Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Courses Offered
Physics and Astronomy

A list of regularly offered courses follows. The indication of when a course will be offered is based on the best projection of the department and can be subject to change. 

Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement; (W)  Writing requirement.   


103. Quarks to Quasars. (W) Fall 2014 

This course will be drawn from a variety of fields of physics, including particle physics and astronomy. We will use these topics to provide context as a way to attempt to answer some fundamental questions in science, including, but not limited to: (1) What is science? (2) How do we deduce the existence of things? (3) How do we make observations and measurements, and then build physical laws? We will consider these questions as we journey from the macroscopic to smaller and smaller scales. We will continue our journey in the opposite direction, reaching out to galaxies and clusters of galaxies. We will find that on both ends of the scale, we will encounter objects that we cannot see or interact with in any ordinary sense of the word. This will lead us to seriously consider questions 2 and three as we ask ourselves, “How do we know this particular object exists?” First-year seminar. Krebs 

111. Fundamental Physics I. (N) Every Semester 

First semester of a two-semester sequence that investigates the physical laws governing the behavior of particles and systems. PHY 111 always covers Newtonian mechanics. Additional topics, such as special relativity, thermodynamics and wave phenomena are covered at appropriate times during the sequence. Corequisite: MAT 109. Staff  

112. Fundamental Physics II. (N) Every Semester 

Second semester of a two-semester sequence that investigates the physical laws governing the behavior of particles and systems. PHY 112 always covers electromagnetism, optics, atomic and   nuclear physics. Additional topics such as special relativity, thermodynamics and wave phenomena are covered at appropriate times during the sequence. Prerequisites: PHY 111. Corequisite: MAT 110. Staff   

222. Electronics. (N) Spring 2015 

Basic electronic concepts, devices and circuits, d.c. and a.c. circuit theory with emphasis on equivalent circuit models. Design and analysis of power supplies, amplifiers and oscillators. Laboratory work with instruments and circuits. Prerequisites: PHY 112. Gagnon 

223. Modern Physics. (N) Every Fall 

Topics include special relativity, vibrations and waves, kinetic theory, basic quantum mechanics, quantum statistics and selections from atomic, molecular, solid state, nuclear and high-energy physics, or astrophysics. The course includes emphasis on development of laboratory, data analysis and mathematical skills. Prerequisite: PHY 112 or permission of instructor. Adkins 


226. Analytical Mechanics. Every Spring

Newton’s laws applied to particles: rectilinear motion; simple, damped and driven oscillations; gravitation and central forces; Lagrange’s equations and the Hamiltonian; non-inertial frames of reference; and dynamics of systems of particles. Prerequisites: PHY 111. Corequisite: MAT 229. Stubbins   

230. Optics. (N) Spring 2014

Introduction to geometrical and physical optics: waves, optical components, interference, diffraction, polarization, and lasers. Laboratory work supports classroom content, introduces modern optical equipment and measurement techniques, and explores current applications of optics. Prerequisite: PHY 112 and MAT 111 or permission of the instructor. Gagnon   


237. Physics of the Earth. (N) Spring 2015

Principles of physics as applied to understanding features and properties of the solid earth. Gravity, seismology, geomagnetism and paleomagnetism, heat flow; geophysical surveys. Laboratory. Prerequisite: GEO 110 or 114 or 118. Same as GEO 237. Sternberg  

333. Electric and Magnetic Fields. Every Fall 

Topics include Coulomb force, electrostatic field and potential, Gauss’s Law,

dielectrics, Ampere’s Law, Faraday’s Law, magnetic properties of matter, Maxwell’s equations and electromagnetic radiation. Corequisite: PHY 334 or permission of the instructor. Lytle 


334. Mathematical Methods of Physics. Every Fall 

Mathematical techniques important in analyzing physical systems; topics include Fourier series; series solutions of differential equations with applications such as Schrödinger’s equation and electrostatic potential theory; partial differential equations, with multi-dimensional applications to electrostatic potentials, the heat flow and wave equations, Poisson’s equation and electromagnetic radiation. Prerequisite: PHY 226 or permission of the instructor. Krebs 


344. Quantum Mechanics. Every Spring 

Basic postulates of quantum mechanics; wave equation in one and three dimensions; non-degenerate, degenerate and time-dependent perturbation theory; the hydrogen atom. Prerequisite: PHY 333. Corequisite: PHY 334 or permission of the instructor. Gagnon 


364. Experimental Methods of Physics. (N) Every Fall 

Designed to familiarize students with equipment and procedures used in a research laboratory. Experiments will illustrate principles involved in atomic, molecular and solid-state physics. Computer interfacing of apparatus using LabView or similar software will be introduced. Prerequisite: PHY 222. Corequisite: PHY 333. Krebs, Crawford 


431. Statistical and Thermal Physics. Spring 2016 

Physical concepts and methods used in describing the behavior of systems consisting of large numbers of particles. Statistical mechanics and thermodynamics discussed from a unified point of view. Connection between the microscopic content of the theory and the laws of thermodynamics developed. Prerequisite: PHY 226 or permission of the instructor. Fritz 


442. Condensed Matter Physics. Spring 2015 

Development of concepts and methods for understanding the behavior of solids. Semiconductor physics. Laboratory projects related to the physics of solids and applications. Prerequisites: PHY 333 or permission of the instructor. Staff 


490. Independent Study. Every Semester 

Independent study directed by the Physics staff. Permission of the department chair is required. 



100. Survey of Astronomy. (N) Every Semester

A survey of important areas and concepts of astronomy. Topics may include development of astronomy from ancient to modern times, including studies of the night sky; light and the electromagnetic spectrum; our solar system, including the laws governing the motion of the planets; evolution and properties of stars; black holes and neutron stars; structure, origin and evolution of galaxies; and the history and present properties of the universe. Weekly laboratory meetings at the Observing Deck, Planetarium or Computer Classroom.

121. Introduction to Astrophysics. (N) Every Semester 

A quantitative introduction and exploration of some of the main ideas in modern astrophysics with an emphasis on the relationship of contemporary physics to astronomy. Topics may include astronomical instrumentation, radiation laws and spectra, physical characteristics of the sun and other stars, stellar formation and evolution, the solar system, compact objects, extragalactic astronomy and galaxies, and cosmology. Weekly laboratory meetings at the Observatory Deck,

Planetarium or Computer Classroom. Corequisite: MAT109. 


370. Stellar Astrophysics. Spring 2014 

A study of the physics of stars (including the Sun), star formation, the interstellar medium, structure and evolution of stars, properties of normal stars, stellar interiors, and stellar kinematics; exotic end-states of stars. Prerequisite: AST 171. Corequisite: PHY 226. Staff 

372. Galaxies and Cosmology. 2013–2014 

A study of the physical properties of galaxies and their nuclei; large-scale structure in the universe; and cosmology. Topics include galactic structure and properties of normal galaxies; galaxy formation; the Hubble flow and cosmic distance scales, active galaxies and quasars; galaxy clusters and largescale structure of the universe; cosmic background radiation, and inflationary “big bang” cosmology. Prerequisite AST 170 or 171. Corequisite PHY 226. Christy, Lommen 


386. Changing Concepts of the Universe. (NSP) Fall 2013   

Historical examination of primitive and early cosmologies to present-day theories of the organization, extent and nature of the universe. Early Greek astronomy to present-day “big bang” theory. Use of simple astronomical instruments to reproduce observations of early astronomers. Not a laboratory course. Same as STS 386. Lommen, K.A. Miller 


387. Archeoastronomy. (NSP) 2013–2014 

Fundamental astronomy of ancient cultures: Stonehenge and other stone rings in England and Europe; circles and temples in the Americas, Asia and Africa; time-keeping and calendars; prediction of seasons and eclipses. Methods of analysis: motions of celestial bodies; use of planetarium, celestial globes and grids; surveying of sites. Not a laboratory course. Same as STS 387. E. Praton 


475. Experimental Methods of Astrophysics. Every Fall 

An investigation into the experimental and observational techniques used in modern astrophysics with a connection to the relevant science goals. Topics include an overview of instrumentation across wavebands; radio, X-ray, and non-photonic emission processes, detection methods, and science; numerical and observational principles used; data reduction and analysis; error analysis and statistical confidence. Coursework includes classroom work and labs/observing projects, plus independent projects and presentations. Prerequisites: AST 370 or AST372; Corequisite: PHY 333. F. Crawford 


390, 490. Independent Study. Every Semester 

Independent study directed by the Astronomy staff. Permission of the department chair is required. 



Topics in Physics. 
Solar Systems. 
Elementary Particles.