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About the course:
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Instructor:         The course will be taught by W. Seeley.
Textbook:           The for the course is Hobson, "Physics: Concepts & Connections" (latest Edition) (Paperback), available from the bookstore. Handouts, class notes (from this web site) and documents retrieved from the Internet will suplement classroom discussions.
Assessment:        There will be two or three exams during the semester and a final examination. Homework and written assignments (e.g. a term paper) may be assigned; classroom participation will be a grading factor.
Each class session a student will be asked to give a 10 to 15 minute presentation on a topic from a current issue of the Tuesday New York Times or Monday Boston Globe science sections. This presentation will be assessed as part of the course grade.

.Click on the calendar for important dates and assignments:

In order to appreciate science one needs to understand science and how science is done. As no science progresses without the gathering and analysis of quantitative information, to truly understand science one needs to have a firm grasp of mathematics - mathematics is the language of science. Unfortunately this puts many at a double disadvantage: Often their scientific and their mathematical skills have been woefully neglected. So how does one proceed? First, it is not at all necessary to know everything about any one science, or even to know anything about every science. What is necessary for a person who claims to be educated is to know science (not know about science) to a level that is more than superficial. Then they can appreciate how (and practice the way) scientists approach and solve the problems Nature poses for them. This is important because we are all constantly confronted with the necessity of solving problems of one kind or another. Scientists, for all the other human failings they may have, have developed a unique set of tools and techniques for solving problems in a logical, systematic and effective way. As a primary goal then we will try to learn how to solve problems - not just scientific ones, but just generally,  problems.

We will look at science in general via. a number of topics from the most fundamental branch of science - physics. As we do, it will become clear that the two other basic sciences, chemistry and biology, are inexorably connected to physics, and that to understand these two disciplines requires an appreciation (and so an understanding) of physics. There are other connections with the sciences: From science comes technology, and technology returns the favor by providing the scientist with better tools with which to do better science. A singular tool in this regard is the computer. It's not far from the truth when physicists say that any problem that can be solved without the help of a computer is most likely trivial. How does a computer solve problems? By doing mathematics!  So it seems we can't get away from it - we're going to have to understand (and appreciate) mathematics. What about the other sciences? Astronomy, geology, meteorology, etc - the list could be a long one. We'll draw from the list as is appropriate.

We will examine the topics listed below (although, as always, the management reserves the right to make last-minute changes). The material presented will be from class meetings and from notes available on these pages, so you won't have to take many notes in class - rather, you should listen, participate and think. There aren't many topics - it's better to really understand a few things than to "be exposed" to many things. Some of the topics might seem mundane - what's so scientific about making a measurement, or telling the temperature? Others are more esoteric - how do you make a black hole? Hopefully this will become clear as we proceed. 

  1. What is Science?
        Is there a scientific method?
        What is good science (vs. bad science)?

        What is a physical system?
        A quantitative description is necessary.
        Frames of reference.
        Measurements and standards.
        The need for mathematics.
        The need for computers.
  2. Celestial and Terrestrial Motion.
        From Greek science to the age of enlightenment.
        The Copernican revolution.
        From impetus to inertia - Newton's theory of motion
  3. States of Matter.
        Fluids (gasses and liquids) and pressure.
        The gas laws and temperature.
        Heat, entropy and kinetic theory - window to the microscopic world.
        Dalton's atoms and molecules - What is chemistry?
        Steam engines and refrigerators - they're really the same.
  4. The Structure of Matter.
        The electron and the atom.
        Electricity and magnetism are united (and so is optics) - Maxwell's electromagnetic theory.
        Electronics, telecommunications, logic circuits and the computer.
        Quantum mechanics - the Copenhagen interpretation.
        The periodic table, molecular structures and modern chemistry.
        The mystery of the subatomic world.
  5. From Quarks to Quasars.
        Einstein's general relativity, non-Euclidean geometry and the bending of light.
        The connection between the microscopic world and the early universe.
        The life and death of a star, nucleosynthesis and the formation of life (The beginning of biology).
        A history of time - red shift, excess helium, cosmic background radiation and some unanswered questions.
        Frontiers of physics.

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