Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

PHYS 131   Atoms and Waves
Pre-Requisites Students who plan to continue into PHYS 232 should co-register for MATH 161
Co-RequisitesPHYS 131L
DistributionNatural Sciences & Mathematics
Core AreaNone
RecommendedThis course is required for students planning to major in physics, physics-astronomy, or physical science, and for students interested in pre-engineering.

An introduction to the process through which physics knowledge developed in the modern era. How did scientists determine whether the things they studied consisted of waves or particles; that is, what are the defining characteristics of each, and how can they be measured? To answer these questions, we introduce ideas from mechanics, electricity, and special relativity. Students are then confronted with one of physics’s great mysteries: how can the same object act as either a particle or a wave? While we may not completely resolve this mystery, we learn a little quantum mechanics that helps us predict the behavior of these systems. Some physics background is helpful, but none is assumed. Students must be very comfortable with algebra and trigonometry, but they will not need calculus until the next physics course. Two lectures, two problem-solving recitations, and one laboratory meeting per week.