Physics

Jonathan S. Langton, Assistant Professor

Grant E. Larsen, Assistant Professor

An undergraduate degree in Physics serves many careers. On one level it may lead to research or teaching. On another level it provides the basic discipline necessary for a technical career in engineering. On yet another level it provides a basis for management, business, law, or politics. A physics major requires a broad background in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and communication.

CSCI 171 Introduction to Programming is recommended for all physics majors. It is also recommended that students considering graduate study in physics or a related field complete a capstone worth at least six semester hours. Furthermore, PHYS 304 Electricity & Magnetism II and PHYS 306 Quantum Mechanics II are strongly recommended for students considering graduate study in physics or a related field; PHYS 351 Astrophysics is recommended for students considering graduate study in astronomy or astrophysics.

Departmental Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the four major fields of physics: classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, modern physics, and thermal physics.
  2. Apply the key elements of scientific reasoning by designing and conducting experiments.
  3. Communicate clearly the results of scientific inquiry, both in written and oral forms.

College-Wide Student Learning Outcomes of Principia College: Defining a Liberal Education

The curricular and co-curricular programs at Principia College are designed for students to be lifelong learners, thinkers, and problem-solvers, to draw out spiritual and moral qualities indispensable to growth in Christian Science, and to cultivate an understanding of service to the Cause of Christian Science in meeting the global needs of the 21st century. To accomplish this, the College has established the following outcomes for its graduates. Students graduating from Principia College will:

  1. Demonstrate a depth and breadth of knowledge.
  2. Demonstrate critical and generative thinking.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively.
  4. Be intentional learners.
  5. Be effective members of communities.
  6. Act on the basis of Principle.

PHYS 121Life in the Universe4.0 SH[GESL]

Survey course covering the basics of astrobiology. Topics include the conditions necessary to support life, terrestrial life in extreme environments, the possibilities for life in our solar system, planetary habitability, and the Drake Equation and Fermi Paradox. Includes a lab component. Math at the level of high school algebra may be expected, but is not a primary focus of the course.

PHYS 151Descriptive Astronomy4.0 SH[GESL]

Application of elementary scientific principles to the study of the universe. Includes laboratories and evening observation sessions using departmental telescopes. Math at the level of high school algebra and geometry may be expected.
Class Level Restriction: Freshman and Sophomore only.

PHYS 161Physics of Musical Sound4.0 SH[GESL]

Principles and applications of sound for all students, musically inclined or not. Sources of sound, sound wave types and propagations, and aural perceptions of sound. Extensive examples of musical instruments and how they exhibit basic concepts of acoustics. Math at the level of high school algebra and geometry may be expected. Class includes one two-hour lab per week.
Class Level Restriction: Freshman and Sophomore only.

PHYS 177Environmental Physics3.0 SH[GESN]

Physics governing the interaction between humanity and the environment; focuses on energy. Covers the basic physics of energy, methods of energy generation and use, and the relationship between environmental energy flows and climate. May include mathematics up to the level of high school algebra.

PHYS 199Physics for World Leaders3.0 SH[GESN]

The physics behind policy, technology, and the everyday: energy sources, climate, electricity, nuclear weapons, etc. Energy is emphasized throughout. Science journalism is read and evaluated. A modest amount of math at the level of "Algebra I" is used.

PHYS 201Phys for Scientists/Engrs I4.0 SH[GESL]

Introductory physics with calculus. Covers the major themes of physics, including mechanics, conservation laws, electricity, magnetism, waves, light, sound, relativity, early quantum theory, and thermodynamics. Laboratories approximately weekly. Emphasis on mechanics. Continues as PHYS 202, PHYS 203, and PHYS 204.
Prerequisite: Completion of or concurrent enrollment in MATH 181. CHEM 131 recommended.

PHYS 202Phys for Scientists/Engrs II4.0 SH[  ]

Second term in the introductory physics sequence with calculus and laboratory; further emphasis on classical mechanics.
Prerequisite: PHYS 201 and completion of or concurrent enrollment in MATH 182.

PHYS 203Phys for Scientists/Engrs III4.0 SH[  ]

Third term in the introductory physics sequence with calculus and laboratory; emphasis on electricity and magnestism.
Prerequisite: MATH 182 and PHYS 201.

PHYS 204Phys for Scientists/Engrs IV3.0 SH[  ]

Fourth term in the introductory physics sequence with calculus; emphasis on optics and thermodynamics. Does not include a laboratory component.
Prerequisite: PHYS 202 and PHYS 203.

PHYS 231Introduction to Cosmology3.0 SH[GESN]

The course focuses on the study of the universe as a whole. Topics include general relativity, the expansion of space, the distribution of galaxies, black holes, and the origin and fate of the universe. The emphasis is on conceptual understanding; however, math at the level of high school algebra and trigonometry is utilized.

PHYS 283Advanced Laboratory4.0 SH[  ]

Laboratory requirement for physics majors. Experiments in acoustics, optics, electrical measurement, spectroscopy, nuclear physics, and gravitation. Emphasis on techniques of measurement.
Prerequisite: PHYS 203.

PHYS 301Classical Mechanics3.0 SH[  ]

Advanced course in analytic mechanics, including analysis of systems of forces, acceleration, momentum, and energy. Emphasis on dynamics, including space and orbital mechanics. Full use is made of differential equations and vector analysis wherever appropriate.
Prerequisite: PHYS 203 and MATH 283; MATH 380 strongly recommended. Offered in alternate years.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 303Electricity & Magnetism I3.0 SH[  ]

Advanced course in electricity and magnetism, including electro-statics, magnetic induction, magnetostatics, and electromagnetic waves. Basic laws of Gauss, Ampere, Faraday, and Maxwell in their differential form. Vector analysis and differential equations are used throughout. Emphasis on solving boundary value problems, such as those appropriate to fields at interfaces between two media.
Prerequisite: PHYS 203 and MATH 283; MATH 355 and MATH 380 strongly recommended. Offered in even years.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 304Electricity & Magnetism II3.0 SH[  ]

Continuation of PHYS 303. Applications in astrophysics and ham radio will be included. Offered in even years.
Prerequisite: PHYS 303.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 305Quantum Mechanics I3.0 SH[  ]

A first year course in quantum mechanics. Topics may include wave functions, barrier potentials, harmonic oscillator, quantized angular momentum, hydrogen atom, perturbation theory, atoms and identical particles. Applications chosen from astrophysics, statistical mechanics, solid state physics, atomic physics, molecular physics, particle physics and nuclear physics.
Prerequisite: PHYS 203 and MATH 182.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 306Quantum Mechanics II3.0 SH[  ]

Continuation of PHYS 305.
Prerequisite: PHYS 305.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 307Statistical Mechanics3.0 SH[  ]

A study of the application of classical and quantum mechanics to many-bodied systems. Explores the relationship between statistical mechanics and modern thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, solid state physics, and plasma physics. This course will develop the basic equations and concepts of statistical mechanics. Both classical and quantum distribution functions will be used to calculate the macroscopic properties of a system based on the detailed behavior of the microsystem.
Prerequisite: MATH 283, PHYS 203, PHYS 204.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 351Astrophysics3.0 SH[  ]

Advanced course applying the laws of physics to astronomical phenomena. Star formation and evolution, formation of planetary systems, large-scale evolution, and eventual fate of the universe will be covered.
Prerequisite: MATH 283, PHYS 203.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 352Computational Physics3.0 SH[  ]

Application of computer modeling to complex physical systems. Subjects include numerical integration, the Monte Carlo method, genetic and simulated annealing algorithms, chaotic systems, fluid flow, and gravitational scattering. Of special interest to computer science students.
Prerequisite: CSCI 171, MATH 283, PHYS 203.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.

PHYS 401Research1.0-6.0 SH[  ]

Experimental or theoretical research under faculty supervision. May receive a star (*) grade, with final grade being assigned upon completion of the project. May be offered for variable credit from one to six semester hours. May be repeated multiple times, but only six semester hours may be used to fulfill major or minor requirements.
Class Level Restriction: Junior and Senior only.