PHYS323 - Modern Physics - Fall 2017

General Information

This is the course web site for the undergraduate "Modern Physics" class at ODU. Prerequisites: PHYS231 and PHYS232.


Dr. Sebastian E. Kuhn

Time and Location:

Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30 - 2:45, Room 142 OCNPS

Office Hours: Fridays 11:00 - 12:00 in 2100J PSB2 and Tuesdays 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon in the Learning Center as well as after lectures and by appointment (just send an email request).

Course Material:

Recommended Books (sorted by match with lecture content). The books and links below the double lines are meant as additional material for some part of the course.

  1. P.A. Tipler and R.A. Llewellyn: "Modern Physics", 6th Ed., WH Freeman.
    This is our main course text book but you are not required to buy it. We will use significant parts of this book for the 2nd part of the course;  be warned that it contains quite a few errors and typos. Earlier editions should be very similar. If you have any of the following books, you should be o.k., as well.
    Companion website:
  2. Kenneth S. Krane: “Modern Physics”, Wiley
  3. A. Beiser: “Concepts of Modern Physics”, McGraw-Hill

  4. The Feynman Lectures on Physics I-III, Pearson. Now also available online for free!
  5. Susskind+Friedman: “Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum”, Basic Books (also on YouTube!)
  6. P. Collier: “A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity”, Incomprehensible Books.
  7. Chapters on "Modern Physics" in whatever book you used for PHYS231/232
  8. Not a book at all, but an alternative lecture (if you find mine too boring): Brian Green's "World Science U" with courses on special relativity and "Master Classes" on Cosmology and Particle Physics.
Syllabus and Schedule

Summary of useful numbers, formulae and relationships for Modern Physics

Short version of the same formula sheet - will be handed out for exams

Short Summary of important results from vector calculus and Electromagnetism

Introduction to probability, statistics and data analysis (inference)

Participation Credit

There are two parts to your participation score (15% of your overall grade in the class):
1) In-class pop quizzes (40%)
2) Special reports, projects or other contributions to the class (60%), for example

News and Announcements

We reached the end of the semester.

If you would like some more practice (Quantum Mechanics is hard and needs a lot of practice!), consider solving the following problems in the book by Tipler and Llewellyn (ask your colleagues to copy them if you don't have the book - of course, any other book will have similar problems). Note that all of these have solutions in the back of the book. However, you are also welcome to show me your solutions during office hour, Learning Center or after making an appointment so we can go over them together:
  1. Chapter 5: 5-25
  2. Chapter 6: 6-9, 6-13, 6-30, 6-34, 6-42, 6-55 [Note that every problem is mislabeled in this chapter, with 8-xx instead of 6-xx. But 6-xx is what is meant!]
  3. Chapter 7: 7-1, 7-9, 7-13, 7-17, 7-26.
  4. Also, solve the following problem: For the 2p hydrogen wave function, show that the RADIAL part, R(r), fulfills the RADIAL eigenvalue equation for the Hamiltonian, with angular momentum l=1. (This is a bit of work, but doesn't require a lot of deep math knowledge, and may well help you get a grip on what these wave functions really are and what it all means). PLUS you get 1 extra HW problem credit if you turn it in!
For more practice on Special Relativity, look at the problems 1-11  through 1-37 and 2-1 through 2-31 in Tipler. You can always ask me for help if you get stuck.

Lecture Notes (partially from last semester) - being updated as we go along

Homework - please note general instructions for submission!

Useful Links

Quantum Mechanics Animations
Spherical Harmonics Animations and Explanations by Wolfram and table by Wikipedia
Pictures for solutions of a particle in a 2D box
Hydrogen wave functions
Particle Data Group and Particle Adventure

Society of Physics Students
ODU Experimental Nuclear Physics Group
ODU Ultracold Physics Lab
Center for Accelerator Science
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab)
Physics Central
Physics Links
Physics - Spotlighting Exceptional Research

Links to relevant articles - pick one for your "2nd participation project":

Fun Links:

Can (and SHOULD) we be making Baby Universes?
Learn Particle Physics like a 5-year old!
A fun article explaining quantum superposition - with a clip from "Big Bang Theory"
More on Schrödinger's Zoo
What drives physicists to despair? (Contains a short history of quantum mechanics!)
The (soon) coldest spot in the universe - right above your head
How to measure the speed of light in your kitchen
Einstein proven correct - again:
Why Einstein still matters...
Or may he have been completely wrong? (Note: read with caution and try to understand how the author uses sleight-of-hand to make relativity sound like nonsense).
The Quantum Pigeon Hole Paradox