We’re about to reach a milestone in ISP220: we’ve pretty much finished the preparatory physics part of the course (I’ll make one last detour into understanding waves). Our next move is to the modern topics. For those of you who’ve had physics before, I hope it’s not been too boring. For those of you who have not had physics before, I hope you’ve learned some things about your everyday world and paid attention to the “in the know” part of the website to concentrate on those topics that we’ll need as we move forward.
From this point, I predict that everyone’s on the same footing as this will be new material for all of you. While understanding circular motion or electric fields has practical application in your lives, what comes next invites you to enter a specialized world for the next 11 weeks.
Next week we’ll talk about particle accelerators. I’ll show you how they work, what some of our storied international facilities have been, and I’ll focus on the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. (You know what “Large” is and after next week you’ll know what a “Collider” is…it will still be a bit before you know what a “Hadron” is!) I’ll then touch on particle detectors and a little about telescopes. The detector subject will continue to expand as we go so that by the time we’re 2/3 of the way through, you’ll be able to take a physics reaction, predict how many events a detector might collect, and analyze how it might appear to us in our experiment.
After accelerators and detectors, we’ll explore Einstein’s Theorie(S) of Relativity. Yes, there are two and they’ll lead us in different directions: one out and one in. The “out” part will be his General Theory of Relativity and how it stimulated the beginnings of modern cosmology. The “in” part will take us to quantum theory and how Special Relativity made that bizarre subject even stranger. You’ll want to say, “That doesn’t make sense!” But the funny thing about the universe: it doesn’t care. Data and experiment repeatedly side with the odd nature of…Nature. At that point we’ll finally come to grips with what a Field actually is.
These areas will be largely descriptive with a few calculations. They won’t be hard, but designed to help you appreciate the subject where words won’t do. As I said in the syllabus, we struggle with the concepts too! So stay strong.