PHYS 1905    Einstein in the 20th Century and Beyond  FALL 2006
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2005 Year of Physics

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This page contains the required texts, assessment information and lecture plan for PHYS 1905. THE FORMAT HAS BEEN MODIFIED (21-OCT-2006)! Hopefully, the reading assignments will be clearer.

Required texts:

  • David C. Cassidy: Einstein and Our World, 2nd edition (Ahmerst: Humanity Books), 2004.
  • Jeremy Bernstein: Albert Einstein and the Frontiers of Physics (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 1996.
  • Kip S. Thorne: Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (New York: Norton), 1993.


    Grades will be determined on the basis of weekly quizzes (multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank; 60%) an in-class group presentation (15%) and a poster (to be presented at a poster session in JFB 334; 25%). There will be no comprehensive midterm or final exams.

Tentative Lecture plan:

    Week and topic
    Week 1 (23-Aug-2006)
    Introduction and overview
    Quiz 1
    (meet your instructors!)
    Week 2 (28-Aug-2006)
    Whirlwind tour of physics up to 1905
    Quiz 2
    HANDOUTS: Singh, S. [2004] "Big Bang", Ch. 1
    Lightman, A. [2004]: "Einstein and Newton, Compared", Scientific American Special Edition.
    Week 3 (4-Sep-2006)
    Newton's physics
    Quiz 3
    READINGS: Cassidy, D. : Chapters 1 & 2; Bernstein, J.: Preface and Chapter 1;
    HANDOUTS: Einstein, A. [1930, 1931]: "Johannes Kepler" and "Maxwell's Influence on the Evolution of the Idea of Physical Reality"
    Week 4 (11-Sep-2006)
    Faraday and Maxwell on electromagnetism; Aether!
    Quiz 4
    READINGS: Cassidy, D.: Chapters 3; Bernstein, J.: Chapter 2;
    HANDOUTS: Thomas Levenson, "Einstein's Gift for Simplicity," and
    Walter Isaacson, "No Mere Genius" (in Discover, Sept. 2004)
    Week 5 (18-Sep-2006)
    The 19th century scientific setting and the 1905 papers
    Quiz 5 :
    READINGS: Bernstein, Appendix: "The Michelson-Morley Experiment", pp. 174-182
    HANDOUTS: Michael Guillen, "Class Act" in Five Equations that Changed the World, [1996], Hyperion.
    Week 6 (25-Sep-2006)
    The photoelectric effect
    Quiz 6:
    READINGS: Bernstein, J: Chapter 3, "the Strange Story of the Quantum", pp. 67-87;
    HANDOUT: Holton, G: Ch. 8, "Of Physics, Love, and Other Passions", in Einstein, History and Other Passions [1996] Addison-Wesley
    Week 7 (02-Oct-2006)
    Quantum mechanics and the reality of atoms
    Quiz 7:
    READINGS: Thorne, K: Black Holes and Time Warps, Prologue and Chapter 1 ("The Relativity of Space and Time").
    NOTE: quiz on this material will take place on Wed-05-Oct.
    Week 8 (09-Oct-2006)
    Special relativity
    Quiz 8:
    Einstein, A: sections 1--4 (or more if you want!) of "On the electrodynamics of moving bodies," Annalen der Physik, 1905 (available on-line in html or pdf formats).
    Week 9 (16-Oct-2006)
    Toward E = mc2
    Quiz 9:
    READINGS: Cassiday, Ch. 4, "Impact on Physics: Relativity", pp. 57-77.
    Einstein, A., "What is the Theory of Relativity" in the London Times, 1919, reprinted here.
    REVIEW: Bernstein, Ch. 2, "The Miracle Year", pp. 38-65.
    Week 10 (23-Oct-2006)
    General Relativity
    Quiz 10:
    READINGS: Thorne, K: Black Holes and Time Warps, Chapters 2-4: "The warping of space and time", pp. 87-120; "Black holes discovered and rejected", pp. 121-139; "The mystery of the white dwarfs", pp. 140-163;
    Bernstein, J: Chapter 4, "Professor Einstein's Happiest Thought", pp. 88-100.
    Week 11 (30-Oct-2006)
    Einstein the celebrity, and the prelude to war
    Quiz 11:
    READINGS: Cassidy, D.: Chapter 6, "Relativity Reaches the Public", pp. 93-110; Chapter 7, "Cultural Resonances", pp 111-124;
    Thorne, K: Black Holes and Time Warps, Chapters 3 & 4, "Black holes discovered and rejected" and "The mystery of the white dwarfs"
    Week 12 (6-Nov-2006)
    WWII and the importance of E=mc2
    Quiz 12:
    Thorne, K: Black Holes and Time Warps, Chapters 5 & 6, "Implosion is compulsory" and "Implosion to what?"
    NOTE: quiz will cover lecture topics, not reading material.
    Week 13 (13-Nov-2006)
    The aftermath: Post-war science and Einstein's death
    Quiz 13:
    READINGS: Bernstein, J: Chapter 7, "112 Mercer Street", pp. 145-167;
    Cassidy, D.: Chapter 8, "Science and Conscience", pp 125-138;
    Thorne, K: Black Holes and Time Warps, Chapter 7, "The Golden Age"
    Russell Einstein Manifesto
    Week 14 (20-Nov-2006)
    Einstein's legacy: cosmology
    (no quiz)
    Bernstein, J: Chapters 5 & 8, "Einstein's Cosmology" and "Einstein's Legacy"
    Thorne, K: Black Holes and Time Warps, Chapters 8 & 9, "The Search", pp. 300-321 and "Serendipity", pp. 322-356.
    Week 15 (27-Nov-2006)
    Einstein's legacy: Science in the 21st Century
    Quiz 14:
    Lecture material.
    Week 16 (04-Dec-2006)
    PHYS 1905 symposium

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Last updated: Thu Dec 7 04:11:29 MST 2006