Physics 2021

Relativity and Quantum Physics

Spring 2019

M,W,Th,F 9:00-9:50 Montague 239

Instructor: Alec Habig

Office: MWAH 358

Office Hours:11:00-12:00 Th,F

12:00-13:00 M,W

(or by appointment)

Telephone: 726-7214


Prerequisites: Phys 2015 (or Phys 2018) and Phys 2016 (lab)

Text:Stephen T. Thornton & Andrew Rex, Modern Physics for Scientists and Engineers 4th ed.

Student Solutions Manual for main text (optional)

Course Objectives: This course presents an introduction to "Modern Physics", specifically relativity and quantum physics, with applications such as statistical, solid-state, nuclear, and particle physics.

The topics to be covered include the following:

Grading: Course grades will be determined based on your performance in the following four areas, with their respective weights:

Letter grades will be assigned based upon the weighted average on a non-competitive curve (see class website for details). In order to keep the students informed as to their progress, a letter grade will be assigned after tests and upon request. The class grades will be kept on UMD's Canvas online system so you can have up to the minute access to your scores, although letter grades will only be set periodically as mentioned above. Other Canvas features may or may not be used as the course moves forward.

Homework: Homework assignments are important. You will hear about concepts in class. It is expected to have read over the book and/or study guide's section on what will be presented in class before coming to class - lectures will be a lot more useful to you if you read in advance! However, reading and hearing about something alone do not make it sink in. In order to really learn about a topic, you need to practice it. Homework is this practice as applied to the concepts and theory, thus the comparatively large weight in the grade. In addition to helping one learn things, the homework helps the instructor see what areas need more or different explanation.

When writing out your homework solutions, include not only the diagrams and equations which lead to the answer, but elaborate on the reasoning that led you to the steps in your answer. Think of the good and bad examples your various textbooks have presented you with. Write your homework problems like the good ones, and remember how frustrating those "the remainder is an exercise left to the reader" passages have been.

Included in the homework score will be occasional in-class assignments.

Homework will be assigned roughly once per week. See for more. The lowest homework score will be dropped.

Tests: There will be two tests during the semester. The final exam is 8:00-9:55 Friday, May 10th.

Class Participation: This is a small class, affording the opportunity for the students to more actively participate in lectures. Ask questions. Answer other people's questions. Work things out on the board. You'll learn more and stay awake. We will be doing in-class work to the extent that the classroom layout allows: there are way more students than available whiteboards!

Labs: The companion lab for this course is a separate course, Physics 2033 Classical and Quantum Physics Lab.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Describe and derive the Lorentz Transformation.

  2. Apply the Lorentz transformation and associated. relativity transformation to one-dimensional problems.

  3. Discuss the implications of mass-energy equivalence.

  4. Describe the physics behind, and the significance of, important experiments of the modern era, including Millikan oil drop, the photoelectric effect, Rutherford scattering, Compton scattering, and Stern-Gerlach.

  5. Describe in detail the structure of atomic orbitals and the consequences for the structure of the periodic table.

  6. Apply the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to basic problems.

  7. Apply the Schrodinger equation in 1 dimension to the finite and infinite potential wall problems.

  8. Apply the Schrodinger equation in limited 3D configurations, including problems with spherical symmetry.

  9. Describe basic nuclear theory.

  10. Apply the idea of binding energy to explain nuclear fission and fusion.

  11. Compare different sorts of radiation (alpha, beta, gamma), describe their sources, and discuss their applications.

Students with Disabilities: It is the policy and practice of the University of Minnesota Duluth to create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities. If there are aspects of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or your ability to meet course requirements such as time limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos, please notify the instructor as soon as possible. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss and arrange reasonable accommodations. Call 218-726-6130 or visit the Disability Resources web site at for more information.

Standard UMD academic policies: are in force and described online at

Course Outline*



Week 1 (1/16-1/18)

Ch.1 §1-6 Classical Physics

Ch.2 §1-4 Special Relativity

Week 2 (1/21-1/25)

Ch.2 §5-12 Special Relativity

Week 3 (1/28-2/1)

Ch.2 §13-14 Special Relativity

Ch.3 §1-6 Quantization

Week 4 (2/4-2/8)

Ch.3 §7-9 Quantization

Week 5 (2/11-2/18)

Ch.4 §1-7 Structure of Atom

*Test #1 (2/13) or thereabouts

Ch.5 §1-8 Waves

Week 6 (2/18-2/22)

Ch.6 §1-5 Quantum Theory

Week 7 (2/25-3/1)

Ch.6 §6-7 Quantum Theory

Ch.7 §1-4 The Hydrogen Atom

Week 8 (3/4-3/8)

Ch.7 §5-6 The Hydrogen Atom

Ch.8 §1-3 All the other Atoms

Week 9 (3/11-3/15)

Spring Break, No Class

Week 10 (3/18-3/22)

Ch.9 §1-4 Statistical Physics

Week 11 (3/25-3/29)

Ch.9 §5-7 Statistical Physics

Week 12 (4/1-5/5)

Ch.10 §1-6 Molecules and Solids

Week 13 (4/8-4/12)

Room for previous few weeks to expand.

*Test #2 (4/12) or thereabouts

Week 14 (4/15-4/19)

Ch.12 §1-8 The Atomic Nucleus

Ch.13 §1-7 Nuclear Physics

Week 15 (4/22-4/26)

Ch.14 §1-8 Particle Physics

Week 16 (4/29-5/3)

Ch.15 §1-5 General Relativity

Ch.16 §1-8 Cosmology

Week 17

*Final exam:

Friday, 5/10, 8:00-9:55

*subject to change to meet the needs of the class