Physics III: What to Expect
Here is some additional info about the class that should give you some
info on what to expect from this class, how to enjoy it and do well,
and help you decide whether or not this class is for you.
- The most important thing to be aware of is that this is the first
time I've taught this class, and thus I can't state with any
certainty how the class will go or what it will be like. This is
especially so since this course is a somewhat non-standard bundle of
topics. Nevertheless, I'm confident this will be a good class; QM is
a great topic, and the readings we'll be doing are very, very good.
- You do not need to have taken Physics I and II here (or anywhere)
to take Physics III.
- Falling behind in this course is not a good idea. If you're
confused about something, it's very important that you seek help
sooner rather than later. I can't offer assistance if I don't know
who needs it when. You need to take responsibility to seek help if
you need it. On a related note ...
- I do not expect all of the homework assignments to be easy; I don't
expect you to be able to sit down and do them easily the first time.
Don't let yourself get frustrated -- I strongly suggest working with
others and seeking help if you need it.
- The exact syllabus for this class is quite flexible; feedback is
encouraged, and will help make the class better.
- You should be aware that this course is quite different than
Physics III courses at other colleges and universities.
- You'll probably spend more time reading and thinking, and less
time doing HW than you did in Physics I and/or II. This will be
especially true during the first part of the course.
- The study of quantum mechanics has a very different feel to it
than many other areas of physics. It's weird -- even weirder than
It's more abstract, not mechanistic
(no springs and levers and such), and occasionally invites
What this course is not:
- Many first courses on quantum mechanics emphasize the tremendous
applications of quantum mechanics. This is understandable; QM can
explain atomic spectra, the specific heat of solids, semi-conductors,
molecular bonding, etc. Courses with this emphasis are often titled
Modern Physics. Modern Physics is a standard sophomore/junior level
course for physics and chemistry majors. This course is not a modern
physics course. It instead considers in considerable detail a few
very simple QM systems. The goal is to give insight into the
structure of the theory of quantum mechanics and make clear those
aspects of quantum mechanics that are different than classical
mechanics. This course is not unique. A similar, although slightly
less mathy, course has been offered for years at Oberlin college. A
more advanced version of this course has been offered a few times at
Oregon State University. We will be using materials from both of
- This course is designed to explain what's new and different and
strange and unsettling about quantum mechanics. In so doing, we will
have considerable opportunity to discuss wave-particle duality,
causality, non-locality, and other spooky and/or philosophical things.
However, this is not a philosophy course. We will not directly cover
such things as quantum healing, quantum psychology, quantum
consciousness, etc. Nevertheless, this course should put you in a
position to examine these ideas more carefully and thoughtfully. For
students who are more interested in the philosophical aspects of QM
and less interested in the the mathematical theory, it may be possible
to concentrate on this some independently towards the end of the
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