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
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
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
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
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
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
Nicola Twilley describes the discovery of gravitational waves in this
history of the last 14 billion years.
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
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.
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)
of dark matter (yellow and red) across a huge region of space
in which the black circles are clusters of galaxies.
picture of the
A gallery of Hubble
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
image of two interacting galaxies, UGC 1810 and UGC 1813, in Arp 273.
NASA's eXtreme Deep Field
of 5,500 galaxies. There are 2 trillion galaxies
in our universe.
to some lovely NASA images taken
with the Hubble telescope.
to an MIT computer simulation of the evolution of the universe.
to a webpage on the Stirling engine.
A periodic table.
A remote periodic table.
A remote poster of
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.
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.
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.