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From Newton to String Theory: A History of Physics

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNEnrollment
June 26, 2017 - July 07, 20172M-F 12:15-3:05POpenJuhi Rajhans
Eliana Wiener

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Course Description

We all know how a falling apple helped Newton discover the laws of gravitation, but did you know that playing bongos in the desert helped Richard Feynman untangle quantum field theory? Or that every famous physicist who studied thermodynamics eventually went crazy?

This is a course for people who want to understand what physics is all about. We will discuss the equations you'll encounter in your high school physics courses and be entertained by the stories of how those equations came to be.

You've heard the names--Newton, Einstein, Curi, Schroedinger--but who really were the men and women behind physics' most famous equations? And why are these equations so famous, anyway? How can we use them to help us solve problems affecting us today?

This course will answer some of these questions by combining scientific exploration with personal histories. Students will be encouraged to discuss great physicists and their discoveries to get at the essence of what made them great. As a class, we will work through many "gedanken," or thought experiments--just as Einstein did in his patent office in Bern to discover relativity.

This course will equip students extremely well for future studies in physics and prepare them to one day make discoveries of their own. By the end of the course, students will have gained insight into the lives of great physicists and how they made their discoveries, and will have a deeper understanding of the physics concepts themselves.

Students should have a good grasp of high school geometry. At least one prior course in physics is required. More advanced mathematics will be introduced during the course, but always in a manner that focuses on physical explanations rather than complicated definitions.

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