Topic outline

  • General

    QUANTUM PHYSICS: CONCEPTS AND CONTROVERSIES

    NSC 502 - 4 credits - Introductory

    Course Information:
    • Times: TuF 1:30 - 2:50
    • Place: Sci117A
    • Texts: Einstein, Bohr and the Quantum Dilemma (Whitaker), Quantum Enigma (Rosenblum and Kuttner), Thirty Years that Shook Physics (Gamow), The Ghost in the Atom (Davies and Brown), Quantum Mechanics and Experience (Albert)
    • Faculty: Travis Norsen

    Course Overview: This non-mathematical introduction to quantum physics will survey the historical development of the theory and explore its scope and implications, with emphasis on the Bohr-Einstein debates and ongoing current controversies about the interpretation of the theory. Specific topics will include: experimental evidence for wave-particle duality, the structure of the atom, Schroedinger's cat and the Einstein-Bohr debates, Bohm's hidden-variable theory, Bell's Theorem and non-locality, and the many worlds interpretation. Assignments will consist of weekly readings and several papers.

    Assignments and Grading: Active participation in (and so also presence for) class discussions will be an important aspect of the course, worth 15% of the final grade. This includes, of course, being fully prepared for such active participation, which requires doing assigned readings as scheduled. Two shorter papers (one on wave-particle duality and the other on the Bohr-Einstein debates) will be worth 25% of the final grade (each). A longer final paper, requiring some independent research and on a topic of your choosing, will be worth 35% of the grade.

    Course Policies:
    • Attendance is mandatory. (Let me know if, and why, you will miss a class.)
    • Late work will not be accepted without prior arrangement.
    • In addition to being fully present in class and handing in all the assignments, to really succeed in the class you should expect to spend several hours each week (outside of class) interacting with the assigned readings.
    • Discussion and collaboration, both in and out of class, are encouraged. But your work must represent your own understanding, and any ideas or help you receive from others should be appropriately attributed.
  • Topic 1

    Week 0: 8/31 - 9/4

    • Intro Course: Wednesday 8:30, Sci117A
    • First real class: Friday 1:30 Sci117A
    • Reading for Friday: Look at the Prefaces/Introductions and Tables of Contents from all the assigned books. Get at least a start on Chapters 1 and 2 of EBatQD (Whitaker).
    • Topic 2

      Week 1: 9/7 - 9/11

      Main Topics: Classical electromagnetic Waves, Light, Planck
      • For Tuesday: Finish Chapters 1 and 2 of EBatQD (Whitaker)
        • "Ripple Tank" applet from class
      • For Friday: TYtSP (Gamow) Chapter 1, EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 4
      • Topic 3

        Week 2: 9/14 - 9/18

        Main topics: Photoelectric Effect, Compton Scattering
        • For Tuesday: QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapters 1-6
        • For Friday: Catch up, review
        • Topic 4

          Week 3: 9/21 - 9/25

          Main topics: Electron Waves, Franck-Hertz, the Bohr atom, de Broglie
          • For Tuesday: TYtSP (Gamow) Chapters 2-4
          • For Friday: review your reading/thinking on "wave-particle duality" and bring any questions to class.
          • Topic 5

            Week 4: 9/28 - 10/2

            Main topics: Double Slit Experiment, Wrap-up Wave-Particle Duality
            • For Tuesday: Read (and savor!) the Feynman chapter on the 2-slit experiment, and look at the other two papers. (See links to pdf's below.)
            • Friday: no class, but your first paper is due. See details below. Actually, the official due-date can be Sunday night -- it just has to be under the door of my office (if you had in a hardcopy) or in my email inbox (if you submit electronically) by the time I get to campus Monday morning (roughly 6:30 AM).
          • Topic 6

            Week 5: 10/5 - 10/9

            Main topics: The Schroedinger Equation, Quantum Mechanics, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle
            • For Tuesday: QMaE (Albert) Chapters 1-2, QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapters 7-9
            • For Friday: TYtSP (Gamow) Chapter 5
            • Topic 7

              Week 6: 10/12 - 10/16

              Main topics: Bohr and the Copenhagen Interpretation
              • For Tuesday: EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 5, QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapter 10, Bohr's Como Lecture (see below)
              • For Friday: Bohr's "Discussions with Einstein..." Paper (see below)
              • Topic 8

                Week 7: 10/19 - 10/23

                • Hendricks Days M-T

                Main topics: Einstein's Skepticism, EPR
                • For Friday: EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 6, the EPR paper (see below)
                • Topic 9

                  Week 8: 10/26 - 10/30

                  Main topics: EPR and Bohr's Reply, the Measurement Problem
                  • For Tuesday: Bohr's Reply to EPR, Arthur Fine papers (see below)
                  • For Friday: QMaE (Albert) Chapter 4, QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapters 11-12, Schroedinger's Cat paper (see below)
                  • Second paper due next Tuesday (Nov. 3). Assignment: Summarize and clarify the Einstein-Bohr debate(s). What, fundamentally, were they arguing about? What did each side think and why? For this paper it's fine to take a position -- i.e., not only summarize, but also assess the arguments. On the other hand, you don't have to do that -- and even if you do do that, you should first (fairly and respectfully) summarize/clarify what both sides were saying.

                • Topic 10

                  Week 9: 11/2 - 11/6

                  Main topics: The de Broglie - Bohm Pilot-Wave Theory
                  • For Tuesday: QMaE (Albert) Chapters 4-7
                  • For Friday: EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 7
                • Topic 11

                  Week 10: 11/9 - 11/13

                  Main topic: Bell's Theorem and Quantum Non-Locality
                  • For Tuesday:  Bell's "Bertlmann's Socks..." paper (below)
                  • For Friday: QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapter 13, finish EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 7, QMaE (Albert) "non-locality" chapter
                  • Topic 12

                    Week 11: 11/16 - 11/20

                    Main topics: Other Interpretations
                    • For Tuesday: QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapter 14, EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 8, deWitt MWI article (below)
                    • For Friday: GRW (Whitaker pages 327-332, Albert Chapter 5, Rosenblum/Kuttner page 167)
                  • Topic 13

                    Week 12: 11/23 - 11/27

                    • Thanksgiving Break W-F

                    Main topics: Information? Consciousness?
                    • For Tuesday: EBatQD (Whitaker) Chapter 9, QE (Rosenblum/Kuttner) Chapters 15-17
                    • Topic 14

                      Week 13: 11/30 - 12/4

                      Main topics: Survey Interpretations
                      • For Tuesday: Read Bell's Six Possible Worlds, bring discussion questions
                      • For Friday: Read The Ghost in the Atom (Davies/Brown), bring discussion questions
                      • Topic 15

                        Week 14: 12/7 - 12/11

                        • Reading Days Th-F

                        For Tuesday: Read enough of the first link below ("Transgressing the Boundaries") to get the flavor of it; then read the second link ("A Physicist Experiments"); then read the third ("At Whom are we laughing?"). Discussion to follow in class.
                      • Topic 16

                        Exam Week