assignment_ind Small White Board Question

10 min.

Possible Worldlines
Theoretical Mechanics (4 years)

Special Relativity Spacetime Diagrams Worldlines Postulates of Relativity

Student consider several curves on a spacetime diagram and have to judge which curves could be worldlines for an object.

assignment_ind Small White Board Question

10 min.

Time Dilation
Theoretical Mechanics (4 years)

Time Dilation Proper Time Special Relativity

Students answer conceptual questions about time dilation and proper time.

face Lecture

30 min.

Lorentz Transformation (Geometric)
Theoretical Mechanics (3 years)

Special Relativity Lorentz Transformation Hyperbola Trig

In this lecture, students see a geometric derivation of the Lorentz Transformation on a spacetime diagram.

format_list_numbered Sequence

Quantum Ring Sequence
Students calculate probabilities and expectation values for a quantum mechanical particle confined to a circular ring in bra/ket, matrix, and wave function representations and compare the different calculation methods. Several different graphical representations of the time dependence for both states with special symmetry and arbitrary states are explored in a Mathematica notebook. Compared to the analogous particle-in-a-box, this quantum system has a new feature---degenerate energy eigenstates.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Mass is not Conserved
Theoretical Mechanics (4 years)

energy conservation mass conservation collision

Groups are asked to analyze the following standard problem:

Two identical lumps of clay of (rest) mass m collide head on, with each moving at 3/5 the speed of light. What is the mass of the resulting lump of clay?

assignment Homework

Events on Spacetime Diagrams
Special Relativity Spacetime Diagram Simultaneity Colocation Theoretical Mechanics (4 years)
    1. Which pairs of events (if any) are simultaneous in the unprimed frame?

    2. Which pairs of events (if any) are simultaneous in the primed frame?

    3. Which pairs of events (if any) are colocated in the unprimed frame?

    4. Which pairs of events (if any) are colocated in the primed frame?

  1. For each of the figures, answer the following questions:
    1. Which event occurs first in the unprimed frame?

    2. Which event occurs first in the primed frame?

format_list_numbered Sequence

Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States
“Arms” is an engaging representation of complex numbers in which students use their left arms to geometrically represent numbers in the complex plane (an Argand diagram). The sequence starts with pure math activities in which students represent a single complex number (using prompts in both rectangular and exponential forms), demonstrate multiplication of complex numbers in exponential form, and act out a number of different linear transformation on pairs of complex numbers. Later activities, relevant to spin 1/2 systems in quantum mechanics, explore overall phases, relative phases, and time dependence. These activities can be combined and sequenced in many different ways; see the Instructor's Guide for the second activity for ideas about how to introduce the Arms representation the first time you use it.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Calculating Coefficients for a Power Series
Theoretical Mechanics (7 years)

Taylor series power series approximation

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

This activity starts with a brief lecture introduction to power series and a short derivation of the formula for calculating the coefficients of a power series for a particular function:

\[c_n={1\over n!}\, f^{(n)}(z_0)\]

After a brief lecture deriving the formula for the coefficients of a power series, students compute the power series coefficients for a \(\sin\theta\) (around both the origin and \(\frac{\pi}{6}\)). The meaning of these coefficients and the convergence behavior for each approximation is discussed in the whole-class wrap-up.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Right Angles on Spacetime Diagrams
Theoretical Mechanics (4 years)

Special Relativity

Students take the inner product of vectors that lie on the spacetime axis to show that they are orthogonal. To do the inner product, students much use the Minkowski metric.

format_list_numbered Sequence

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

The first three activities provide an active-engagement version of the canonical mathematical and geometric fundamentals for power series. The subsequent activities apply these ideas to physical situations that are appropriate for an upper-division electromagnetism course, using concepts, terminology, and techniques that are common among physicists, but not often taught in mathematics courses. In particular students use the memorized formula for the binomial expansion to evaluate various electrostatic and magnetostatic field in regions of high symmetry. By factoring out a physical quantity which is large compared to another physical quantity, they manipulate the formulas for these fields into a form where memorized formulas apply. The results for the different regions of high symmetry are compared and contrasted. A few homework problems that emphasize the meaning of series notation are included.

Note: The first two activities are also included in Power Series Sequence (Mechanics) and can be skipped in E&M if already taught in Mechanics.

face Lecture

5 min.

Central Forces Introduction: Lecture Notes
Central Forces 2023 (2 years)

computer Computer Simulation

30 min.

Approximating Functions with Power Series
Theoretical Mechanics (12 years)

Taylor series power series approximation

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Students use prepared Sage code or a prepared Mathematica notebook to plot \(\sin\theta\) simultaneously with several terms of a power series expansion to judge how well the approximation fits. Students can alter the worksheet to change the number of terms in the expansion and even to change the function that is being considered. Students should have already calculated the coefficients for the power series expansion in a previous activity, Calculating Coefficients for a Power Series.

assignment Homework

Distribution function for double occupancy statistics
Orbitals Distribution function Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020

Let us imagine a new mechanics in which the allowed occupancies of an orbital are 0, 1, and 2. The values of the energy associated with these occupancies are assumed to be \(0\), \(\varepsilon\), and \(2\varepsilon\), respectively.

  1. Derive an expression for the ensemble average occupancy \(\langle N\rangle\), when the system composed of this orbital is in thermal and diffusive contact with a resevoir at temperature \(T\) and chemical potential \(\mu\).

  2. Return now to the usual quantum mechanics, and derive an expression for the ensemble average occupancy of an energy level which is doubly degenerate; that is, two orbitals have the identical energy \(\varepsilon\). If both orbitals are occupied the toal energy is \(2\varepsilon\). How does this differ from part (a)?

group Small Group Activity

60 min.

Establish Classroom Norms
Theoretical Mechanics (4 years)

Equity

In this hour-long activity, students establish classroom norms for being respectful when working in small groups. This is particularly helpful in the first course a cohort of students encounters.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Expectation Values for a Particle on a Ring
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

central forces quantum mechanics eigenstates eigenvalues hermitian operators quantum measurements degeneracy expectation values time dependence

Quantum Ring Sequence

Students calculate the expectation value of energy and angular momentum as a function of time for an initial state for a particle on a ring. This state is a linear combination of energy/angular momentum eigenstates written in bra-ket notation.

assignment Homework

Fluctuations in a Fermi gas
Fermi gas grand canonical ensemble statistical mechanics Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020 (K&K 7.11) Show for a single orbital of a fermion system that \begin{align} \left<(\Delta N)^2\right> = \left<N\right>(1+\left<N\right>) \end{align} if \(\left<N\right>\) is the average number of fermions in that orbital. Notice that the fluctuation vanishes for orbitals with energies far enough from the chemical potential \(\mu\) so that \(\left<N\right>=1\) or \(\left<N\right>=0\).

group Small Group Activity

5 min.

Events on Spacetime Diagrams
Theoretical Mechanics 2021

Special Relativity Spacetime Diagrams Simultaneity Colocation

Students practice identifying whether events on spacetime diagrams are simultaneous, colocated, or neither for different observers. Then students decide which of two events occurs first in two different reference frames.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Superposition States for a Particle on a Ring

central forces quantum mechanics eigenstates eigenvalues quantum measurements angular momentum hermitian operators probability superposition

Quantum Ring Sequence

Students calculate probabilities for a particle on a ring whose wavefunction is not easily separated into eigenstates by inspection. To find the energy, angular momentum, and position probabilities, students perform integrations with the wavefunction or decompose the wavefunction into a superposition of eigenfunctions.

assignment Homework

Quantum concentration
bose-einstein gas statistical mechanics Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020 Consider one particle confined to a cube of side \(L\); the concentration in effect is \(n=L^{-3}\). Find the kinetic energy of the particle when in the ground state. There will be a value of the concentration for which this zero-point quantum kinetic energy is equal to the temperature \(kT\). (At this concentration the occupancy of the lowest orbital is of the order of unity; the lowest orbital always has a higher occupancy than any other orbital.) Show that the concentration \(n_0\) thus defined is equal to the quantum concentration \(n_Q\) defined by (63): \begin{equation} n_Q \equiv \left(\frac{MkT}{2\pi\hbar^2}\right)^{\frac32} \end{equation} within a factor of the order of unity.

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 \(\text{km}\).