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Physics 310

PHYS 310

Catalog Entry

PHYS 310. Optics
Three hours lecture; two hours laboratory (4).

Prerequisite: PHYS 112 or PHYS 222.

An intermediate course in geometrical and physical optics. Topics included are mirrors, lenses, interference, diffraction, scattering, polarization, and introductory quantum optics.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The student is expected to have taken a year of physics at the college level. Such courses generally include a section of optics. In PHYS 310, the topics covered in such elementary classes are reviewed and then developed further. In addition, other topics which are often not treated at all, or perhaps treated only briefly, in elementary physics are discussed in some depth in PHYS 310. Some examples of these might be: thick lenses, Fresnel diffraction, light scattering, lasers and holography. There is no formal calculus requirement for PHYS 310. However, some material in this course can be treated more easily and more completely if calculus is used. Therefore, if all students taking PHYS 310 in a given semester are comfortable with calculus, it will be used occasionally as a convenient tool. However, its use is not considered essential and it will be avoided if even one student's background warrants it. The syllabus for PHYS 310 is:

I. Geometrical optics

1. Reflection and refraction at a plane surface
2. Spherical mirrors
3. Refraction at a spherical surface
4. Thin lenses
5. Thick lenses
6. Lens aberrations (optional)
7. Optical instruments

II. Physical optics

1. Waves and their superposition
2. Interference of light from a double source
3. Interference due to multiple reflections
4. Fraunhofer diffraction
5. The double slit: interference and diffraction
6. The diffraction grating
7. Fresnel diffraction
8. Light as an electromagnetic wave
9. Scattering of light
10. Polarization

III. Modern topics

1. The speed of light and special relativity
2. Blackbody radiation and the origin of quantum theory
3. Atomic spectra
4. The photoelectric and Compton effects
5. Electro-optics and magneto-optics (optional)
6. The wave nature of particles: electron diffraction and the electron microscope (optional)
7. Lasers and holography


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The lecture periods are part lecture, part problem-solving sessions. Quantitative problem solving is emphasized. The students are expected to have some familiarity with this through their experiences in PHYS 111:112 or PHYS 221:222. Skills learned in these courses are further developed in PHYS 310. As far as possible, examples and problems are related to the students' real-world experiences or to technological applications. Questions and classroom discussion are encouraged.

The lab exercises are chosen to complement the lecture material. For example, when polarization is being discussed, the lab for that week will be a polarization lab, illustrating at least some of the principles being covered in class. The lab work will also emphasize correct experimental procedures, data taking, error analysis, and the drawing of conclusions. A lab report must be submitted for each lab exercise.


Goals and Objectives of Course

1. Students will be acquainted with the nature and behavior of light, and with the operation of optical instruments.
2. Students will enhance their problem-solving and logical thinking skills through the application of these skills to quantitative optical problems.
3. Students will work with optical devices such as spectroscopes, interferometers, and lasers.


Assessment Measures

Progress toward the goals enumerated above is measured through observation in the classroom and the laboratory, graded homework, tests, lab reports, and the final exam.


Other Course Information




September 2001 Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair, Department of Chemistry and Physics