(or Essay) for Physics 150, Fall,
A major part of the course is a report on a subject of your choice in agreement with Prof. Martin. The report will be an important part of the final grade (as stated in the grade policy). It is the primary homework for the last part of course; other homework will be at a reduced level.
Mon. Nov. 17: Turn in short written description of topic that will be covered with tentative reference(s). You should clear the subject ahead of time with Prof. Martin.
Mon. Dec. 8: Complete Essay or Report due
Goal: The goal of this aspect of the course is to give you the opportunity to choose a topic and to go into more depth on this topic than is possible in the class. It can be on any of many possible topics, such as 1) reporting on a science project or experiment that you do, 2) a more in-depth discussion of a topic covered in the course (for example, Einstein’s ideas of relativity or ideas on quantum mechanics, for which good examples are Feynman’s lectures, the recent play “Copenhagen” about Bohr and Heisenberg in World War II), 3) a book report on a subject related to the course (The report should also utilize at least one other reference. There are many possibilities on a science topic, social consequences of science, history of science, etc. See list below.), and 4) a report on a science fiction book in which you clearly identify the relation to real science (Does the book describe ideas that could be found to be valid in the future? Does it violate known principles? What are correct science principles for the situations described in the book?)
Requirements for the essay: The report that you write should be typed and should be at least 2.5 pages long of single spaced lines (not over 6 pages). It should utilize at least two references other than the text. All facts should be substantiated with references and, of course, all material taken from sources should be properly credited. The report should include: (1) a clear statement of the topic, the supporting information, and the conclusions, (2) a summary of the material from the sources chosen, and (3) a statement of the relation of the material to what we have done in the course.
Clear, correct statements of (1) and (2) are essential for a grade of B; a grade of A is meant for students going beyond these minimum requirements with a well-written essay that shows that he or she has learned something from the reading.
Suggestions for Essay or Report:
I. Book Review:
A. Popular Physics:
These are books about physics/astronomy written for a general audience. There are several in this category.
Examples of books:
A. Einstein, The Evolution of Physics (Einstein’s view on the progress of physics through history before his work, very readable)
A. Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (non-scientific essays)
A. Einstein, Relativity (surprisingly readable, not technical)
R. Feynman, The Character of Physical Law
R. Feynman, Six Easy Pieces
R. Feynman, The Meaning of it All (taken from lectures
on science, society, and religion)
G. Gamow, Mr. Tomkins Explores the Atom (delightful – see comments below)
S. Hawking, A Brief History of Time
S. Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell
R. S. Jones, Physics for the Rest of Us
(Stimulating short chapters on the concepts in physics and the relation of
physics to religion, etc.)
L. Lederman, The God Particle
A. Lightman, Einstein's Dreams (very readable fictional description)
C. Sagan, Cosmos
J. Schwartz, Einstein for Beginners (Cartoon book about life, social setting, and work of Einstein)
J. Silk, A Short History of the Universe (Part of book is sufficient)
Examples of two choices:
G. Gamow, Mr. Tomkins Explores the Atom, or Mr. Thomkins in Paperback. These are delightful stories about
relativity and quantum mechanics told through the fanciful dreams of a bank
clerk who attends physics lectures and is always out to sleep by the
lectures! A report could be an analysis
of one of the short series of related chapters, for example: Chapters 1-3 on
relativity (including the land where bicycles and cars approach the speed of
light); or 7-8 on quantum mechanics (including quantum billiards and the
R. Feynman: One could build upon many ideas in from Six Easy Pieces (these are not really so easy) using others books such as The Character of Physical Law. Discuss this with Prof. Martin before starting.
B. History of Physics:
There are many appropriate books in this category. See library and bookstores.
T. Kuhn, Coperican Revolution Physics (excellent description of the
importance of the revolution. Some parts
were used by Prof. Martin for preparation of lectures.)
Material on Einstein: See information at APS WWW site listed in class site list.
Report on discovery of X-rays in 1895. This was a sensation in the world news, and you could find original material from newspapers and other sources. Also more recent descriptions
Report on the discovery of the electron in October 1897 (See articles in Physics Today, October 1997)
Many books on the history and consequences of the nuclear bomb (See WWW sites.)
Physics Today (a monthly magazine) publishes physics history pieces on various subjects.)
C. History of Physics outside the realm of
Development of Science and Physics in
of history that we followed in
class. One reference is:
Helaine Sellin, Encyclopedia of the history of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, ed. H. Sellen, Kluwer Academic Publishers,
D. Original Works:
-Galileo's Two New Sciences
-Newton's Principia or Optiks
-Benjamin Franklin's Electricity
-Darwin's Origin of the Species (as an example of science outside of physics)
Philosophy of Science:
T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
K. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery
More recently there are some texts on class based, feminist and post-modern critiques of science, for example, Sandra Harding's Strong Objectivity.
These books often combine "real" physics covered in class and "made-up" stuff. It would be interesting to find out what sort of physics is used. Some example's are:
L. M. Krauss, The Physics of Star Trek (What they got right and wrong; the top 10 physics bloopers, etc. Foreword by Stephen Hawking)
C. Sagan, Contact
J. Verne, 10,000 Leagues under the Sea
Physics of Sports:
There are several good books. One example is:
R. Adair, The Physics of Baseball (Good book in Physics Library. Author is the official "Physicist" or the National League)
II. Ideas Starting from the Saturday Honors Physics Program
These are lectures held on Saturday mornings. See announcements on Physics Web page:
You could write a report using a lecture as one primary resource. You could ask the lectrurer about other resources
Many of the experiments and observations covered in class up to relativity are feasible for you to do. Examples might include:
- Observing the positions of the moon and stars and reporting their apparent movement in the sky in light of the models described in class
- Calculations of the length of shadows on a certain date in Champaign-Urbana and observations
- Theory and tests of periods of pendulums. Can measure g, test the Galiliean idea that all bodies have equal acceleration. Very accurate measurements can be made with a pendulum.
- Experiments to detect electric and magnetic forces, for example static electricity.
- Detection of cosmic rays. See the book Clouds in a Beer Glass