Midterm Exam

In-Class: Session 9: Quantum Things

Physics Theory and Examples: Particle in a Box, Band Theory of Conduction
Laboratory experiment: I vs. V for diode and transistor

Online: Session 10:

Mathematics and Problem-Solving:
Reading assignment:
Online Discussion:

In-Class: Session 11: Nuclear Forces and Nuclear Reactions

Physics Theory and Examples: Nuclear Forces and Simple Binding Energy Calculations: Water Drop model and Quark Model

Online: Session 12:

Sections from Cutnell & Johnson: 31.1-31.7, 32.3-32.5
Mathematics and Problem-Solving: Calculate Mass Deficit and Binding Energy
Reading assignmen: PER literature listed below
Online Discussion: Reviews of PER Literature on Students Understanding of Atomic Models

In-Class: Session 13: Student Presentations

At Home Final Exam


Selections from primary sources

Bohr, N. (1913). On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules. Philosophical Magazine, 26, 1-25.

Selections from secondary sources

Toulmin, S. and Goodfield, J. (1962). Entering the Quantum World (Ch. 12) and Sharpening the Focus (Ch. 13). The architecture of matter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Holton, G. (1978). The scientific imagination: case studies. (pp. 25-83). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Romer, A. (1997). Proton or prouton? Rutherford and the depths of the atom. American Journal of Physics, 65, 707-716.

Selections from Physics Education Research Literature

Niaz, M. & Rodrigues, M.A. (2002) Improving learning by discussing controversies in 20th century physics. Physics Education 37(1) 59 – 63.
Bao, L. and Redish, E.F. (2002). Understanding probabilistic interpretations of physical systems: A prerequisite to learning quantum physics. American Journal of Physics, 70, 210-217.

Budde, M., Niedderer, H., Scott, P., and Leach, J. (2002). Electronium’: a quantum atomic teaching model. Phys. Educ, 37, 197-203.

Budde, M., Niedderer, H., Scott, P., and Leach, J. (2002). The quantum atomic model 'Electronium': a successful teaching tool. Phys. Educ. 37, 204-210

Gillespie, R.J., Spencer, J.N., and Moog, R.S. (1996). Demsytifying Introductory Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 73, 617-622.

Niedderer, H., Bethge, Th., and Cassens, H. (1990). A simplified quantum model: A teaching approach and evaluation of understanding In P. L. Lijuse et al. (Eds.), Relating Macroscopic Phenomena to Microscopic Particles - A Central Problem in Secondary Science Education (pp. 67-80) Utrecht: CD-§ Press.

Petri, J. and Niedderer, H. (1998). A learning pathway in high-school level quantum atomic physics. International Journal of Science Education, 20, 1075-1088.