PHY 3101 - Introduction to Modern Physics - SPRING 2010


MWF 9:35am - 10:25am (period 3), at NPB 1002


Tarek Saab
NPB 2354; Tel: 392-4671; Email: Contact




Instructor: W 10:30am -- 12:00pm, Th 10:30pm -- 12:00pm, in NPB 2354.

Email Contact:
If you have any questions that are not addressed within class time, I strongly encourage to come to office hours before resorting to email. Having an interactive, face to face discussion is the most efficient means of leaning a physics concept. If you are sincerely unable to come to office hours, you can contact me via email. However, I may not be able to respond immediately.


Modern Physics (5th Ed): Paul A. Tipler and Ralph A. Llewellyn (Freeman, 2008).
Note: If you can get a used copy of Modern Physics (4th Ed): Paul A. Tipler and Ralph A. Llewellyn (Freeman, 2003) this is a practically identical book and will be totally acceptable for use in this course, and will save you a few $.


The majority of material, and announcements for this course will be posted at the e-Learning website. This inclused the sylabbus, up-to-date calendar, and lecture list/homework assignments. You log directly into this course by going to the following url:


There will two types of daily quizzes:
  1. In-class HITT questions (so please remember to bring your HITT `clickers')
  2. At-home e-learning assesments
The "At-home e-learning assesments" are simple questions, largely based on the textbook, which are intended to familiarize you with the topic to be covered in that day's lecture. They will constitute 10% of your total grade.

The in-class quizzes will focus on the conceptual and analytic understanding of the material that is being covered in the current and/or previous lecture. They will constitute 20% of your total grade. Since clickers can sometimes fail to operate properly or you may have reason to miss some lectures, 10% of the total number of quiz questions asked during the semester will be considered `technical drops'. Thus, if 50 total questions are asked, you will be allowed to drop 5 of your lowest scoring responses.

There will be weekly homework assignments, due in class on the dates shown on the homework assignment page. Homework solutions will be posted after the due date, therefore no late homeworks will be accepted. For medical or other excused absences, see me for approval to submit late. The homework will constitute 25% of your total grade.

There will also be three closed-book exams, on the dates announced on the course web page. Each exam will constitute 15% of your total grade. Thus, the final grade will derive 30% from the quizzes, 25% from homework and 45% from the three exams.

Grading Summary

  • 10% - Daily at home quizzes (Assessments)
  • 20% - Daily in-class quizzes (HITT)
  • 25% - Weekly homeworks
  • 15% - Exam 1
  • 15% - Exam 2
  • 15% - Exam 3
The final letter grades will be assigned according to the following criteria:
  • A >=85 %
  • A- 80 -- 84 %
  • B+ 75 -- 84 %
  • B 70 -- 74 %
  • B- 65 -- 69 %
  • C+ 60 -- 64 %
  • C 55 -- 59 %
  • C- 50 -- 54 %
  • D+ 45 -- 49 %
  • D 40 -- 44 %
  • E <= 40 %

Note that any total score below 40% will be considered a fail. Important: A C- grade, with a grade point equivalent of 1.67, will in many cases *not* be sufficient to meet current requirements for major, minor, gen ed and Gordon Rule credit (that requires a C or better).


This course is an introduction to modern physics. Modern physics is a term that refers, broadly, to the fields of atomic physics, special relativity, and quantum mechanics which were established at the beginning of the 20th century as several problems became apparent with what is now referred to as classical physics. The course will introduce these problems and show how they are resolved in the context of the modern physical theory.

The course will follow this outline for this semester:

Topic Textbook Chapters
I - Discrete nature of particles
  1. Electric charge: Thompson's Experiment and Millikan oil drop
  2. Photoelectric effect
  3. Compton effect
II - Special Relativity
  1. Michelson Morely Experiment
  2. Time dilation / Lorentz transformation
  3. Relativistic dynamics
III - Quantum Mechanics
  1. The de Broglie Hypothesis, Wavefunction & Uncertainty Principle
  2. The Schrödinger Equation
  3. Quantum Mechanical Tunneling
IV - Statistical Mechanics
  1. Intro to Statistical Mechanics
  2. Density of States
  3. Bose-Einstein Condensation
  4. Free-Electron Gas in Metals
V - Particle & Astrophysics
  1. Particle Physics
  2. Astrophysics
  3. Cosmology


You are expected to read the material to be covered in each lecture before coming to the class. The lectures will not cover all the material listed in the schedule, and they are not designed to be a substitute for the text. The lectures will consist mainly of illustrating concepts with experiments and demonstrations, discussing any additional material omitted in the text, pointing out subtle points and common mistakes, and asking questions to find out and clarify misconceptions. The homework and exams will be based on materials covered in lectures as well as those listed in the schedule.


You are expected to attend classes regularly. You will benefit enormously if you read the scheduled sections from the text before coming to each lecture. Modern physics contains many concepts that are apparently quite counter-intuitive. Developing the necessary concepts and physical intuition does not happen in a 50 minute period, but rather over a longer period as you see, think about, and "repeat" a new concept. The lecture is only the third part of this process.
The course will cover a lot of novel material, and you should be prepared to invest a significant amount of time in it. The daily quizzes are not only important for grades, but they are also an integral part of the course and will allow you as well as the instructor to detect any gaps in your understanding of these novel concepts early. The goal of this course is to understand the concepts not simply to know which equation to plug in during the exams.

Working/studying with a group of classmates is a good method of assimilating a new concept and the related problem solving techniques, however, your homework sets are expected to be solely your own work. Copying homework solutions from classmates violates the university's academic honesty policy, and will not help you in answering the in-class quiz and exam questions.


You will need to register for HITT Clickers in order to be able to participate in daily quizzes. Please go to the following website and register immediately:
HITT registration website:
For any problems, contact John Mocko at mail

There will be daily quizzes, so please remember to bring your HITT clickers to each class. Occasionally, the clickers can fail to operate properly, or you may not be able to attend class on a given day. Consequently, 10% of the total number of quiz questions asked during the semester will be considered as `technical drops'. Thus, if 50 total questions are asked, you will be allowed to drop 5 of your lowest scoring responses.


All University of Florida students are required to abide by the University's Academic Honesty Guidelines and by the Honor Code, which 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."

Cheating, plagiarism, or other violations of the Academic Honesty Guidelines will not be tolerated and will be pursued through the University's adjudication procedures.