PHY 3101 - Modern Physics - Fall 2018

Course Overview

Instructor Prof. Paul Avery
2029 New Physics Bldg.
Prof. Peter Hirschfeld
2156 New Physics Bldg.
Class lecture Section 1: MWF Period 2 (08:30 - 09:20am) 1101 NPB (Different room!)
Section 2: MWF Period 4 (10:40 - 11:30am) 1002 NPB
Organization and grading PHY3101 is split into two sections, but we will use a single Canvas site for all course material and will use the same exam dates, homework and grading scheme (HITT is separate because it's collected separately with different questions). We expect to lecture separately (because the material is fun to teach) but will cover one another for travel, illness, etc. Grading details are discussed below.
Grader Samantha Emerson (emerson)
Office: 1234 NPB
Andy Tanjaroon Ly (atanja82)
Office: 1135 NPB


Send e-mail only to phy3101 AT so that both instructors can see it and have all information in one place. Note that homework help is given during your discussion section and during office hours, not through e-mail.
Office hours Avery:        MW (11:45-12:45pm) T (10:40-11:40am)
Hirschfeld: M (1:55-2:45) R (1:55-2:45)
Modern Physics, 3rd edition
by Kenneth Krane
ISBN 978-1118061145

We also recommend looking at online reference books which have a wealth of material. Please give us feedback on these texts.

  • The Physics Hypertextbook. This is a basic online reference book for all basic physics, including several topics in modern physics.
  • Modern Physics course at UVA (Michael Fowler). This online course has a lot of historical description as well as mathematics.
  • University Physics 3. This is the third volume in the Openstax open source physics series, covering optics and modern physics. You can read it directly online or download the pdf to your computer. We also posted the individual chapters to e-Learning under Files-->OpenStax reference.

It's always useful finding material for modern physics. Please let us know about any cool materials you find online.

About the course

PHY 3101 is a one-semester course providing an introduction to the history, basic theoretical concepts and major experimental results from the physical theories that emerged starting in the early 20th century. We will explore theoretical ideas and measurable phenomena in special and general relativity, waves and particles, quantum mechanics, atoms and molecules, phenomena connected to the statistical distributions of photons and electrons, and nuclear and particle phyiscs.

As part of the course you will learn why “scientific theories” are provisional and evolving, dependent on an interplay between theoretical reasoning and experimental measurement, constrained to be consistent with other theories and required to successfully pass a wide variety of experimental tests.

Grading scale: The grading scale is shown in the table below, based on 100 points.

Grade Points
A 88
A- 83
B+ 78
B 73
B- 68
C+ 63
C 58
C- 53
D+ 48
D 43
D- 38
E <38

Grade components: Grade points are accumulated from exams, in-class quizzes via HITT clicker questions and homework, as summarized in the table below.

Source Points
Exam 1 20
Exam 2 20
Exam 3 25
Homework (inc. bonus questions) 30
HITT quizzes 5
Total 100

Exams: There are three exams, worth 65 points total. For any missed exams (illness, family emergencies), a single cumulative makeup will be administered on Thursday, Dec. 6 (time to be determined). On each exam you will be allowed one handwritten formula sheet (front and back). You should bring a calculator and extra scrap paper but work should be shown on the exam paper that we provide. We will provide a sheet with physical constants.

Homework: A number of assignments will be given, with each assignment typically being due 1 week from the time it was issued, though some will be shorter. Homework is due by 4:00PM on the due date in our mailboxes (note that you should not wait until the last minute since the mailroom does not always close exactly at 4PM). Deductions for late homework are as follows: 25% (1 day), 50% (2 days), 75% (3 days), 100% (4 days). Some bonus questions will also be assigned, allowing you to get extra points. Because we have very limited grading resources, we will grade only a subset of problems that will not be disclosed in advance. You must turn in work for all problems.

Quizzes: In-class quizzes using HITT clickers will be given in class throughout the semester, typically one per lecture. In computing your grade, we account for clicker problems and unavoidable missed classes by dividing your raw HITT quiz points by 0.80. The ratio of your score to the maximum possible points determines your HITT grade. Thus achieving 80% of the maximum possible points gives the maximum HITT quiz score.

Programming tools: Computing and simulation have become accepted as the "third leg of science", augmenting theory and experiment as indispensible tools for conducting modern scientific research and engineering applications. It is frankly impossible to succeed in these areas without using computational/software tools. In this course we will introduce you to several programming tools used extensively by physicists and engineers. They are free and run on all popular operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux). Please see the programming page for details.

e-Learning website: the PHY3101 e-Learning site is used only to post lectures notes, exam grades, quiz grades, homework grades and total points. All other syllabus information is on these pages.

Schedule: Dates for lecture topics, exams and homework are on the schedule page.

Academic Honesty: The UF Honor Code applies to all aspects of this course. It is mandatory that you report any possible infractions to your instructor immediately. The Honor Code reads as follows:

We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. On all work submitted for credit by students at the University of Florida, the following pledge is either required or implied: "On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid in doing this assignment."

Students with disabilities: Students requesting classroom accommodation for disabilities must first register with the Disability Resource Center. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the instructor when requesting accommodation before an exam. Please print and fill out the Accommodated Test Request (ATR) Form, and return it to the Disability Resource Center (DCR) at least one week before the first exam. The Accommodated Testing Service (ATS) at DCR will administer all exams.

Required work

  • This web site serves as the syllabus for the course. Each page on the web site has a link on the menu at left. You are required to read each of these pages. The web site is detailed and any policy questions you may have should be answered here.
  • You are responsible for ongoing course work, which is described on the web site: reading the text for the assigned material, attending lecture, doing the weekly homework, attending discussion section and taking the quizzes, and taking the exams


Firm knowledge of the following concepts from Physics 1 and 2 and proficiency in handling them is necessary for your success in this course.

  • Kinematics, force, torque, conditions for equilibrium
  • Newton's three laws of dynamics, circular motion
  • Work, kinetic energy, potential energy, relation of force to potential energy
  • Energy and momentum conservation
  • Basic electromagnetic theory, wave motion, E&M waves

In addition the material from the following mathematics topics will be used routinely.

  • Algebra, trigonometry, analytic geometry
  • Calculus 1, 2 and 3 (including partial derivatives and multiple derivatives)
  • Basic differential equations (corequisite, used mostly in QM)

Effective strategies for learning physics

From interviewing students we have found that the A to B+ students have better habits and spend more time on science courses than B and C students. In particular, they rarely miss class, do all the recommended homework problems and more, read ahead and study the material for several hours a week (not just before exams). Developing good habits at the start of the semester, before things get busy and you fall behind, will help you succeed.

A large fraction of your study time should be devoted to problem solving, which is essential to learning and cannot be replaced by mere listening and reading (think how we learn to bicycle, swim and drive). This is the reason we provide you a significant number of end-of-chapter questions and problems, web-based problems and quizzes.

The following strategies will help you to do well in the course:

  • Use office hours. If you don't understand something, ask us after class and in our offices. You can also talk to the grader.
  • Keep up with the course. The best strategy for success is to stay up to date with the readings and homework. In particular, solving problems will improve your performance on exams and quizzes far better than memorizing formulas or cramming. A good rule of thumb is that you should be spending about 6-9 hours on the material outside of class.
  • Attend lectures regularly. We cannot stress enough the importance of coming to class. Although you might not understand everything presented in lecture, you are unconsciously processing information that will serve you well later. Frequent class skipping contributes strongly to poor student performance.
  • Read ahead before lecture. Even though you may not understand the chapter material, a cursory advance reading "primes" your brain to be receptive to the material when it is discussed in lecture or discussion.
  • Ask questions. Your question is not stupid and is probably widely shared. We just hope that our answer isn't stupid. :-)