Physics 153: Relativity and Quantum Mechanics (Fall 2016)

MWF 11:00-11:50 109 Regents (lecture)
T 11:00-11:50, 109 Regents (tutorial)
Th 10:00-11:50, 113/119 Regents (laboratory)

Prof. Jim Freericks

Office: 552 Reiss
Office Hours: I am often in my office and will be happy to meet with you at any time on a drop-in basis. You also can schedule an appointment.
Email: james dot freericks at georgetown dot edu
Telephone: (202) 687-6159

Teaching Assistant

Tutorial Instructor

Laboratory Instructors

Course Description

How can the speed of light be the same in all frames? What does E=mc2 really mean? What is curved space and how does it relate to gravity? What is wave-particle duality, and why don't I see it everyday? What exactly is quantum mechanics?

In this course, we enter the realm of modern physics with all of the bizarre behavior of special and general relativity and quantum mechanics. The first part of the course concentrates on developing Einstein's special relativity (6 weeks), an introduction to general relativity (1 week), and quantum mechanics (7 weeks). Most of you have already heard about special relativity, and may think that its consequences are strange. The quantum world is even stranger, and if it wasn't all true, it would be very hard to believe.

Learning goals: There are two main learning goals. The first is to transform you from being able to solve rather straightforward short problems to being able to solve extended, complex, multistep problems that require you to employ both your math skills and your physics skills. The second is to teach you the exciting ideas of modern physics (which is, in many cases, almost 100 years old). Both of these skills will suit you well in progressing further with the major and ultimately evolving you into a physicist.

View this syllabus at

Creators of Relativity

Riemann Maxwell Poincare Lorentz Einstein Minkowski Schwartzschild

Creators of Quantum Mechanics

Planck Einstein Bohr Schroedinger Heisenberg Pauli Dirac

Some Advice

Three different texts are used in this course: Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics and French and Taylor's An Introduction to Quantum Physics. You are expected to complete the reading assignments before coming to class; reading exams will be given on canvas to check that the reading has been completed. In addition to weekly homework assignments, you will have three quizzes ( held during the laboratory period on October 6, November 3, and December 1 ) and a final exam (4:00--6:00 pm on , December 12, 2016). Your final course grade will be based on a weighted average of all assignments and exams.

Every Tuesday we will engage in a `tutorial.' During the tutorial sessions, you will work in small groups on worksheets that focus on important concepts and models. The instructors will not directly answer your questions, rather they will help you and your fellow students to reason out the answers yourselves. Each tutorial session has a homework assignment to be handed in at the beginning of the next tutorial session.

We will be using some math that you have all seen but might need a refresher to become expert on. This includes hyperbolic functions, complex numbers, Taylor series, differential equations and wave motion. Review materials primarily from the Khan academy are available on the math review page.

You may find some interesting supplemental material for the course in the list of suggested supplemental reading and the list of interesting web sites.



Class Homework Schedule


Math Review

Grading Policy

Supplementary Reading

Interesting web sites

As signatories to the Georgetown University Honor Pledge, and indeed simply as good scholars and citizens, you are required to uphold academic honesty in all aspects of this course. You are expected to be familiar with the letter and the spirit of the Standards of Conduct outlined in the Georgetown Honor System and on the Honor Council website. As faculty, I too am obligated to uphold the Honor System, and will report all suspected cases of academic dishonesty.

Last modified August 31, 2016

Jim Freericks, Professor of Physics, freericks at physics dot georgetown dot edu