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    Milwaukee School of Engineering
  Oct 19, 2017
2017-2018 Undergraduate Academic Catalog
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PH 2031 - Waves, Optics, Thermodynamics, and Quantum Physics

3 lecture hours 2 lab hours 4 credits

Course Description
This course is a continuation of Physics I and Physics II. This course begins with a brief review of traveling wave theory, and then applies this theory to multiple waves traveling in the same medium, standing waves, resonance, and interference effects involving both light and sound. Polarization, reflection and refraction of light is also discussed. The basic thermodynamic properties of gasses and kinetic theory of gasses, as well as the First and Second Laws of thermodynamics are discussed and applied to various thermodynamic processes and heat engines. The three mechanisms of heat transfer will also be discussed. The quantum nature of the universe is then explored. The quantum nature of light is used to explain Blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect, Compton effect, x-ray production and absorption, the emission and absorption of light by atoms, and other atomic scale phenomena. This course concludes with a discussion of Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. The sources, uses and hazards of ionizing radiation are explored in the laboratory portion of this course. Together with Physics I and Physics II (PH 2011  and PH 2021 ), this course provides one year of comprehensive university level physics. (prereq: PH 2021  or PH 2020 MA 137  or MA 137A ) (coreq: MA 231 )
Course Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
Waves, resonance, wave optics, and wave interference:

  • Explain the differences between transverse waves and longitudinal waves
  • Write the traveling wave equation given information concerning a waves wavelength, frequency, direction of travel, and amplitude, and be able to determine the wavelength, frequency, travel direction, and amplitude of a traveling wave given the equation of the traveling wave.
  • Write the standing wave equation for two waves having the same frequency and amplitude traveling in opposite direction in the same medium, and understand the concept of standing waves
  • Calculate the resonant frequencies associated with simple one dimensional systems
  • Understand the origin of, and perform calculations involving single and double slit interference
  • Understand the concept of polarization of transverse waves, and perform calculations involving intensity as a function of the angle between polarization angles of two polarizers (Law of Malus) and the angle at which complete polarization of the reflected light occurs from a material with a known index of refraction (Brewsters Law)
  • Calculate the position and magnification of a real image from a converging lens or mirror given the focal length of the optical element and the location of the object with respect to the converging mirror or lens (LABORATORY ONLY)


  • Understand that temperature is directly related to the thermal energy stored in a medium
  • Use the ideal gas law to calculate pressure, temperature, volume, and number of moles or molecules present in a confined gas using SI units
  • Understand the microscopic origins of pressure and temperature, and be able to perform calculations involving pressure, temperature, RMS speed, and RMS molecular kinetic energy using SI units
  • Perform calculations involving thermal expansion in one, two, and three dimensions
  • Calculations involving heat conduction for a uniform cross section heat conductor
  • Qualitatively understand the process of heat transfer by convection in liquids and gasses
  • Understand that a Pressure versus Volume diagram graphically illustrates the work done by a gas as the volume of the gas changes
  • Calculate the work done when a gas undergoes constant temperature, constant pressure, constant volume, adiabatic, and cyclic processes
  • Understand that the First Law of Thermodynamics is nothing more than a statement of the conservation of energy, and be able to use the First Law of Thermodynamics to calculate the work done, internal energy change, and heat added to or removed from a gas during a thermodynamic process
  • Understand the Pressure versus Volume diagram for a generic heat engine, and be able to perform calculations involving heat input, work output, and efficiency of a generic heat engine
  • Understand the concept of Entropy and Entropy changes in reversible and irreversible processes
  • Understand the concept of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and be able to explain why heat engines cannot be 100% efficient converting heat input to work output
  • Calculate the Carnot and real life efficiencies of heat engines, and be able to explain why Carnot engines are more efficient than real heat engines

The Quantum Nature of the Universe:

  • Compare and contrast light as waves and light as photons, and be able to convert the wavelength of light to the equivalent photon energy
  • Understand the intensity versus wavelength distribution of a blackbody radiator, and be able to calculate the total power output and maximum intensity wavelength of a blackbody radiator (Stefans Law and Weins Law)
  • Understand the physics underlying the photoelectric effect and Compton effect, and be able to perform calculations involving the photoelectric effect and Compton effect
  • Compare and contrast the particle nature and wave nature of matter, and be able to calculate the De Broglie wavelength of a particle
  • Understand how the wave nature of matter leads to quantized electron energies in the atomic hydrogen atom ,and be able to calculate the emission wavelengths from excited atomic hydrogen atoms, and the x-ray emission wavelengths of heavy elements

Einstein’s Special Relativity:

  • State and understand Einstein’s two postulates of Special Relativity
  • Understand the physical concepts underlying time dilation and length contraction, and be able to perform calculation involving time dilation and length contraction
  • Understand the concepts of relativistic momentum and energy, and be able to explain why objects with mass must travel slower than the speed of light
  • Understand the equivalence of mass and energy and be able to perform calculations involving the conversion of mass to energy and energy to mass
  • Calculate the radiation pressure associated with electromagnetic radiation

Prerequisites by Topic
  • Understand the equations representing traveling waves
  • Understand Coulombs Law and the interaction of charges with Electric fields 
  • Understand electric potential energy and the definition of the electron Volt
  • Understand the meaning of a derivative and intergal and be able to differentiate and integrate typical functions

Course Topics
Review of Basic wave theory from PH 2021  and multiple waves acting in the same medium (4 classes)

  • Review of transverse versus longitudinal waves
  • Review of traveling wave equations, angular frequency, wave number
  • Two waves acting in the same medium - the superposition principle
  • Standing waves and resonance

Wave optics (3 classes and 1 laboratory experiment)

  • Reflection and refraction, including total internal reflection
  • Polarization - Law of Malus and Brewsters Law
  • Double slit and single slit diffraction, diffraction gratings
  • Thin film interference
  • Image formation and magnification using mirrors and lenses - LAB ONLY

Basic thermodynamics (3 classes)

  • Temperature
  • Thermal expansion
  • Heat transfer by conduction and convection
  • The ideal gas law
  • Kinetic theory of gasses and the physical origin of pressure

The First Law of Thermodynamics  (3 classes)

  • Heat energy, internal energy change, and work done by gasses
  • Pressure - Volume diagrams and work done during isochoric, isothermal, isobaric, adiabatic and cyclic processes

The second Law of Thermodynamics and Heat Engines (3 classes)

  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • Entropy changes is reversible and irreversible process, Carnot efficiency
  • Heat engines                                          

The quantum nature of the universe (7 classes)

  • Blackbody radiation - electromagnetic radiation acting as photons
  • The photoelectric effect and Compton effect
  • The Bohr model of the atom and atomic spectra
  • The wave nature of matter (De Broglies Postulate)
  • Quantized electron energies in atoms - The Bohr model for atomic Hydrogen
  • Infrared, visible and ultraviolet and x-ray emission and absorption spectra of isolated atoms

Einsteins Special Relativity (4 classes)

  • Einstein’s postulates of special relativity - Motion is measured with respect to a frame of reference, speed of light constant in any reference frame 
  • Time dilation and length contraction
  • Energy and momentum in relativity
  • Why objects with mass cannot travel at the speed of light
  • E = mc2, the equivalence of mass and energy
  • Light has no mass but carries momentum and radiation pressure

Ionizing radiation: hazards and uses - LABORATORY ONLY

  • Definition of ionizing radiation
  • Types of ionizing radiation
  • Radioactive source activity
  • Biological hazards of ionizing radiation and radiation dose
  • Uses of ionizing radiation
  • Units of activity, dose
  • Half lives of radioactive materials
  • Uses of ionizing radiation - XFS and XRD

Laboratory Topics
  • Week 1: Laboratory introduction and safety, AND Loading the LabVIEW software on student laptops, AND speed of sound in air using ultrasonic sound waves
  • Week 2: Image formation using convex lenses and concave mirrors
  • Week 3: Single and double slit interference, AND determination of the interatomic lane spacing in an LiFsingle crystal using X-Ray Diffraction
  • Week 4: Design experiment: Specific heat of water or another liquid
  • Week 5: Blackbody radiation - Power radiated is proportional to temperature to the fourth power (light bulb experiment) AND Radiation safety lecture (required by our radioactive materials license)
  • Week 6: Balmer series of atomic hydrogen and observation of various emission spectra using diffraction gratings
  • Week 7: X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy - the identification of unknown metals
  • Week 8: Activity of the Cesium 137 radioactive source and worst case dose from the Cesium 137 source
  • Week 9: Half live of radioactive silver
  • Week 10: Gamma Ray Spectroscopy - determining the mass of the electron, Compton Effect, and (possibly) identification of an unknown radioactive isotope

Professor Jeff Korn

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