PHYS 202
Vibrations, Waves and Optics Spring 2025
Division III Quantitative/Formal Reasoning

Class Details

Waves and oscillations characterize many different physical systems, including vibrating strings and springs, waves at the beach, or those that we hear as sound or see as light. Quantum mechanics describes particles with wave functions, and gravitational waves distort the very fabric of the universe. Despite these diverse settings, waves exhibit several common characteristics, so understanding of a few simple systems can provide insight into a wide array of phenomena. In this course we begin with the study of oscillations of simple systems with only a few degrees of freedom. We then move on to study transverse and longitudinal waves in continuous media in order to gain a general description of wave behavior. We conclude with a focus on electromagnetic waves and in particular on optical examples of wave phenomena such as interference, diffraction, and lasers. Throughout the course we will introduce and develop mathematical tools which will continue to see use in higher-level physics.
The Class: Format: lecture/laboratory; lecture, three hours per week; laboratory, three hours per week
Limit: 30
Expected: 20
Class#: 3578
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: problem sets, labs, midterm examinations, and a final exam, all of which have a substantial quantitative component
Prerequisites: PHYS 201; co-requisite: PHYS/MATH 210 or MATH 309 or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: sophomores
Distributions: Division III Quantitative/Formal Reasoning
QFR Notes: Weekly problem sets and laboratories which develop and use quantitative skills.

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