Physics 160: Principles of Modern Physics

Problem Set Assignments:

            Problem Set #1:  Due in class on Wed. 4/8

            Problem Set #1 SOLUTIONS

            Problems from Ch. 2 of Thornton and Rex

            Problem Set #2: Due in class on Wed. 4/15

            Problem Set #2 SOLUTIONS

            Problem Set #3: Due in class on Wed. 4/29

            Problem Set #3 SOLUTIONS

            Problem Set #4: Due in class on Wed. 5/6

            Problem Set #4 SOLUTIONS

            Problem Set #5:  Due in class on Wed. 5/13

            Problem Set #5 SOLUTIONS

            Problem Set #6: Due in class on Fri. 5/29

            Problem Set #6 SOLUTIONS

            Problem Set #7: Due in class on Fri. 6/5

            Problem Set #7 SOLUTIONS


            Sample Midterm Exam #1

            Midterm Exam #1 Equation Sheet

            Exam #1 Grades

            Sample Midterm Exam #2

            Midterm Exam #2 Equation Sheet (you will be able to use both equation sheets on this exam)

            Exam #2 Grades

            Sample Final Exam

            Final Exam Equation Sheet (you will have the equation sheets from both midterm exams as well)

Links to Simulations and Other Useful/Interesting Stuff:

            Quantum Step Potentials and Barriers

            1D Quantum Mechanical Bound States

            Spherical Harmonics

            Hydrogen Atom Wave Functions

            Chart of the Nuclides

            Fusion Power Presentation


            Physics 160 Soundtrack:  I try to find a tune that has some connection to the lesson, either the title, the artist, or some of the lyrics, and play it before class every day.

Spring Term, 2009

Lecture: 8:30 - 9:40 MWF, Youngchild 041

Instructor: Matthew Stoneking

Office: Youngchild 110, phone: 832-6724, email: stonekim

Office Hours: TBD

Laboratory: There is one three hour laboratory session per week (9 total)

            Meet in Youngchild 115 for pre-lab lecture/discussion

            Wednesday 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Instructor: Megan Pickett

Thursday 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM, Instructor: Shannon O’Leary

            Thursday 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Instructor: Megan Pickett

Course Description:

Physics 160 surveys important developments in physics during the twentieth century.  The first portion of the course deals with the modifications to mechanics that came with the introduction of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.  The objective is to reach both a conceptual familiarity and quantitative capability in approaching the subject.  The remainder of the course deals with important applications and extensions of these ideas to atoms, solids, nuclei, and elementary particles.  As we survey applications, our approach will become more descriptive and less quantitative so that we can obtain an overview of some of the major accomplishments of the twentieth century. We selectively focus on developments growing out of quantum mechanics and relativity and neglect other contemporary topics.

Course Objectives:

  • To develop an understanding of the most important CONCEPTS, LAWS, and EXAMPLES of MODERN PHYSICS.
  • To develop physics problem-solving skills using fundamental MATHEMATICAL & QUANTITATIVE TOOLS, and to learn to write complete problem solutions.
  • To develop experimental skills, including statistical uncertainty analysis and laboratory record-keeping.

Required Text:

·        Modern Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 3rd Edition, by Stephen T. Thornton and Andrew Rex, Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishers. Obtain this text from Conkey's Bookstore on College Avenue.

Other Required Materials:

  • National Bound Notebook No. 43-648 (or similar with numbered quadrille ruled pages)).  Available at Conkey's Bookstore. You may continue to use the same notebook you used in Physics 150.
  • Calculator with trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential functions.
  • A three-ring binder to keep your lecture notes, handouts, and laboratory information pages (recommended only).


Final grades will be based on the following weighted components:

1) Final Exam 25 %

2) Hour Exams (2 X 12.5%) = 25 %

3) Laboratory 25 %

4) Homework 15 %

5) Participation, Preparation, & Attendance 10%


There will be two midterm exams and one final, comprehensive exam. Each exam will be closed book.  Required formulae will be provided on the exam, but you will need to be able to recognize the meaning of the symbols in each formula and how to use them to solve problems such as those encountered in homework and lecture examples.  Exam problems will be a mixture of quantitative problems like those encountered in homework sets and conceptual problems (multiple choice and short answer) like those used for in-class discussions.  You may use a calculator on the exam to perform arithmetic and trigonometric operations only (no programmed formulae!).  The use of wireless internet devices is prohibited.

Final Exam: Thursday 11 June 2009, 1:30 PM


The list of laboratory topics for each week is given below.  Details on the operation of the laboratory portion of the course, including grading policies for labs, will be discussed at the first meeting of the lab section.


Homework sets will be collected for grading approximately once per week.  Late submissions may not receive full credit and may not be graded in a timely manner (if at all).  Homework assignments will focus on quantitative problems.  You are strongly urged to work additional problems on your own, beyond those that are required.  You are also encouraged to work together and to take advantage of evening help sessions and instructor’s office hours.  However, each student must write up his or her own solutions.  It will be detrimental to your exam performance to rely heavily on your classmates for homework solutions.  Complete solutions to homework problems include the following elements:  statement of the problem (what is given?), appropriate diagram, reference to important laws or formulae, brief explanation and/or justification for each major step in the solution, evaluation of the final answer (does the answer makes sense?).

Preparation, Attendance, & Participation:

·        Prepare for class by reviewing your lecture notes from the previous class, reading the appropriate sections of the text, attempting some of the homework problems, and writing down questions or points of confusion.

·        Attendance in this fast-paced course is crucial.  We cannot cover everything in your textbook.  You must attend class (and work homework problems) to know what material your instructor considers essential.  Take notes in class.

·        Participate in classroom discussions.  Ask questions in class. Be prepared to respond to the instructor’s questions in class.  Make use of the instructor’s office hours and the evening help sessions. E-mail questions and comments to your instructor ( 

Help Sessions:

Evening help sessions will be offered every week.  These sessions will be held in Youngchild 115.  Times will be announced in class.


Topical Outline of the Course (detailed schedule below):

I: Relativity (Chapter 2)

II: Quantum Mechanics (Chapters 3-6)

III: Atomic Physics (Chapters 7-9)

IV: Solid State Physics (Chapter 11)

V: Nuclear Physics (Chapters 12-13)

VI: Particle Physics (Chapter 14)





Speed of Light

March 30                               1

Relativity: Galilean Relativity, Postulates of Relativity, Synchronizing Clocks, Simultaneity

April 1                                       2

Relativity: Time Dilation, Length Contraction, Lorentz Transformation Equations

Read: Ch. 2 (pp. 20-39)

April 3                                3

Relativity: Spacetime Diagrams, Velocity Addition, Twin Paradox

Read: Ch. 2 (pp. 39 – 53)

Relativity Simulations

April 6                            4

Relativity: Relativistic Energy/Momentum

Read: Ch. 2 (pp. 59 – 74)

April 8                               5

Quantum: Quantization of Charge, Blackbody Radiation

Read: Ch. 3 (pp. 85 – 103)

Problem Set #1 Due

April 10                             6

Quantum: Photoelectric Effect, Compton Scattering

Read: Ch. 3 (pp. 103 – 118)

Photoelectric Effect

April 13                            7

Quantum: Rutherford Scattering, Bohr Model, X-ray spectra

Read: Ch. 4

April 15                             8

Quantum: Matter Waves, The Uncertainty Principle

Read: Ch. 5

Problem Set #2 Due

April 17                           9

Quantum: Schrödinger Eq: Particle in box

Read: Ch. 6 (pp. 200 – 214)

Hydrogen Spectroscopy

April 20                        10

Quantum: Simple Harmonic Oscillator

Read: Ch. 6 (pp. 215 – 224)

April 22                                 11

Hour Exam #1

April 24                               12

Quantum: Tunneling & Barrier Penetration

Read: Ch. 6 (pp. 225 – 234)

Electron Impact Excitation of Helium

April 27                            13

Atomic: 3D & Angular Momentum

Read: Ch. 7 (pp. 239 – 250)

April 29                                14

Atomic: The Hydrogen Atom and Electron Spin

Read: Ch. 7 (pp. 251 – 265)

Problem Set #3 Due

May 1                               15

Atomic: Spin & Atomic Structure, Exclusion Principle

Read: Ch. 8

No Lab

May 4                            16

Atomic: Classical Statistics

Read: Ch. 9 (pp. 294 – 311)

May 6                               17

Atomic: Fermi-Dirac Statistics

Read: Ch. 9 (pp. 311 – 319)

Problem Set #4 Due

May 8

Reading Period


Scanning Tunneling Microscopy

May 11                            18

Atomic: Bose-Einstein Statistics 

Read: Ch. 9 (pp. 320 – 329)

May 13                                   19

Solids: Band Structure and Semiconductors

Read: Ch. 11 (pp. 387 – 401)

Problem Set #5 Due

May 15                           20

Solids: Semiconductor Devices and Superconductors 

Read: Ch. 11 (pp. 401-414) & Ch. 10 (pp. 362-376)

Alpha, Beta, Gamma Decay

May 18                             21

Nuclear: Nuclear Structure

Read: Ch. 12 (pp. 424 – 441)

May 20                                22

Hour Exam #2

May 22                               23

Nuclear: Radioactivity

Read: Ch. 12 (pp. 441 – 461)

Nuclear Decay and Half-life

May 25                              

Memorial Day

No class

May 27                                 24

Nuclear: Nuclear Reactions

Read: Ch. 13 (pp. 466 – 477)

May 29                             25

 Nuclear: Fission & Fusion

Read: Ch. 13 (pp. 477 – 494)

Problem Set #6 Due

Gamma Spectroscopy

June 1                               26

Particles: Hadrons, Leptons, Conservation Laws

Read: Ch. 14 (pp. 508 – 525)            

June 3                             27

Particles: Quarks & the Standard Model

Read: Ch. 14 (pp. 525 – 540)

June 5                             28


Problem Set #7 Due