Physics 132, Spring 2004

Contemporary Physics

When and where: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-11, room 31 Evans

Format: two 1.5-hr class meetings per week (student participation strongly encouraged); discussion on individual basis (by appointment)

Instructor: Associate Professor Dmitry Budker

Office hour: Tu, 1-2, 273 Birge or by appointment

Synopsis and goals of the course:
The course will provide an introduction to modern physics for scientists, engineers, doctors, and educators (or anyone else with mind open to the real world); will be free of unnecessary mathematical complexity (although mathematics, for sure, will be used), and will cover a range of topics, including:

Unfortunately: the course is not open for credit to students who have completed Physics 137A

Required text: Paul A. Tipler and Ralph A. Llewellyn Modern Physics, W. H. Freeman and Company ; New York, 2003. Considerable additional resources associated with this text are available online at

Recommended texts (general):

  1. R. P. Feynman, R. B. Leighton, and M. Sands, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, v. 1-3, Addison-Wesley (any edition)
  2. George L. Trigg, Landmark Experiments in Twentieth Century Physics, Dover, 1995 (ISBN: 048628526X)
  3. D. Budker, D. F. Kimball, and D. P. DeMille, Atomic Physics. An Exploration through Problems and Solutions, Oxford University Press, 2004 (Click here)

Recommended texts (good textbooks on specific subfields):

  1. Hans C. Ohanian, Special Relativity: A Modern Introduction, Physics Curriculum and Instruction, 2001 (ISBN 0-9713134-1-5)
  2. James B. Hartle, Gravity. An Introduction to Einstein's General Relativity, Addisin Wesley, 2003 (ISBN 0-8053-8662-9)
  3. David J. Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Prentice Hall, 1995 (ISBN 0-13-124405-1)
  4. Philip Nelson, Biological Physics, Energy, Information, Life, W. H. Freeman and Co, 2004.
  5. T. E. Faber, Fluid Dynamics for Physicists, Cambridge University Press, 1997 (ISBN 0 521 42969 2)
  6. Allen D. Elster and Jonathan H. Burdette, Questions and Answers in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Seconc Edition, Mosby

Physics (and not-quite-physics) bed-time reading:

  1. Charles H. Townes, How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist, Oxford University Press, 1999 (ISBN: 0195122682)
  2. Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to the Black Holes.
  3. Stephen W. Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell.
  4. Seabrook, W. Doctor Wood, Modern Wizard of the Laboratory. New York, Harcourt, Brace and company, 1941 (Physics Library QC16.W6 S4)
  5. Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway, 2003 (ISBN: 0767908171)
  6. Margarita Ryutova-Kemoklidze, The Quantum Generation: Highlights and Tragedies of the Golden Age of Physics, Springer Verlag, 1995 (ISBN: 0387532986)
  7. Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos : Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Knopf, 2004 (ISBN: 0375727205)
  8. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe : Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, Vintage, 2000 (ISBN: 0375708111)
  9. James D. Watson, The Double Helix : A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA.
  10. Kary Mullis, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, Vintage, 2000 (ISBN: 0679774009). Note: this is a rare case where I feel that a disclaimer is necessary that I do not necessarily share or endorse some of the author's opinions and views.
  11. Emilio Segre, A Mind Always in Motion: The Autobiography of Emilio Segre, University of California Press, 1993, (ASIN: 0520076273)

Grading policy: the final grade will be based on oral presentations given by the students in class. Each student is required to deliver at least two presentations during the semester. The students are also required to submit short (on the order of 40 words) written abstracts of their presentations. The abstracts should concisely describe the content of the talk. be prepared as if they were for papers submitted for publication and should include the student's name and date of the presentation.

News flash!

Seminars and Colloquia

Lecture Notes, Electronic Tutorials

Assorted Physics-Related Links, Web Resources

Topics for individual research and presentation in class:

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer: This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).