We have structured a unique introductory sequence designed to quickly immerse students in topics of interest to contemporary physics. Additionally, the courses are team-taught using a combination of lecture, demonstration, problem solving, and lab, giving you the opportunity to learn physics in many contexts and to work in small groups.
Traditionally, an introduction to physics starts with 17th-century mechanics. Instead, we begin our introductory course with a question that is still relevant today: Does matter consist of particles or waves? This question leads us into many important and exciting themes of 20th-century and 21st-century physics, including relativity and quantum mechanics.
In our second course, we return to the study of mechanics, but with an astronomical approach: “Physics from Spaceship Earth.” Newton's development of the laws of motion was inspired by astronomy, and likewise astronomical topics — the rotation of galaxies and the missing "dark" matter, the search for new planets, orbital dynamics, rockets and space exploration — are introduced as examples of the inspiring predictive power of mechanical laws.
Second-year majors take Physics 233, Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism, which introduces the invisible fields which permeate the universe, and Physics 334, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity, which develops students' intuition for the fundamental ways in which Nature continually surprises us when we examine it at small scales or at high speeds. In addition:
- Astronomy majors take either Astronomy 210 (Intermediate Astronomy and Astrophysics) or Astronomy 312 (Astronomical Techniques) in the fall.
- Physics majors take Physics 336, Electronics, in the spring.