group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Total Charge
Static Fields 2022 (5 years)

charge charge density multiple integral scalar field coordinate systems differential elements curvilinear coordinates

Integration Sequence

In this small group activity, students integrate over non-uniform charge densities in cylindrical and spherical coordinates to calculate total charge.

computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Visualizing Combinations of Spherical Harmonics
Central Forces 2023 (3 years) Students observe three different plots of linear combinations of spherical combinations with probability density represented by color on the sphere, distance from the origin (polar plot), and distance from the surface of the sphere.

assignment Homework

Calculation of \(\frac{dT}{dp}\) for water
Clausius-Clapeyron Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020 Calculate based on the Clausius-Clapeyron equation the value of \(\frac{dT}{dp}\) near \(p=1\text{atm}\) for the liquid-vapor equilibrium of water. The heat of vaporization at \(100^\circ\text{C}\) is \(2260\text{ J g}^{-1}\). Express the result in kelvin/atm.

assignment Homework

Icecream Mass
Static Fields 2022 (5 years)

Use integration to find the total mass of the icecream in a packed cone (both the cone and the hemisphere of icecream on top).

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Earthquake waves
Contemporary Challenges 2022 (4 years)

wave equation speed of sound

In this activity students use the known speed of earthquake waves to estimate the Young's modulus of the Earth's crust.

assignment Homework

Electric Field of a Finite Line

Consider the finite line with a uniform charge density from class.

  1. Write an integral expression for the electric field at any point in space due to the finite line. In addition to your usual physics sense-making, you must include a clearly labeled figure and discuss what happens to the direction of the unit vectors as you integrate.Consider the finite line with a uniform charge density from class.
  2. Perform the integral to find the \(z\)-component of the electric field. In addition to your usual physics sense-making, you must compare your result to the gradient of the electric potential we found in class. (If you want to challenge yourself, do the \(s\)-component as well!)

assignment Homework

Helix

Integration Sequence

Static Fields 2022 (5 years)

A helix with 17 turns has height \(H\) and radius \(R\). Charge is distributed on the helix so that the charge density increases like (i.e. proportional to) the square of the distance up the helix. At the bottom of the helix the linear charge density is \(0~\frac{\textrm{C}}{\textrm{m}}\). At the top of the helix, the linear charge density is \(13~\frac{\textrm{C}}{\textrm{m}}\). What is the total charge on the helix?

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Mean position
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

probability density particle in a box wave function quantum mechanics

Students compute probabilities and averages given a probability density in one dimension. This activity serves as a soft introduction to the particle in a box, introducing all the concepts that are needed.

assignment Homework

Energy of a relativistic Fermi gas
Fermi gas Relativity Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020

For electrons with an energy \(\varepsilon\gg mc^2\), where \(m\) is the mass of the electron, the energy is given by \(\varepsilon\approx pc\) where \(p\) is the momentum. For electrons in a cube of volume \(V=L^3\) the momentum takes the same values as for a non-relativistic particle in a box.

  1. Show that in this extreme relativistic limit the Fermi energy of a gas of \(N\) electrons is given by \begin{align} \varepsilon_F &= \hbar\pi c\left(\frac{3n}{\pi}\right)^{\frac13} \end{align} where \(n\equiv \frac{N}{V}\) is the number density.

  2. Show that the total energy of the ground state of the gas is \begin{align} U_0 &= \frac34 N\varepsilon_F \end{align}

assignment Homework

Electric Field and Charge
divergence charge density Maxwell's equations electric field Static Fields 2022 (3 years) Consider the electric field \begin{equation} \vec E(r,\theta,\phi) = \begin{cases} 0&\textrm{for } r<a\\ \frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0} \,\frac{Q}{b^3-a^3}\, \left( r-\frac{a^3}{r^2}\right)\, \hat r & \textrm{for } a<r<b\\ 0 & \textrm{for } r>b \\ \end{cases} \end{equation}
  1. Use step and/or delta functions to write this electric field as a single expression valid everywhere in space.
  2. Find a formula for the charge density that creates this electric field.
  3. Interpret your formula for the charge density, i.e. explain briefly in words where the charge is.

assignment Homework

Mass-radius relationship for white dwarfs
White dwarf Mass Density Energy Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020

Consider a white dwarf of mass \(M\) and radius \(R\). The dwarf consists of ionized hydrogen, thus a bunch of free electrons and protons, each of which are fermions. Let the electrons be degenerate but nonrelativistic; the protons are nondegenerate.

  1. Show that the order of magnitude of the gravitational self-energy is \(-\frac{GM^2}{R}\), where \(G\) is the gravitational constant. (If the mass density is constant within the sphere of radius \(R\), the exact potential energy is \(-\frac53\frac{GM^2}{R}\)).

  2. Show that the order of magnitude of the kinetic energy of the electrons in the ground state is \begin{align} \frac{\hbar^2N^{\frac53}}{mR^2} \approx \frac{\hbar^2M^{\frac53}}{mM_H^{\frac53}R^2} \end{align} where \(m\) is the mass of an electron and \(M_H\) is the mas of a proton.

  3. Show that if the gravitational and kinetic energies are of the same order of magnitude (as required by the virial theorem of mechanics), \(M^{\frac13}R \approx 10^{20} \text{g}^{\frac13}\text{cm}\).

  4. If the mass is equal to that of the Sun (\(2\times 10^{33}g\)), what is the density of the white dwarf?

  5. It is believed that pulsars are stars composed of a cold degenerate gas of neutrons (i.e. neutron stars). Show that for a neutron star \(M^{\frac13}R \approx 10^{17}\text{g}^{\frac13}\text{cm}\). What is the value of the radius for a neutron star with a mass equal to that of the Sun? Express the result in \(\text{km}\).

computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Visualization of Quantum Probabilities for a Particle Confined to a Ring
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

central forces quantum mechanics angular momentum probability density eigenstates time evolution superposition mathematica

Quantum Ring Sequence

Students see probability density for eigenstates and linear combinations of eigenstates for a particle on a ring. The three visual representations: standard position vs probability density plot, a ring with colormapping, and cylindrical plot with height and colormapping, are also animated to visualize time-evolution.

assignment Homework

Derivatives from Data (NIST)
Energy and Entropy 2021 (2 years) Use the NIST web site “Thermophysical Properties of Fluid Systems” to answer the following questions. This site is an excellent resource for finding experimentally measured properties of fluids.
  1. Find the partial derivatives \[\left(\frac{\partial {S}}{\partial {T}}\right)_{p}\] \[\left(\frac{\partial {S}}{\partial {T}}\right)_{V}\] where \(p\) is the pressure, \(V\) is the volume, \(S\) is the entropy, and \(T\) is the temperature. Please find these derivatives for one gram of methanol at one atmosphere of pressure and at room temperature.
  2. Why does it take only two variables to define the state?
  3. Why are the derivatives above different?
  4. What do the words isobaric, isothermal, and isochoric mean?

assignment Homework

Electric Field from a Rod
Static Fields 2022 (4 years) Consider a thin charged rod of length \(L\) standing along the \(z\)-axis with the bottom end on the \(xy\)-plane. The charge density \(\lambda\) is constant. Find the electric field at the point \((0,0,2L)\).

assignment Homework

Ring Function
Central Forces 2023 (3 years) Consider the normalized wavefunction \(\Phi\left(\phi\right)\) for a quantum mechanical particle of mass \(\mu\) constrained to move on a circle of radius \(r_0\), given by: \begin{equation} \Phi\left(\phi\right)= \frac{N}{2+\cos(3\phi)} \end{equation} where \(N\) is the normalization constant.
  1. Find \(N\).

  2. Plot this wave function.
  3. Plot the probability density.
  4. Find the probability that if you measured \(L_z\) you would get \(3\hbar\).
  5. What is the expectation value of \(L_z\) in this state?

assignment Homework

Gravitational Field and Mass
Static Fields 2022 (4 years)

The gravitational field due to a spherical shell of matter (or equivalently, the electric field due to a spherical shell of charge) is given by: \begin{equation} \vec g = \begin{cases} 0&\textrm{for } r<a\\ -G \,\frac{M}{b^3-a^3}\, \left( r-\frac{a^3}{r^2}\right)\, \hat r & \textrm{for } a<r<b\\ -G\,\frac{M}{r^2}\, \hat r & \textrm{for } r>b \\ \end{cases} \end{equation}

This problem explores the consequences of the divergence theorem for this shell.

  1. Using the given description of the gravitational field, find the divergence of the gravitational field everywhere in space. You will need to divide this question up into three parts: \(r<a\), \(a<r<b\), and \(r>b\).
  2. Briefly discuss the physical meaning of the divergence in this particular example.
  3. For this gravitational field, verify the divergence theorem on a sphere, concentric with the shell, with radius \(Q\), where \(a<Q<b\). ("Verify" the divergence theorem means calculate the integrals from both sides of the divergence theorem and show that they give the same answer.)
  4. Briefly discuss how this example would change if you were discussing the electric field of a uniformly charged spherical shell.

group Small Group Activity

60 min.

Going from Spin States to Wavefunctions
Quantum Fundamentals 2022 (2 years)

Wavefunctions quantum states probability amplitude histograms matrix notation of quantum states Arms representation

Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States

Students review using the Arms representation to represent states for discrete quantum systems and connecting the Arms representation to histogram and matrix representation. The student then extend the Arms representation to begin exploring the continuous position basis.

assignment Homework

Power from the Ocean
heat engine efficiency Energy and Entropy 2021 (2 years)

It has been proposed to use the thermal gradient of the ocean to drive a heat engine. Suppose that at a certain location the water temperature is \(22^\circ\)C at the ocean surface and \(4^{o}\)C at the ocean floor.

  1. What is the maximum possible efficiency of an engine operating between these two temperatures?

  2. If the engine is to produce 1 GW of electrical power, what minimum volume of water must be processed every second? Note that the specific heat capacity of water \(c_p = 4.2\) Jg\(^{-1}\)K\(^{-1}\) and the density of water is 1 g cm\(^{-3}\), and both are roughly constant over this temperature range.

assignment Homework

Spin Fermi Estimate
Quantum Fundamentals 2022 The following two problems ask you to make Fermi estimates. In a good Fermi estimate, you start from basic scientific facts you already know or quantities that you can reasonably estimate based on your life experiences and then reason your way to estimate a quantity that you would not be able guess. You may look up useful conversion factors or constants. Use words, pictures, and equations to explain your reasoning:
  1. Imagine that you send a pea-sized bead of silver through a Stern-Gerlach device oriented to measure the z-component of intrinsic spin. Estimate the total z-component of the intrinsic spin of the ball you would measure in the HIGHLY improbable case that every atom is spin up.
  2. Protons, neutrons, and electrons are all spin-1/2 particles. Give a (very crude) order of magnitude estimate of the number of these particles in your body.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Electrostatic potential of a square of charge
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

integration electrostatic potential surface charge density

Students write python programs to compute the potential due to a square of surface charge, and then to visualize the result. This activity can be used to introduce students to the process of integrating numerically.