Special relativity (AS.171.207)
Waves (AS.171.201)
Nadia Zakamska
Fall 2012

This is an old webpage; this is not this year's class.

Special Relativity and Waves is the third course in the four-semester introductory sequence for physics majors. The course is divided into two parts. In the first three-four weeks we study the theory of special relativity (this is where 171.207 course ends after the first midterm and relevant homework). Then the rest of the semester is devoted to the physics of waves (for those who take the full course 171.201). The course builds upon the background in classical mechanics and electromagnetism, and precedes the full development of quantum physics.

The lab component of the class is new this year. With the exception of the first lab on Special Relativity, which can be done individually, the experimental part of the labs will be done in pairs. You are welcome to use the Special Relativity lab to find a lab partner!

Course information and week-by-week schedule removed by instructor (08-23-2013) to avoid confusion with the Fall 2013 information and schedule.

The webpage for the previous year's class is here.


Weekly assignments were posted here and have since been removed from the public domain. The students were also provided with a limited-access link to exams from previous years, so that they could practice. If you are an instructor at another institution and are interested in assigments and exams for this class, please contact N.Z.


Sept 4. Lecture 1. Postulates of special relativity. Derivation of Lorentz transform.
Sept 6. Lecture 2. Length contraction, time dilation, simultaneous events, causally connected events, Minkowski diagram.
Sept 11. Lecture 3. Transformation of velocity.
Sept 13. Lecture 4. Invariants and 4-vectors. Energy and momentum of particles.
Sept 18. Lecture 5. Energy and momentum of photons. Particle collisions. Doppler effect, aberration.
Sept 20. Lecture 6. Relativistic dynamics. Introduction to transformation of E/M fields.
Sept 25. Lecture 7. Summary of special relativity. Expansion of potential near minimum. Simple harmonic oscillator. (Morin chapter 1)
Sept 27. Lecture 8. Damped harmonic oscillator. Complex numbers.
Oct 2. Midterm 1. Special Relativity based on lectures 1-5. Closed book / calculator only.
Oct 4. Lecture 9. Driven harmonic oscillator. Resonance curve.
Oct 9. Lecture 10. Beats. Coupled oscillations. (Morin chapter 2)
Oct 11. Lecture 11. Longitudinal vs transverse oscillations (Morin chapter 4.1). Normal modes. (Morin chapter 2)
Oct 18. Lecture 12. Wave equation.
Oct 23. Lecture 13. Discrete real Fourier series. (Morin chapter 3)
Oct 25. Lecture 14. Discrete complex Fourier series. Response of RLC circuits to periodic voltage.
Oct 30. Lecture 15. [No lecture. JHU emergency closing for Hurricane Sandy.]
Nov 1. Lecture 16. Fourier transforms. Response of RLC circuits to arbitrary voltage. Delta function. Relationship between Fourier transforms and Fourier series.
Nov 6. Midterm 2. Based on lectures 1-15; no more than 1 special relativity problem. Open notes / open book / calculator OK. As you know, the tables are very small in the classroom, so you will have little space (and time) to browse through your notes. Therefore, you'll be better off if you prepare your own formula sheet.
Nov 8. Lecture 17. Aliasing, strobe effect, Nyquist theorem. Standing vs traveling waves. Reflection and transmission (Morin chapter 4.2)
Nov 13. Lecture 18. Impedance. Energy and momentum of waves (Morin Ch 4).
Nov 15. Lecture 19. Attenuation (Morin Ch 4). Sound waves (Morin Ch 5). Euler and continuity equations. Sound speed in solids and gases. Energy of the sound.
Nov 20. Lecture 20. Non-relativistic Doppler effect. Musical instruments (Morin Ch 5). Amplitude of 2D and 3D waves. Polarization.
Nov 27. Lecture 21. 2D and 3D wave equation. EM wave equation. Boundary effects and interference (Morin Chapter 9). Huygens - Fresnel principle. Reflection and refraction. Snell's law. Double-slit interference.
Nov 29. Lecture 22. Multi-slit interference. Single-slit diffraction. Single-slit effects in interference. Dispersion (Morin Chapter 6). Wave packets, group velocity, phase velocity.
Nov 29. Lecture 23 / Lab 5. Low-frequency cut-off, high-frequency cutoff, evanescent waves.
Dec 4. Final section: oscillations of a 2D membrane.
Dec 6. Lecture 24. Penetration length of evanescent waves. Tunneling. [Advanced topics: Wave equation in quantum mechanics. Example of linear stability analysis.]


Ripple tank simulator (and lots of other simulations on the parent webpage)

CGS vs MKS (scroll down for a conversion table for electromagnetic units)

Tacoma Narrows video

Tuned mass damper