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PHYS 204: Physics for Computer Science II

Igor Kuskovsky

(Submission #70)

Course Description

This class deals with fundamental principles underlying our understanding of the physical concept developed since early 20th century, and which comprise "modern physics" in contrast to "classical physics" of 16th - early 20th century. The course will focus on the aspects of modern physics that are largely important for development of computer technologies. Specifically, students will learn about electronic and atomic structure of the solids that form the basis of modern computers and other electronic and optoelectronic devices. In this class the students will obtain new and deeper view of physics laws; the basic concepts of quantum mechanics, dual nature of matter, as well as new methods used by physicists in explaining properties of the natural world beyond those of classical physics. They will learn that although modern physics laws often contradict common sense, they correctly describes and predicts the results of the experiments on sub-atomic scale. In addition to understanding of the physical basis of computers, the students will find out how parallel and independent discoveries converge to give a new paradigm and new knowledge. They will find out how these discoveries in physics not only provided our civilization with advanced knowledge, but also changed it at historically high rates.

Interaction between students and teaching staff is organized in the form of three components: lectures, recitations, and labs. Students learn material, however, not only during scheduled class times, but also during their preparation for classes. The preparation includes: reading a textbook and additional reading materials, solving homework problems, and performing a computer project, as well as other assignments deemed necessary by an instructor.

Main goal of lectures is to deliver main conceptual content of the studied material. Organization of lectures depends on individual styles of professors teaching the course, but active involvement of students in discussion of the subject matter will always be one of the main means of achieving this goal. Recitations play a more technical role: during recitations students sharpen their practical skill in applying new concepts to typical situations occurring in real life or during scientific inquiry. During labs, students are introduced to and obtain hands-on experience of empirical methods of scientific inquiry. They learn to design meaningful scientific experiments, use basic measuring devices and instruments, design logic circuits, collect and analyze experimental data to make reasonable scientific inferences.

Topics in this class include:

Electromagnetic Waves: review of electromagnetic phenomena with emphasis on waves; Maxwell's equations and speed of light; electromagnetic spectrum; visible light; light as electromagnetic wave; interference and diffraction as pure wave phenomena;

Introduction to Quantum Physics: blackbody radiation and photoelectric effect as failures of classical physics; Planck's hypothesis and Einstein's model of light; dual nature of light: photons and electromagnetic waves; dual nature of matter: de Broglie pilot waves, electrons as waves, and the Davisson-Germer experiment; an interpretation of quantum mechanics; wavefunction and probability; the Schrödinger equation as the law of nature; effect of tunneling and its importance in limiting size of computer components.

Atomic Physics: historical prospective on development of our knowledge about structure of atoms; understanding of hydrogen atom, as the simplest atomic system; the periodic table as a natural consequence of laws of quantum mechanics; atoms as building blocks of solids.

Solids: arrangements of atoms in solids; understanding periodic arrays of atoms, and its role in rapid progress in the solid-state physics; energy-level structure of solids and how it explains the differences between insulating, conducting and semiconducting materials.

Semiconductor Devices and Basic Logic Circuits of Computers: Schottky and p-n junction diodes; rectification; bi-polar and field effect transistors; voltage and current amplifiers; MOSFET as the basic element of integrated circuits; diode "AND" and "OR" gates; transistor gates; LEDs and other optoelectronic devices


Area of Knowledge and Inquiry: Natural Science Lab (NS-L)
Context of Experience: Not Applicable
Extended Requirement: Abstract or Quantitative Reasoning (QR)

Additional Course information

Credits: 4
Prerequisites: Physics 103, or 122, or 146
Existing Course: Existing
Existing Course Number: Phys 204
Course Anticipated to be offered: Every Semester
Other (if specified): 
Number of Sections: 1
Number of Seats: 24


[Justification, Materials, Assessment, Administration (DOC)]   [Syllabus/Syllabi (DOC)]  

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