PHYS 4211 Overview

Last edit: 17 Aug 1997

Prof. Thomas Coan (x8-2497)
Office: 4B Fondren Science         Lab: 1 Fondren Science

Welcome to PHYS 4211. This is arguably the most important physics course you will take in your undergraduate career. Of the entire spectrum of your physics courses at SMU, PHYS 4211 not only most resembles how people actually "do physics" in the real world, but most closely resembles how people doing technical work in a laboratory-like setting actually function. Nobody but nobody solves homework problems for a living despite the impression your other courses may have give you. To perform well in this course and in almost any technical field after your graduation, you will need to learn to work collaboratively, to develop general debugging skills, to communicate technical matters clearly, and to learn to be able to apply all of your physics knowledge to solving problems. You will be pushed very hard in this course because the intellectual benefits are potentially enormous. The amount of reading in PHYS 4211 is large. Although much of the material is not particularly difficult, I urge you to work daily to avoid mental saturation. If you fall behind in this course, catching up will be painful. Good luck.

You need to self-organize yourselves. You will perform the weekly labs in pairs so you need to find a lab partner, who can be different every week. You and your lab partner will take data together, argue over the data together but you will individually write any lab reports that are required. You can share data and ideas but not written words.

The laboratory will be open every Monday from 9:00am -- 7:30pm as well as some other times during the week. I will inform you of these other times. You should allocate a 3-hour time slot of your choosing for Mondays to perform the weekly lab assignment.

This course has three components. The first component is an introduction to analog electronics. You will learn, if you have not already done so, some minimal but meaningful amount of electronics so that you have some idea of how the measuring instruments you will use later in the course work. At the very least, you will become familiar with the oscilloscope, the most important instrument in any physics lab. See the analog lab assignments page for more details.

The second component of this course is a set of labs that emphasize the quantum nature of the physical universe. You will perform some historically significant experiments that helped to elucidate the quantization of electric charge, the discreteness of energy levels in an atom and other quantum phenomena. This section will teach you some new physics, review some physics you should already know, provide you with practical experience with some general lab equipment, and provide you with ample opportunity to hone your technical writing skills.

The third component is a general introduction to some important ideas in statistics and data analysis. The material is straightforward and you will be assigned some homework problems to help you understand some simple data and error analysis techniques. I will provide more details later.

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