assignment Homework

Potential energy of gas in gravitational field
Potential energy Heat capacity Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020 Consider a column of atoms each of mass \(M\) at temperature \(T\) in a uniform gravitational field \(g\). Find the thermal average potential energy per atom. The thermal average kinetic energy is independent of height. Find the total heat capacity per atom. The total heat capacity is the sum of contributions from the kinetic energy and from the potential energy. Take the zero of the gravitational energy at the bottom \(h=0\) of the column. Integrate from \(h=0\) to \(h=\infty\). You may assume the gas is ideal.

groups Whole Class Activity

10 min.

Air Hockey
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

central forces potential energy classical mechanics

Students observe the motion of a puck tethered to the center of the airtable. Then they plot the potential energy for the puck on their small whiteboards. A class discussion follows based on what students have written on their whiteboards.

assignment Homework

Centrifuge
Centrifugal potential Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020 A circular cylinder of radius \(R\) rotates about the long axis with angular velocity \(\omega\). The cylinder contains an ideal gas of atoms of mass \(M\) at temperature \(T\). Find an expression for the dependence of the concentration \(n(r)\) on the radial distance \(r\) from the axis, in terms of \(n(0)\) on the axis. Take \(\mu\) as for an ideal gas.

assignment Homework

Rubber Sheet
Energy and Entropy 2021 (2 years)

Consider a hanging rectangular rubber sheet. We will consider there to be two ways to get energy into or out of this sheet: you can either stretch it vertically or horizontally. The distance of vertical stretch we will call \(y\), and the distance of horizontal stretch we will call \(x\).

If I pull the bottom down by a small distance \(\Delta y\), with no horizontal force, what is the resulting change in width \(\Delta x\)? Express your answer in terms of partial derivatives of the potential energy \(U(x,y)\).

assignment Homework

Effective Potentials: Graphical Version
Central Forces 2023 (2 years)

Consider a mass \(\mu\) in the potential shown in the graph below. You give the mass a push so that its initial angular momentum is \(\ell\ne 0\) for a given fixed value of \(\ell\).

  1. Give the definition of a central force system and briefly explain why this situation qualifies.
  2. Make a sketch of the graph of the effective potential for this situation.
  3. How should you push the puck to establish a circular orbit? (i.e. Characterize the initial position, direction of push, and strength of the push. You do NOT need to solve any equations.)
  4. BRIEFLY discuss the possible orbit shapes that can arise from this effective potential. Include a discussion of whether the orbits are open or closed, bound or unbound, etc. Make sure that you refer to your sketch of the effective potential in your discussions, mark any points of physical significance on the sketch, and describe the range of parameters relevant to each type of orbit. Include a discussion of the role of the total energy of the orbit.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Gravitational Force

Mechanics Gravitational Force Gravitational Potential Energy Derivatives Introductory Physics

Students examine a plastic "surface" graph of the gravitational potential energy of a Earth-satellite system to make connections between gravitational force and gravitational potential energy.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Field of Two Charged Plates
  • Students need to understand that the surface represents the electric potential in the center of a parallel plate capacitor. Try doing the activity Electric Potential of Two Charged Plates before this activity.
  • Students should know that
    1. objects with like charge repel and opposite charge attract,
    2. object tend to move toward lower energy configurations
    3. The potential energy of a charged particle is related to its charge: \(U=qV\)
    4. The force on a charged particle is related to its charge: \(\vec{F}=q\vec{E}\)

assignment Homework

Hockey
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

Consider the frictionless motion of a hockey puck of mass \(m\) on a perfectly circular bowl-shaped ice rink with radius \(a\). The central region of the bowl (\(r < 0.8a\)) is perfectly flat and the sides of the ice bowl smoothly rise to a height \(h\) at \(r = a\).

  1. Draw a sketch of the potential energy for this system. Set the zero of potential energy at the top of the sides of the bowl.
  2. Situation 1: the puck is initially moving radially outward from the exact center of the rink. What minimum velocity does the puck need to escape the rink?
  3. Situation 2: a stationary puck, at a distance \(\frac{a}{2}\) from the center of the rink, is hit in such a way that it's initial velocity \(\vec v_0\) is perpendicular to its position vector as measured from the center of the rink. What is the total energy of the puck immediately after it is struck?
  4. In situation 2, what is the angular momentum of the puck immediately after it is struck?
  5. Draw a sketch of the effective potential for situation 2.
  6. In situation 2, for what minimum value of \(\vec v_0\) does the puck just escape the rink?

assignment Homework

Potential vs. Potential Energy
Static Fields 2022 (5 years)

In this course, two of the primary examples we will be using are the potential due to gravity and the potential due to an electric charge. Both of these forces vary like \(\frac{1}{r}\), so they will have many, many similarities. Most of the calculations we do for the one case will be true for the other. But there are some extremely important differences:

  1. Find the value of the electrostatic potential energy of a system consisting of a hydrogen nucleus and an electron separated by the Bohr radius. Find the value of the gravitational potential energy of the same two particles at the same radius. Use the same system of units in both cases. Compare and the contrast the two answers.
  2. Find the value of the electrostatic potential due to the nucleus of a hydrogen atom at the Bohr radius. Find the gravitational potential due to the nucleus at the same radius. Use the same system of units in both cases. Compare and contrast the two answers.
  3. Briefly discuss at least one other fundamental difference between electromagnetic and gravitational systems. Hint: Why are we bound to the earth gravitationally, but not electromagnetically?

assignment Homework

Scattering
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

Consider a very light particle of mass \(\mu\) scattering from a very heavy, stationary particle of mass \(M\). The force between the two particles is a repulsive Coulomb force \(\frac{k}{r^2}\). The impact parameter \(b\) in a scattering problem is defined to be the distance which would be the closest approach if there were no interaction (See Figure). The initial velocity (far from the scattering event) of the mass \(\mu\) is \(\vec v_0\). Answer the following questions about this situation in terms of \(k\), \(M\), \(\mu\), \(\vec v_0\), and \(b\). ()It is not necessarily wise to answer these questions in order.)

  1. What is the initial angular momentum of the system?
  2. What is the initial total energy of the system?
  3. What is the distance of closest approach \(r_{\rm{min}}\) with the interaction?
  4. Sketch the effective potential.
  5. What is the angular momentum at \(r_{\rm{min}}\)?
  6. What is the total energy of the system at \(r_{\rm{min}}\)?
  7. What is the radial component of the velocity at \(r_{\rm{min}}\)?
  8. What is the tangential component of the velocity at \(r_{\rm{min}}\)?
  9. What is the value of the effective potential at \(r_{\rm{min}}\)?
  10. For what values of the initial total energy are there bound orbits?
  11. Using your results above, write a short essay describing this type of scattering problem, at a level appropriate to share with another Paradigm student.

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 \(\text{km}\).

face Lecture

5 min.

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

group Small Group Activity

60 min.

Gravitational Potential Energy

Mechanics Gravitational Potential Energy Zero of Potential Introductory Physics

Students examine a plastic “surface” graph of the gravitational potential energy of an Earth-satellite system to explore the properties of gravitational potential energy for a spherically symmetric system.

face Lecture

30 min.

Review of Thermal Physics
Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020

thermodynamics statistical mechanics

These are notes, essentially the equation sheet, from the final review session for Thermal and Statistical Physics.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

A glass of water
Energy and Entropy 2021 (2 years)

thermodynamics intensive extensive temperature volume energy entropy

Students generate a list of properties a glass of water might have. The class then discusses and categorizes those properties.

assignment Homework

Active transport
Active transport Concentration Chemical potential Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020

The concentration of potassium \(\text{K}^+\) ions in the internal sap of a plant cell (for example, a fresh water alga) may exceed by a factor of \(10^4\) the concentration of \(\text{K}^+\) ions in the pond water in which the cell is growing. The chemical potential of the \(\text{K}^+\) ions is higher in the sap because their concentration \(n\) is higher there. Estimate the difference in chemical potential at \(300\text{K}\) and show that it is equivalent to a voltage of \(0.24\text{V}\) across the cell wall. Take \(\mu\) as for an ideal gas. Because the values of the chemical potential are different, the ions in the cell and in the pond are not in diffusive equilibrium. The plant cell membrane is highly impermeable to the passive leakage of ions through it. Important questions in cell physics include these: How is the high concentration of ions built up within the cell? How is metabolic energy applied to energize the active ion transport?

David adds
You might wonder why it is even remotely plausible to consider the ions in solution as an ideal gas. The key idea here is that the ideal gas entropy incorporates the entropy due to position dependence, and thus due to concentration. Since concentration is what differs between the cell and the pond, the ideal gas entropy describes this pretty effectively. In contrast to the concentration dependence, the temperature-dependence of the ideal gas chemical potential will not be so great.

face Lecture

120 min.

Chemical potential and Gibbs distribution
Thermal and Statistical Physics 2020

chemical potential Gibbs distribution grand canonical ensemble statistical mechanics

These notes from the fifth week of Thermal and Statistical Physics cover the grand canonical ensemble. They include several small group activities.

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

30 min.

de Broglie wavelength after freefall
Contemporary Challenges 2022 (4 years)

de Broglie wavelength gravity

In this activity students combine energy conservation with the relationship between the de Broglie wavelength and momentum to find the wavelength of atoms that have been dropped a given distance.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Kinetic energy
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

finite difference hamiltonian quantum mechanics particle in a box eigenfunctions

Students implement a finite-difference approximation for the kinetic energy operator as a matrix, and then use numpy to solve for eigenvalues and eigenstates, which they visualize.