Dr. Wragg's Modern Physics — phys230-01

Fall 2018, MWF 9:00-9:50 room 363 RITA
Office: room 335 RITA, phone: 953-5781
Office Hours - WR 10:00-10:50 → But come by any time

email me, or send me an anonymous web-based email, or go to my home page


SyllabusOther Stuff
Assumed Knowledge
Learning Objectives
Learning Outcomes
Due Dates
Einstein's 1905 Paper

Below are a couple of beginner-level courses
I suggest to build your Mathematica proficiency
so you can get more work done in less time.

Mathematica: A Speed Date
On line tutorials

Wolfram Training offers both quick-start and
in-depth courses on Mathematica and other
Wolfram technologies.
A complete list of courses available

Physics News
Inside Science News
Physics World

NSF-REU Summer Research Program



Wikipedia Articles Modern Physics Resource Courses/Texts



Text: There will be no traditional text requirement, but it is good if you can find a recent (say last ten years) Modern Physics text to help you.

In this semester we hope to give you the background and execution of 20th century revolutions in physics. I expect to cover from the development of relativity up through quantum mechanics in 3-D and the hydrogen atom. We want to further develop your physical intuition, to extend your physics experience more deeply, especially into relativity and quantum mechanics, to enhance your capacity for solving problems both qualitatively and quantitatively, and for you to understand the motivation and process of the development of modern physics. Major topical areas are: relativity, quantum nature of light, matter waves, and quantum mechanics.

If you have a question, please ask it. If you have a comment, please make it. Even an anonymous note under my door or in my mailbox is fine. Communication is the essence of the classroom experience. I am pleased to see you any time you can find me. I encourage you to email me. I usually read my email at home and at the office.

Assumed Knowledge

You will need to maintain a working knowledge of the physics and mathematics at the level of physics 111-112, and calculus. Phys230 has a formal co-requisite of Calculus III (math221), although there are a couple of (restricted) exceptions to this. We do some very elementary differential equations which do not require having had the Differential Equations class.


As an important part of this course we will be learning to use a powerful computerized mathematics system, Mathematica. Computational systems such as Mathematica are very common tools in many fields of science and engineering and the experience you gain in this class will likely be a significant benefit in your further education and in your career. You will be encouraged, and sometimes mandated to work problems using Mathematica in homeworks, quizzes, and tests. You can get it here for your personally owned computer. It is installed on all of our computers in the general computer lab, room 326 RITA, and the advanced computer lab, room 369.


I expect you to have studied the relevant material for each day. Assume that I may give you a short quiz at any time to help motivate you to be prepared for class. The best advice I can give you is come to every class, participate, take good notes, read the book, do the problems and keep up. The most common, and perhaps the deadliest habit is to postpone your assault of the material. You are expected to diligently apply yourself, since it is your future you are working for. Assume that I may give you a short quiz at any time to help motivate you to be prepared for class. The best advice I can give you is come to every class, take good notes, read the book, do the problems, talk with your classmates, and keep up. I know these sound trivial, but they are all too often ignored.

Attendance and Timeliness

Attendance, timeliness and participation are critical to the learning process and an integral part of this course. In general, I believe that absence is its own punishment, that is, you miss things you can't possibly get by going over a classmate's notes. You are responsible for material covered that day. Contact one of your classmates for the notes. Failure to attend class on the day an assignment is assigned or due does not mean that you may turn in a late assignment without penalty. There are certain aspects of the course for which the information can be obtained only in class, thus, a student who misses class will miss material they will need on quizzes and tests.

To document an absence for any class

If you are late or miss class I may assign you extra homework to help you get focused.

A key word in education is RESPONSIBILITY. I have responsibilities as the instructor. You have responsibilities to yourself, me, and the class. One responsibility is to be in class every day and be there on time. As a student it is your job. Another is to read the day's reading before class. Also please do not think it is my job or my responsibility to teach you. IT IS NOT. It is my job to create an environment in which you can teach yourself. The goal of education is to empower the individual student to be self-taught. I can't really do this for you, but I can help a lot.

Due Dates

Assignments I may give are due at the beginning of class on the assigned day. Late assignments may be accepted, at my whim, but will ordinarily be penalized with a lowered grade and/or by assigning further work.


I give you homework, and you should do it. I usually do not collect or grade homework. You shouldn't be surprised to see similar items on quizzes or tests. I may work the problems, or very similar ones in class, or even ask you to come up and tell the class about a homework problem.

Be prepared to consider the following points on your homework:


We will have three tests during the semester, plus the cumulative final exam. Expect tests to cover topical blocks. Tests may include problems, graphs, sketches, explanations, and Mathematica exercises. I generally do not have multiple choice or true/false questions, although on the final exam I usually include a few multiple-choice problems. If you question your score on graded work you must bring it to my attention within 24 hours after they were handed back in class. I may at any time, without prior notice, prohibit the use of calculators on any quiz or exam. Of course, I won't expect the impossible if I do so. Calculations would be those reasonably expected to be do-able by hand. I'll schedule the tests about a week in advance for each, so pay attention!

I may give pop quizzes without notice. If you keep up on your homework and reading assignments you should have little difficulty with the quizzes. There will be no makeup quizzes.

FINAL EXAM: Friday, 7 December 2018, 8:00-11:00 am


I assign letter grades to tests when I return them to you. Major assignments, such as tests, are assigned letter grades, and assigned a number as in the College's grading scheme (A=4.0, A- = 3.7...). Minor assignments, such as the proficiency exercises, and quizzes are graded on a 10-point scale, which is rescaled to a 4.0 scale by dividing by 2.5. The weighted average is calculated to determine the final grade. Below are the relative weights of the pieces of your semester grade. Any quizzes given will be weighted 5% each, taken from the tests component.

5% Mathematica Proficiency Exercises
55% Tests
40% Final Exam

A =
A- =
B+ =
B =
B- =
C+ =
C =
C- =
D+ =
D =
D- =
F =

Other Information

Textbook: None

Either phys112 or hons158 are a prerequisite for this course. Math221 (calc-III) is a pre- or co-requisite. Under special circumstances for non-majors with other skills, permission of the instructor may be given. Computer Science majors have historically been successful in this course.

Learning Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities —
Any student eligible for and needing accommodations because of a disability is requested to contact me as soon as practical or as soon as you have been approved for services so that reasonable accommodations can be arranged. I'm easy to get along with. The Center for Disability Services is the resource place.

Academic Integrity —
It is expected that you will adhere to the university's honor code and student code of conduct, as can be found in the Student Handbook

updated: 22 Aug 2018 - jlw