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PHYS 342: Modern Physics

PHYS 342 is a three-credit course for students who are required by their academic major to take a course in Modern Physics. The course provides an introduction to the physical principles underlying topics in Modern Physics. The course is aimed at science/engineering students with a calculus background.

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Purdue University

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About the Instructors

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Ron Reifenberger

Purdue University

Ron Reifenberger is currently a professor of Physics at Purdue University and a member of Purdue’s Center for Sensing Science and Technology. He received his undergraduate degree in Physics from John Carroll University in 1970 and his PhD in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1976. He joined the Physics faculty at Purdue in 1978 following a two-year post-doctoral appointment in the Physics Department at the University of Toronto. Upon joining the faculty at Purdue, Reifenberger initiated a program to measure photo-induced field emitted electrons from a variety of metals. Since 1986, Reifenberger’s scanning probe group has been active in furthering inter-disciplinary nanoscale research at Purdue by establishing collaborations with faculty throughout campus. His group has focused on research problems that emphasize the role of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) as one of the key enablers of nanotechnology. His current research is focused on non-linear dynamics of SPM cantilevers, micro patterning of substrates for the rapid detection of targeted bacteria, and fundamental measurements related to current flow in molecules, carbon nanotubes and Au nanocluster networks. This work is currently supported by grants from ARO, NSF, DOE, NASA and NAVSEA and has resulted in ~130 refereed publications and three US patents. Reifenberger has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from John Carroll University in 1992, is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, and has been a Conference Co-organizer of the European Trends in Nanotechnology 2001 and Trends in Nanotechnology 2002 Conferences. He recently participated in the international APEC Foresight Committee entitled Nanotechnology, The Technology for the 21st Century.

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Leslie Schumacher

Purdue University

This instructor has yet to write their bio.

After thousands of years of effort, mankind has developed an intuition on how the world works. To be sure, mistakes have been made along the way -- it turns out the Earth isn't flat -- but ultimately due to the experimental method, a correct picture of the natural world has evolved. Slowly but surely, humanity has gained an understanding that has culminated in such things as the laws of motion and thermodynamics. Most of the time, it all makes sense.

This intuitive understanding of the natural world was challenged by a number of baffling experiments performed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To explain the outcome of these experiments, a new branch of physics - quantum mechanics - was invented to uncover the rules of matter at atomic length scales. 

The study of quantum mechanics has led to some truly astounding theories. For instance, it was discovered that electrons behave both as waves and as particles. The act of observing was found to influence the way electrons behave. Positions of electrons were governed by probabilities rather than precise coordinate locations. Although quantum mechanics makes logical sense mathematically, it more often than not defies intuition. It is therefore surprising that quantum theory has led to many revolutionary inventions over the past century and promises many more in the years to come.

The practice of quantum mechanics is far reaching and provides the rules that govern such diverse devices as transistors, ultra-precise atomic clocks, lasers, nuclear reactors and quantum computers. Knowledge of quantum mechanics forms the foundation of many scientific and engineering disciplines that include nanotechnology, condensed matter physics, quantum chemistry, structural biology and advanced electronic design.

This PHYS 342 course in modern physics is intended to provide you with a firm quantum base from which you can extend your understanding of the quantum world. The course we will follow is not easy and we will not provide a breezy survey of topics with little attention to detail. With access to modern information technology, you can achieve such a broad survey by reading the countless web pages devoted to quantum phenomena.  Instead, the course we follow attempts to discuss the big picture – both from a classical and quantum viewpoint - as well as covering relevant details, which are presented in lecture and compared to experiments whenever possible. This is a proven way to achieve real understanding.

The rules we will uncover may seem strange and contradictory, but they ultimately provide a consistent picture of how electrons and light behave at atomic length scales. The behavior may seem paradoxical, but as Richard Feynman has eloquently proclaimed “A paradox is just a conflict between reality and what you think reality ought to be.”, a resource for nanoscience and nanotechnology, is supported by the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.