NS 547/SC 547 Concepts in Modern Physics II: Special Relativity and Related Topics

Physics content: Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity and its applications to nuclear physics, particle physics, astronomy, and cosmology.

Philosophy and History of Physics: The development of nuclear physics and its ethical considerations.

Physics Education Research: Misconceptions about special relativity.

Course Schedule (.pdf)

Course Link

NS 547 Concepts in Modern Physics II: Special Relativity and Related Topics

Course Schedule

N.B.: The schedule below has not yet been adapted to the blended schedule of online and in-class meetings. Course readings may vary between course offerings.

Session 1: Units of Measurement for Spacetime Physics.
Spacetime Physics: Chapter 1.
Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 1.
Reading Assignment for Session 2:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 2

Session 2: Inertial Frames and Measuring Time.
Spacetime Physics: Chapter 2.
Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 2.
Reading Assignment for Session 3:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 3

Session 3: The Principle of Relativity

Spacetime Physics: Chapter 3.
Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 3.
Reading assignment for session 5:

Scherr, R., Schaffer, P. & Vokos, S. (2002). The challenge of changing deeply held student beliefs about the relativity of simultaneity. American Journal of Physics, 70 (2), 1238-1248.

  • Scherr, R., Schaffer, P. & Vokos, S. (2001).Student understanding of time in special relativity: Simultaneity and reference frames. American Journal of Physics, 69 (S1), S24-S35.
  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 4

Session 4: The Lorentz Transformation.
Spacetime Physics: Special Topic: Lorentz Transformation.
Assignment: Selected problems on Lorentz transformation.
Reading Assignment for Session 5:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 6

Session 5: Lorentz transformations, Simultaneity, Twin Paradox.
            Spacetime Physics: Chapter 4.
Mathematics and Problem-Solving: The mathematics of transformations.
Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 4.
Philosophy/History/Education Research: Misconceptions on simultaneity and reference frames
Reading Assignment for Session 6:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 8

Session 6: The Worldline and a Spacetime Map

            Spacetime Physics: Chapter 5.
      Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 5.
      Reading Assignment for Session 7:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 10

Session 7: Regions of Spacetime

            Spacetime Physics: Chapter 6.
            Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 6.
      Reading Assignment for Session 8:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 11

Session 8: Momentum and Energy: Four Vectors and Momenergy

            Midterm test
            Spacetime Physics: Chapter 7.
            Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 7.
            Philosophy/History/Education Research: Students’ presentations
      Reading Assignment for Session 9:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 13

Session 9: Equivalence of Mass and Energy.
            Spacetime Physics: Chapter 8.
      Concepts: E=mc2, fission, fusion, annihilation.
            Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 8.
            Philosophy/History/Education Research: Students’ presentations
      Reading Assignment for Session 10:

  • Making of the Atomic Bomb: Chapter 15 (p. 486-496)

Session 10: Applications of Energy and Mass Equivalence.
            Assignment: More selected problems - Chapter 8.
            Philosophy/History/Education Research: Students’ presentations

Session 11: Gravity: Curved Spacetime in Action

            Spacetime Physics: Chapter 9.
            Assignment: Selected problems - Chapter 9.
            Philosophy/History/Education Research: Students’ presentations

Session 12: Cosmology.
            Philosophy/History/Education Research: Students’ presentations
Take home exam

Session 13: Wrap up

            Philosophy/History/Education Research: Students’ presentations
Course evaluation

Bibliography

Rhodes, R. (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon & Schuster, New York.

Selections from Physics Education Research Literature

Scherr, R., Schaffer,P & Vokos, S. (2002). The challenge of changing deeply held student beliefs about the relativity of simultaneity. American Journal of Physics, 70 (2), 1238-1248.

Scherr, R., Schaffer,P & Vokos, S. (2001).Student understanding of time in special relativity: Simultaneity and reference frames. American Journal of Physics,69(S1), S24-S3