Physics 1115-010 (Fall 2023)

Survey of Physics


The main textbook is Physics and Technology for Future Presidents by Richard Muller.
This book is available in the UNM bookstore and also on Amazon for $45.99 delivered as a hardcover copy.

The first 50 pages of Muller's book for those who need more time to get a copy.

The book The First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg is an optional, extra-credit part of this course.
You don't need the very latest edition of this book; you just need a copy that includes Weinberg's updates as an addendum.
I bought my copy used for a little more than $1.

There will be an optional, online test that you can take to get the extra credit. Your grade in this course can only rise if you take this test.

You should try to take the quizzes on time and not let them all pile up in May.

All quizzes and the final exam must be done by Saturday 16 December at 11:59 pm.

Errors in Muller's book: On page 369, hydrocarbons should be carbohydrates. Oil is a hydrocarbon; sugar is a carbohydrate. Pages 384--388: American petroleum engineers have developed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as a relatively cheap way to produce oil and gas in the US.

I have made some videos about the early universe. In the first video I briefly describe Weinberg's book and then discuss some things that we learned about dark energy and dark matter after his book was published. This six-minute video is on YouTube.

In the second video, I discuss what we think may have happened in a few instants just before the Big Bang. This five-minute video also is on YouTube.

In the third video, I explain that we use the term cosmic inflation to denote what may have happened just before the Big Bang. This one-minute video also is on YouTube.

I am writing some class notes. Here they are.

Images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

More images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Yet more images from the JWST (along with some irrelevant NYT articles).

A nice New York Times essay on the current state of cosmology.

A nice New York Times essay on the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation emitted 380,000 years after the Big Bang.

Alan Guth explains inflation on YouTube.

Nicola Twilley describes the discovery of gravitational waves in this New Yorker article.

A short history of the last 14 billion years.

The known universe is so huge that intelligent life must have evolved very many times. But intelligent life is probably so rare that the closest civilization is hundreds or thousands or millions of light years away from us. So SETI makes sense, but UFOs probably aren't alien spacecraft.
What has always puzzled me is not how life started, but how it is that living beings actually feel anything. I understand how nerve impulses travel to the brain, but I can't remotely imagine how the animal with that brain feels anything.

I remember a public lecture Oppenheimer gave in 1963 at Brookhaven National Laboratory in which he explained Heisenberg's uncertainty principle:
To use a ruler to measure the position of something, your ruler must be attached to a known position.
To use the recoil of an object to measure the momentum of something, the object must be free to recoil.
This intrinsic incompatibility is why you can not simultaneously measure position and momentum to arbitrarily high precision.
As Heisenberg showed, the product of the error in position times the error in momentum must exceed Plank's constant h divided by 4 pi.

My thesis advisor Roy Glauber was one of the youngest physicists working on the Manhattan Project during WWII. He also won the 2005 Nobel prize in physics.
I once asked him what we should do about nuclear weapons. He replied, "Get rid of them."

Glauber reminiscing about the Manhattan Project: Memories of Oppie
YouTube video of Glauber describing the making of the atomic bomb.

A Particle That May Fill 'Empty' Space by Frank Wilczek.
A Particle That May Fill 'Empty' Space by Frank Wilczek -- audio that requires a W$J subsciption.

Accounting for a Wrinkle in Time by Frank Wilczek.
Accounting for a Wrinkle in Time by Frank Wilczek -- audio that requires a W$J subsciption.

Here are optional links to some websites that you may find interesting and may want to look at during this online course or after it:

Steven Weinberg's NYRB article The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics. Part 1 is of special interest.

The cosmic microwave background radiation as measured by the Planck satellite of the European Space Agency.

ESA website on the CMB.

An image (detected by gravitational lensing) of a huge filament of dark matter between two clusters of galaxies, Abell 222 and Abell 223. Nature 487, 202-204 (12 July 2012)

A map of dark matter (yellow and red) across a huge region of space in which the black circles are clusters of galaxies.

NASA's picture of the day.

A gallery of Hubble images.

A gallery of images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Another gallery of images from the Webb telescope.

JPL's website of images from the Spitzer telescope.

Hubble image of two interacting galaxies, UGC 1810 and UGC 1813, in Arp 273.

Radio images

NASA's eXtreme Deep Field image of 5,500 galaxies. There are 2 trillion galaxies in our universe.

Link to some lovely NASA images taken with the Hubble telescope.

Link to an MIT computer simulation of the evolution of the universe.

Link to a webpage on the Stirling engine.

Information about units.

A periodic table.

A remote periodic table.

A remote poster of the standard model of particle physics. The poster omits the Higgs boson which has a mass of 125 GeV/\(c^2\).

Diagram of the apparatus that Davisson-Germer used from 1923 to 1927 with which they showed that electrons, like photons, are particles that go on average where their wave functions tell them to go.

Link to image of transparency of Earth's atmosphere from .1 nm to 1 km. The heat of the Earth leaves at wavelenghs around 10 microns.

Movies of wave motion.

Feynman's demo of electrons going through two slits.

Link to some recently released films of nuclear explosions.

Link to an NYT video about meteor showers.

Link to a website about meteor showers.

Link to a website about total internal reflection, which is used in the fiber-optic cables of the internet.

Link to a website about antennas.