PHY215 Syllabus

PHY215 Syllabus, version 2 (7 Sept 2017)

Modern Physics

Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, 3:00 – 3:50 PM, 1420 BPS

Instructor: Raymond Brock

me: my page

email: brock AT

Office: 3210 BPS

Phone: 517.353.1693

TA: Pierre Nzabahimana, nzabahim AT

PHY215 Description

This should be a memorable course – the first professional look at special relativity, quantum mechanics, statistical physics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, particle physics, general relativity, and cosmology. Whew. Everything you do during the rest of your undergraduate program will build from this introduction. Sounds ominous! But it’s great fun and you’ll remember it. It’s a privilege to be able to introduce you to this material!

Just the Facts, ma’am

Textbook: Modern Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Thorton and Rex, 4th Ed. plus possible handouts, lecture notes, posted material. I struggled with this. Thorton and Rex is very expensive and I urge you to shop around. I’ve seen an absurd price on-line at Student Book Store, so don’t buy there before you’ve checked Amazon. I’ve seen new from $155 and used from $140 for hardcover This is one of those courses that will stick with you and I suggest that so should the book from which you first learned relativity and quantum mechanics. There are also electronic options from $70.

For the Thermodynamics part, University Physics, Bauer and Westfall. Chapters 17-21 are available on line (if you don’t already own it) * Go to Search for and select book by Title, ISBN, Author, or State/ School. The ISBN: 9781307109009 and Title: MSU Modern Physics.

  • Add the book to your cart and pay using a credit card or access code.

Source sites: The “course site” is where you’ll find schedule, regular posts of information as a blog post, homework solutions, and any other content. Subscribe to it through the feedburner field on the sidebar so you’ll get an email message when something’s posted. I’ll use D2L as a bucket to receive things from you and as a grade book. Content will be on

The Weeks: Class meets M, T, W, F from 3:00-3:50PM. Tuesdays will be special (see below) and the other days will be lectures. Lecture materials will be uploaded and you’ll find them linked from the PHY215 SCHEDULE page at the course site.

Our first week is not plagued by the weird MSU invention of “Wednesday is Monday” class schedule. Yay! Not here. Our first class is Wednesday, August 30. It’s a regular Wednesday class, followed by a regular Friday class. The following Monday is a holiday and our following Tuesday class (9/12) will be our first “homework workshop.” After that we’ll be consistent for the rest of the semester…

…except Thanksgiving, which is a mess every fall semester. We’ll not bother trying so there will be no class on Wednesday, November 22. You’re welcome.

Google Hangout (formerly gchat): raymond.brock AT Sure, I’ll respond.

Facebook: PHY215 Group I’ll monitor it. You can use it as a discussion medium. It’s “private” and so invisible to the outside world. You’ll need to request membership and then I’ll approve you. We don’t have to be “friends” to work in such a group. I’m happy to become friends after the semester if you would like.

Prerequisites: (PHY184 or 184B or LBS272 or PHY294H or PHY234B) and (MTH234 or MTH254H or LBS220)

Office Hours:

  • Brock, Wed, 10-noon; any day after class or by appointment.

  • TA, TBD

Grading: homework (25%), three in-class exams (15% each), pop quizzes (5%), final (25%). Final grade will be curved.

Homework: will be a three-step process.

  1. You take pictures of your first attempt at the homework and using or something that will make a single pdf file, upload it to the D2L dropbox area. This must be done by midnight, Monday before the Tuesday workshop listed as the due date. A reasonable effort will get you 1 point on each problem attempted. A lazy effort or no effort will get you 0 points.

  2. You bring your working copy to the classroom on each Tuesday and we’ll become a Homework Workshop. You can work together through the period. I couldn’t find a suitable room so we’ll do this in 1420, but you’re free to expand into the Sparty’s tables in the atrium. We will walk around and answer questions (probably with questions!).

  3. You bring your completed homework to class on Wednesday and turn it in at the beginning of lecture. The problems will be themselves graded on a 2, 1, 0 scale. The Monday night first-attempt will be added to give your total score for each problem. So the maximum for any problem is 3…2 for getting it right on Wednesday and 1 for making a solid effort on Monday. Get it?

Solutions will be available Wednesday night so late submissions can’t be accepted. I’ll drop the lowest problem set normalized score (not all sets will have the same number of problems).

The problems, their due dates, and exam dates are on the PHY215 SCHEDULE page of the course site. Homework solutions will be linked from the 215 HOMEWORK link.

Sometimes there will be problems not from either of the texts and they will be found at the 215 HOMEWORK link along with eventual solutions.

Gripes: Any question of grading will be considered within 3 class days of the return of the material. In order to question a grade, submit a “gripe” as a handwritten explanation of what you think is wrong and attach it to the paper in question and hand it in.

History: Physics is a discipline that treasures its past heroes and good ideas. I’ll blog periodically about biography and history. Exams might include some simple historical questions for extra credit…things that every physicist should know!

tough stuff

Come to class. Seriously.

This is a core class for physics majors and an important class for some engineering students. You should plan to spend quite a bit of time outside of class reading and working problems.

For in-class exams you may bring one 5×8 index card of formulae, names, calming poetry, to-do lists, etc. No phones. Literally a paper 5×8 card with actual handwriting. You may not bring fraternity brothers nor sorority sisters.

Absences from exams require a really good reason–good enough to have impressed your physician, who then must impresse me with a written explanation. All of the standard legalities in the MSU Code of Teaching Responsibilities apply.

Your eventual homework needs to be demonstrably your own work and not collaborative. Work together, but please don’t send in identical solutions. I’ll have to give zeros for that. I don’t like zeros.