# Physics Course List 2018-2019

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Freshman Seminars taught by Harvard Physics faculty

Gen Ed courses taught by Harvard Physics faculty

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PHYSCI 2 - Mechanics, Elasticity, Fluids, and Diffusion Gregory Kestin, Susanne Pittman |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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An introduction to classical mechanics, with special emphasis on the motion of organisms in fluids. Topics covered include: kinematics, Newton's laws of motion, oscillations, elasticity, random walks, diffusion, and fluids. Examples and problem set questions will be drawn from the life sciences and medicine. |
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PHYSCI 3 - Electromagnetism, Circuits, Waves, Optics, and ImagingLouis Deslauriers, Susanne Pittman |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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This course is an introduction to electromagnetism, digital information, waves, optics and sound. Topics covered include: electric and magnetic fields, electrical potential, circuits, simple digital circuits, wave propagation in various media, microscopy, sound and hearing. The course will draw upon a variety of applications to the biological sciences and will use real-world examples to illustrate many of the physical principles described. There are six laboratories. |
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PHYSCI 12A - Mechanics from an Analytic, Numerical and Experimental PerspectiveEfthimios Kaxiras |
Spring 2019 M, W, F: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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This is the first term of a two-semester introductory physical science and engineering course sequence. The focus is on quantitative scientific reasoning, with the first term's exploration framed in the context of basic mechanics. Students will gain competence in both analytic (using pencil, paper and single-variable calculus) and numerical (using computer modeling) approaches to modeling simple physical systems and for the analysis of experimental data. Topics include kinematics, linear and rotational motion, forces, energy, collisions, gravitation, simple fluids and a brief introduction to waves. Examples are drawn from across the physical sciences and engineering. The course is aimed at first year students who have an interest in pursuing a concentration in the sciences and/or engineering. The course structure includes lecture, discussion and laboratory components. |
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PHYSICS 12B - Electromagnetism and Statistical Physics from an Analytic, Numerical and Experimental Perspective Logan McCarty, Susanne Pittman |
Fall 2018 M, W, F: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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This is the second term of a two-semester introductory sequence that uses a combination of analytic and numerical methods to understand physical systems, to analyze experimental data, and to compare data to models. Topics include electrostatics and magnetostatics, electromagnetic fields, optics [all topics illustrated with applications to current technological and societal challenges], and an introduction to the physics of many-body systems and their aggregate properties such as entropy, temperature and pressure. The course is aimed at second year students who have an interest in pursuing a concentration in the sciences and/or engineering. The course structure includes lecture, discussion and laboratory components. |
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PHYSICS 15A - Introductory Mechanics and Relativity David J. Morin, Amir Yacoby, Carey Witkov, Keith Zengel |
Fall 2018 |
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PHYSICS 15A - Introductory Mechanics and Relativity Keith Zengel, Carey Witkov |
Spring 2019 |
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Newtonian mechanics and special relativity. Topics include vectors; kinematics in three dimensions; Newton's laws; force, work, power; conservative forces, potential energy; momentum, collisions; rotational motion, angular momentum, torque; static equilibrium, oscillations, simple harmonic motions; gravitation, planetary motion; fluids; special relativity. |
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PHYSICS 15B - Introductory Electromagnetism and Statistical PhysicsPhilip Kim, Robert Westervelt, Carey Witkov, Keith Zengel |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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PHYSICS 15B - Introductory Electromagnetism and Statistical PhysicsGirma Hailu, Amir Yacoby, Carey Witkov, Keith Zengel |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Electricity and magnetism. Topics include electrostatics, electric currents, magnetic field, electromagnetic induction, Maxwell’s equations, electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields in materials, and some basic notions in kinetic theory, entropy, temperature, and phase transition associated with electricity and magnetism. |
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PHYSICS 15C - Wave PhenomenaMarkus Greiner, Melissa Franklin |
Fall 2018 M, W: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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PHYSICS 15C - Wave PhenomenaJohn Huth, Mara Prentiss |
Spring 2019 M, W: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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Forced oscillation and resonance; coupled oscillators and normal modes; Fourier series; Electromagnetic waves, radiation, longitudinal oscillations, sound; traveling waves; signals, wave packets and group velocity; two- and three-dimensional waves; polarization; geometrical and physical optics; interference and diffraction. Optional topics: Water waves, holography, x-ray crystallography, solitons, music, quantum mechanics, and waves in the early universe. |
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PHYSICS 16 - Mechanics and Special Relativity Howard Georgi, Amir Yacoby, Carey Witkov, Keith Zengel |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Newtonian mechanics and special relativity for students with good preparation in physics and mathematics at the level of the advanced placement curriculum. Topics include oscillators damped and driven and resonance (how to rock your car out of a snow bank or use a swing), an introduction to Lagrangian mechanics and optimization, symmetries and Noether's theorem, special relativity, collisions and scattering, rotational motion, angular momentum, torque, the moment of inertia tensor (dynamic balance), gravitation, planetary motion and a little glimpse of quantum mechanics. |
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PHYSICS 90R - Supervised ResearchDavid J. Morin |
Fall 2018 Course website |
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PHYSICS 90R - Supervised ResearchDavid J. Morin |
Spring 2019 Course website |
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Primarily for selected concentrators in Physics, or in Chemistry and Physics, who have obtained honor grades in Physics 15 and a number of intermediate-level courses. The student must be accepted by some member of the faculty doing research in the student's field of interest. The form of the research depends on the student's interest and experience, the nature of the particular field of physics, and facilities and support available. Students wishing to write a senior thesis can do so by arranging for a sponsor and enrolling in this course. |
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PHYSICS 91R - Supervised Reading Course for UndergraduatesDavid J. Morin |
Fall 2018 Course website |
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PHYSICS 91R - Supervised Reading Course for UndergraduatesDavid J. Morin |
Spring 2019 Course website |
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Open to selected concentrators in Physics, Chemistry and Physics, and other fields who wish to do supervised reading and studying of special topics in physics. Ordinarily such topics do not include those covered in a regular course of the Department. Honor grades in Physics 15 and a number of intermediate-level courses are ordinarily required. The student must be accepted by a member of the faculty. |
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PHYSICS 95 - Topics in Current ResearchEric Mazur |
Fall 2018 M: 3:00pm - 4:15pm; W: 7:15pm - 8:45pm Course website |
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Open to selected concentrators in Physics, Chemistry and Physics, and other fields who wish to do supervised reading and studying of special topics in physics. Ordinarily such topics do not include those covered in a regular course of the Department. Honor grades in Physics 15 and a number of intermediate-level courses are ordinarily required. The student must be accepted by a member of the faculty. |
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PHYSICS 101 - Foundations of Theoretical PhysicsJacob Barandes |
Fall 2018 M, W, F: 3:00pm - 4:15pm; Course website |
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A comprehensive, fast-paced introduction to the conceptual and mathematical foundations of modern theoretical physics that starts from the very beginning of the subject, with an integrated, first-principles approach to its five main areas: analytical dynamics, statistical mechanics, relativity, fields, and quantum theory. Examples will be drawn from many areas of physics, including Newtonian mechanics, electromagnetism, particle physics, general relativity, and quantum information. In-class discussions will frequently address the history and philosophy of physics, as well as the conceptual implications of our modern physical theories for making sense of the world around us. |
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PHYSICS 123 - Laboratory ElectronicsDavid Abrams |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 1:30pm - 5:45pm Course website |
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PHYSICS 123 001 - Laboratory ElectronicsThomas Hayes, David Abrams |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 1:30pm - 5:45pm Course website |
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PHYSICS 123 002 - Laboratory ElectronicsThomas Hayes, David Abrams |
Spring 2019 W, F: 1:30pm - 5:45pm Course website |
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A lab-intensive introduction to electronic circuit design. Develops circuit intuition and debugging skills through daily hands-on lab exercises, each preceded by class discussion, with minimal use of mathematics and physics. Moves quickly from passive circuits, to discrete transistors, then concentrates on operational amplifiers, used to make a variety of circuits including integrators, oscillators, regulators, and filters. The digital half of the course treats analog-digital interfacing, emphasizes the use of microcontrollers and programmable logic devices (PLDs). |
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PHYSICS 125 - Widely Applied Physics David J. Morin |
Spring 2019 W, F: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Uses physics to analyze important technologies and real world systems. Stresses estimation and “back of the envelope” calculations, as are commonly used by research physicists when addressing new problems and analyzing national and international policy issues. New physical concepts are introduced as necessary. Example topics: energy production and storage (solar, nuclear, batteries), nuclear physics, power and weapons, airplanes, spy satellites, rockets, fluids, health effects of radiation, risk analysis, mechanical design and failure, communication, computation, global warming. Emphasis is on developing physical intuition and the ability to do order-of-magnitude calculations. |
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PHYSICS 141 - The Physics of Sensory Systems in Biology Aravinthan Samuel |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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Living organisms use sensory systems to inform themselves of the sights, sounds, and smells of their surrounding environments. Sensory systems are physical measuring devices, and are therefore subject to certain limits imposed by physics. Here we will consider the physics of sensory measurement and perception, and study ways that biological systems have solved their underlying physical problems. We will discuss specific cases in vision, olfaction, and hearing from a physicist's point of view. |
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PHYSICS 143A - Quantum Mechanics ILouis Deslauriers, Subir Sachdev |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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PHYSICS 143A - Quantum Mechanics IMasahiro Morii |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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Introduction to nonrelativistic quantum mechanics: uncertainty relations; Schrödinger equation; Dirac notation; matrix mechanics; one-dimensional problems including particle in box, tunneling, and harmonic oscillator; angular momentum, hydrogen atom, spin, Pauli principle; and if time allows: time-independent perturbation theory; and scattering. |
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PHYSICS 143B - Quantum Mechanics II Daniel Jafferis |
Fall 2018 |
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Introduction to path integrals, identical particles, many-electron theory, WKB approximation, time-dependent perturbation theory, scattering theory, and relativistic quantum mechanics. |
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PHYSICS 145 - Elementary Particle Physics Roxanne Guenette |
Fall 2018 W, F: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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Introduction to elementary particle physics. Emphasis on concepts and phenomenology rather than on detailed calculational development of theories. Starts with the discovery of the electron in 1897 and ends with the theoretical motivations for the Higgs boson, and attempts to cover everything important in between. Students will also have a brief experience of particle physics research using Atlas experiment open data. |
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PHYSICS 151 - Mechanics Arthur Jaffe |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Fundamental ideas of classical mechanics including contact with modern work and applications. Topics include Lagrange's equations, the role of variational principles, symmetry and conservation laws, Hamilton's equations, Hamilton-Jacobi theory and phase space dynamics. Applications to celestial mechanics, quantum mechanics, the theory of small oscillations and classical fields, and nonlinear oscillations, including chaotic systems presented. |
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PHYSICS 153 - Electrodynamics Mikhail Lukin |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Aimed at advanced undergraduates. Emphasis on the properties and sources of the electromagnetic fields and on the wave aspects of the fields. Course starts with electrostatics and subsequently develops the Maxwell equations. Topics: electrostatics, dielectrics, magnetostatics, electrodynamics, radiation, wave propagation in various media, wave optics, diffraction and interference. A number of applications of electrodynamics and optics in modern physics are discussed. |
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PHYSICS 181 - Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics Matthew D. Schwartz |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Introduction to thermal physics and statistical mechanics: basic concepts of thermodynamics (energy, heat, work, temperature, and entropy), classical and quantum ensembles and their origins, and distribution functions. Applications include the specific heat of solids, black body radiation; classical and quantum gases; magnetism; phase transitions; propagation of heat and sound. |
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PHYSICS 191 - Advanced LaboratoryJenny Hoffman, Isaac F. Silvera |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 1:30pm - 5:45pm Course website |
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PHYSICS 191 - Advanced LaboratoryIsaac F. Silvera, Jenny Hoffman |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 1:30pm - 5:45pm Course website |
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Students carry out three experimental projects selected from those available representing condensed matter, atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. Included are pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance (with MRI), microwave spectroscopy, optical pumping, Raman scattering, scattering of laser light, nitrogen vacancies in diamond, neutron activation of radioactive isotopes, Compton scattering, relativistic mass of the electron, recoil free gamma-ray resonance, lifetime of the muon, studies of superfluid helium, positron annihilation, superconductivity, the quantum Hall effect, properties of semiconductors. The facilities of the laboratory include several computer controlled experiments as well as computers for analysis. |
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PHYSICS 195 - Introduction to Solid State Physics Donhee Ham |
Fall 2018 M, W: 3:00pm - 4:15pm Course website |
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The physics of crystalline solids and their electric, magnetic, optical, and thermal properties. Designed as a first course in solid-state physics. Topics: free electron model; Drude model; the physics of crystal binding; crystal structure and vibration (phonons); electrons in solids (Bloch theorem) and electronic band structures; metals and insulators; semiconductors (and their applications in pn junctions and transistors); plasmonic excitations and screening; optical transitions; solid-state lasers; magnetism, spin waves, magnetic resonance, and spin-based devices; dielectrics and ferroelectrics; superconductivity, Josephson junctions, and superconducting circuits; electronic transport in low-dimensional systems, quantum Hall effect, and resonant tunneling devices. |
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PHYSICS 201 - Data Analysis for PhysicistsVinothan Manoharan |
Spring 2019 M, W, F: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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This course covers what to do with experimental data after acquiring it. We will start with how to load, parse, filter, and visualize data using modern computational tools, then proceed to more advanced methods including Markov chain Monte Carlo and time-series analysis. Throughout, students will learn methods of statistical inference from both frequentist and Bayesian frameworks. Applications to particle physics, biophysics, condensed matter, applied physics, astrophysics, and more. |
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PHYSICS 210 - General Theory of Relativity Jacob Barandes |
Fall 2018 M, W, F: 3:00pm - 4:15pm Course website |
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An introduction to general relativity: the principle of equivalence, Riemannian geometry, Einstein's field equation, the Schwarzschild solution, the Newtonian limit, experimental tests, black holes. |
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PHYSICS 211AR - Topics in Cosmology and Particle Physics TBA |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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Standard cosmological model and inflation, scalar inflationary models, cosmological perturbation theory, brief introduction to quantum fields on cosmological backgrounds, interactions and in-in (Keldysh-Schwinger) perturbation theory, non-gaussianities, symmetries and cosmological Ward identities. |
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PHYSICS 211BR - Black Holes from A to Z Andrew Strominger |
Spring 2019 W: 3:00pm - 3:59pm Course website |
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A survey of a variety of issues in black hole physics. A central focus will be the deep 'information paradox' they present concerning the relations between general relativity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. Several expert guest speakers will cover more astrophysical, mathematical and historical aspects of black holes. Topics include: the information puzzle, the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy/area law, microstate counting, asymptotic symmetries, soft hair, holography and Kerr/CFT. |
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PHYSICS 216 - Mathematics of Modern Physics Arthur Jaffe |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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Introduction to functional analytic methods relevant for problems in quantum and statistical physics. Properties of linear transformations on Hilbert space. Generators of continuous groups and semigroups. Properties of Green's functions and matrices. Uniqueness and non-uniqueness of ground states and equilibrium states. Heat kernel methods. Index theory, invariants, and related algebraic structure. The KMS condition and its consequences. |
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PHYSICS 223 - Electronics for Scientists |
see PHYSICS 123 | ||

PHYSICS 232 - Advanced Electromagnetism Girma Hailu |
Spring 2019 W, F: 1:30pm - 2:45pm Course website |
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Maxwell's equations in macroscopic media, conservation laws, Green's functions, time-dependent solutions and radiation, scattering and diffraction, and gauge invariance. Time permitting: geometrical optics and caustics, negative refractive index materials and radiation from rapidly accelerating charges. |
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PHYSICS 247 - Laboratory Course in Contemporary Physics |
see PHYSICS 191 | ||

PHYSICS 248R - Topics in Experimental Particle Physics Masahiro Morii |
Fall 2018 M, W: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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Topics in the elementary particle physics, focusing on experimental studies of the Standard Model and new physics beyond the Standard Model in the past 20 years. Half of the course will review ongoing experimental research in particle physics, with or without accelerators. The other half will cover particle detector technologies and data analysis methods. |
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PHYSICS 251A - Advanced Quantum Mechanics I John Doyle |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Basic course in nonrelativistic quantum mechanics. Review of wave functions and the Schrödinger Equation; Hilbert space; the WKB approximation; central forces and angular momentum; electron spin; measurement theory; the density matrix; perturbation theory. |
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PHYSICS 251B - Advanced Quantum Mechanics II Ashvin Vishwanath |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 1:30pm - 2:45pm Course website |
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Path integrals; relativistic quantum mechanics and quantum fields; identical particles; scattering theory; quantum information theory. |
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PHYSICS 253A - Quantum Field Theory I Matthew D. Schwartz |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 1:30pm - 2:45pm Course website |
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Introduction to relativistic quantum field theory. This course covers quantum electrodynamics. Topics include canonical quantization, Feynman diagrams, spinors, gauge invariance, path integrals, ultraviolet and infrared divergences, renormalization and applications to the quantum theory of the weak and gravitational forces. |
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PHYSICS 253B - Quantum Field Theory II Daniel Jafferis |
Spring 2019 M, W, F: 1:30pm - 2:45pm Course website |
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A continuation of Physics 253a. Topics include: the renormalization group, implications of unitarity, Yang-Mills theories, spontaneous symmetry breaking, weak interactions, anomalies, and quantum chromodynamics. Additional advanced topics may be covered depending on time and interest. |
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PHYSICS 253C - Quantum Field Theory IIIGirma Hailu |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 1:30pm - 2:45pm Course website |
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Introduction to some of the tools for studying the exact nonperturbative dynamics of supersymmetric gauge theories, supergravity, and gauge/gravity duality. |
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PHYSICS 254 - The Standard ModelMatthew D. Schwartz |
Spring 2019 M, W: 9:00am - 10:15am Course website |
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The Standard Model of particle physics: theory and experimental implications. Topics include nonabelian gauge theory, spontaneous symmetry breaking, anomalies, the chiral Lagrangian, QCD and jets, collider physics and simulation, the Higgs at the LHC. |
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PHYSICS 264 - The Standard ModelTBA |
Spring 2019 M, W, F: 3:00pm - 4:15pm |
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Lie algebras and their representations are indispensible tools in quantum
mechanics. Starting from the operator treatment of angular momentum, this
course explores some of the (many) useful approaches to this subject with
applications in various areas of physics. |
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PHYSICS 268R - Special Topics in Quantum MatterAshvin Vishwanath |
Fall 2018 W, F: 1:30pm - 2:45pm Course website |
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This is a special topics course on quantum systems of many particles, i.e. quantum matter. Primarily, we will be interested in condensed matter systems - eg. electrons in solids or ultra-cold atoms in optical lattices - although the concepts invoked will be more generally applicable. Mostly, we will study well defined microscopic models, involving a finite number of degrees of freedom per unit volume, such as spins on a lattice. Our aim will be to understand the physics at much longer scales, where rich phenomena described by universal laws emerge. Simple spin models will be shown, at long distances, to give rise to remarkable new excitations, from `sound’ and `light’, to fermions and even more exotic excitations. Often, (but not always) we will use quantum field theory to describe this physics, which may also help demystify the origin of quantum field theory in a physical setting free from 'infinities.' |
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PHYSICS 271 - Topics in the Physics of Quantum Information Mikhail Lukin |
Fall 2018 M, W: 12:00pm - 1:15pm Course website |
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Introduction to physics of quantum information, with emphasis on ideas and experiments ranging from quantum optics to condensed matter physics. Background and theoretical tools will be introduced. The format is a combination of lectures and class presentations. |
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PHYSICS 285A - Modern Atomic and Optical Physics ITBA |
Spring 2019 M, W: 12:00pm - 1:15pm |
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Introduction to modern atomic physics. The fundamental concepts and modern experimental techniques will be introduced. Topics will include two-state systems, magnetic resonance, interaction of radiation with atoms, transition probabilities, spontaneous and stimulated emission, dressed atoms, trapping, laser cooling of "two-level" atoms, structure of simple atoms, fundamental symmetries, two-photon excitation, light scattering and selected experiments. The first of a two-term subject sequence that provides the foundations for contemporary research. |
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PHYSICS 287C - Topics in String Theory: The String Landscape and the String SwamplandCumrun Vafa |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 3:00pm - 4:15pm Course website |
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A selection of topics from current areas of research on string theory. |
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PHYSICS 295A - Introduction to Quantum Theory of Solids Eugene Demler |
Fall 2018 M, W: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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Electrical, optical, thermal, magnetic, and mechanical properties of solids will be treated based on an atomic scale picture and using the independent electron approximation. Metals, semiconductors, and insulators will be covered, with possible special topics such as superconductivity. |
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PHYSICS 295B - Quantum Theory of Solids Eugene Demler |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 10:30am - 11:45am Course website |
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This course presents theoretical description of solids focusing on the effects of interactions between electrons. Topics include Fermi liquid theory, dielectric response and RPA approximation, ferro and antiferromagnetism, RKKY interactions and Kondo effect, electron-phonon interactions and superconductivity |

** Freshman Seminars**

FRSEMR 21V - Black Holes, String Theory and the Fundamental Laws of Nature Andrew Strominger |
Fall 2018 T: 6:00pm - 8:45pm Course website |
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The quest to understand the fundamental laws of nature has been ongoing for centuries. This seminar will assess the current status of this quest. In the first five weeks we will cover the basic pillars of our understanding: Einstein’s theory of general relativity, quantum mechanics and the Standard Model of particle physics. We will then examine the inadequacies and inconsistencies in our current picture, including for example the problem of quantum gravity, the lack of a unified theory of forces, Dirac’s large numbers problem, the cosmological constant problem, Hawking’s black hole information paradox, and the absence of a theory for the origin of the universe. Attempts to address these issues and move beyond our current understanding involve a network of intertwined investigations in string theory, M theory, inflation and non-abelian gauge theories and have drawn inspiration from the study and observation of black holes, gravitational waves and developments in modern mathematics. These forays beyond the edge of our current knowledge will be reviewed and assessed. |
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FRSEMR 23P - Physics, Math and Puzzles Cumrun Vafa |
Spring 2019 TBA Course website |
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Physics is a highly developed branch of science with a broad range of applications. Despite the complexity of the universe the fundamental laws of physics are rather simple, if viewed properly. This seminar will focus on intuitive as well as mathematical underpinnings of some of the fundamental laws of nature. The seminars will use mathematical puzzles to introduce the basic features of physical laws. Main aspects discussed include the role of symmetries as well as the power of modern math, including abstract ideas in topology, in unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Examples are drawn from diverse areas of physics including string theory. The issue of why the universe is so big, as well as its potential explanation is also discussed. |
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FRSEMR 24E - The Physics and Applied Physics Freshman Research Laboratory Jene Goplovchenko |
Fall 2018 W, F: 3:00pm - 5:00pm Course website |
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This year's Freshman Seminar will enable students with musical training to bridge this knowledge with Physics, Mathematics, software and hardware via experimentation with sound and music. Teams will be guided by faculty, staff and a practicing software entrepreneur. The course will be accessible to students with an interest in science/engineering and who currently play a musical instrument, at least at an elementary level. |
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FRSEMR 26J - The Universe's Hidden Dimensions Lisa Randall |
Spring 2019 TBA Course website |
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This seminar will give an overview and introduction to modern physics. As with the book, |
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FRSEMR 27K - Energy: Be the Change Mara Prentiss |
Fall 2018 W: 3:00pm - 5:00pm Course website |
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In the US, energy use creates large political and social tensions and much emphasis is placed on climate change. In China, health issues surrounding energy use are emerging as a critical issue. Importantly, there are many areas where the role of energy is often overlooked. A large fraction of current geopolitical tensions arise from issues originating in energy consumption, and that fraction may increase as water use and energy use become more closely tied. Too many discussions of energy focus on one feature of the problem, without considering how a change in one area will inevitably ripple out with the power to transform our relationships with each other and with the physical world. Some of those ripple effects are enormously positive, others are not. The goal of the course will be to choose energy changes that we would like to happen and to form a realistic plan for making that change occur. An important feature of the discussion will be considerations about what is physically possible; however, the major emphasis will be on trying to understand the connections that will be altered by that change. Any change, however laudable, inevitably creates both winners and losers. For change to happen, losers must at least be brought to accept the change. One goal of the course will be to establish local and global forums that allow us to learn more about people’s reactions to proposals for energy change so that our proposals for change have a real possiblity of coming to pass. |
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FRSEMR 50L - Quantum Entanglement Subir Sachdev |
Spring 2019 TBA Course website |
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Quantum mechanics was discovered in the early 20th century in experiments involving single electrons and photons, such as the emission and absorption of light by a gas of hydrogen atoms. The quantum theory introduced a revolutionary new perspective on the nature of physical reality, replacing the powerful classical paradigms of Newtonian mechanics. Indeed, some of the most remarkable implications of the quantum theory have only become clear in the past few decades, and it is likely that more surprises will appear in the future. The fundamental new idea introduced by quantum theory is that of “superposition”. This has no counterpart in Newtonian mechanics, and allows a particle (an electron, or even atoms and molecules) to be in a superposition of states at two or more distinct locations. When extended to multi-particle systems, a corollary of superposition is that of “entanglement”: this allows measurements of two or more particles to be correlated with each other even though they may be separated by large distances. The objective of the seminar will be described how entanglement can be used as a resource to perform tasks that are not possible classically. We will begin by discussing the basic structure of quantum mechanics using the concept of a "qubit". The simplest protocols for quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation will be described, followed by an introduction to quantum computing and quantum error correction. Ideas on “anyons” will lead to a discussion of topologically protected quantum computing. |
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FRSEMR 51G - Physics and Photography Peter Pershan |
Fall 2018 TH: 3:00pm - 5:00pm Course website |
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The practice by which the 3-dimensional world is projected onto a 2-dimensional surface dates to at least the 30,000-year-old cave drawings; however, it is only in the last two centuries that taking pictures has made it possible to easily create the images that consume so much of our social networks. The seminar will cover both the history of how photography developed from the early 19th century to today along with the science that made this possible. Topics to be discussed include classical optics, the quantum mechanics on which digital technology is based, the computer software for editing your images, the basics of how our eyes process color and the way color is reproduced in printing and electronic displays. The surprising behavior of our eyes is often the basis of many optical illusions. Some of the weekly homework assignments will involve photographic exercises designed to illustrate the use of camera controls such as f/#, shutter speed, focal length zoom choices, white balance and ISO (sensitivity) settings. Other assignments will involve image editing. |

** General Education: Science of the Physical Universe**

SCIPHUNV 13 - Why You Hear What You Hear: The Science of Music and Sound Eric Heller |
Spring 2019 TBA Course website |
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Sound and music are integral parts of all human cultures, and play critical roles in communications and social interactions. In this course, we study the production, transmission, and perception of sound, with the aim of expanding communication, musical, and artistic horizons. The course includes many class demos and hands on tools for students to explore. Psychoacoustics (the study of how we perceive and interpret sound) is a central theme of the course, providing a lens through which we can better understand the generation, propagation, and analysis of sound. Student-selected projects (with staff consultation) are an important part of the course. |
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SCIPHUNV 22 - The Unity of Science: From the Big Bang to the Brontosaurus and Beyond Irwin Shapiro |
Spring 2019 TBA Course website |
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Science is like well-woven, ever-expanding fabric, designed to (un)cover Nature's secrets. This course emphasizes the strong connections between subfields of science, showing it as the never-ending and greatest detective story ever told, with evidence always the arbiter. These characteristics are exhibited in the semi-historical treatment of three themes: unveiling the universe, the earth and its fossils, and the story of life. |
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SCIPHUNV 26 - Finding Our Way John Huth |
Fall 2018 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15am Course website |
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We use the theme of primitive navigation to open the eyes of students to the physical world in a direct and palpable manner. Basic principles include human cognition of physical and mental maps, dead reckoning, direction finding from nature. The course includes the basics of astronomy, including planetary orbits, meteorology, thermodynamics, bird behavior, electromagnetic radiation, optics, waves, tides, ocean currents, and fluid dynamics. Navigational practices of Pacific Islanders, Norse, medieval Arabs, and early western Europeans provide a focus. Some facility with algebra and trigonometry is useful. A series of hands-on projects are employed to understand navigational practices discussed in lecture. |
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SCIPHUNV 27 - Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter David Weitz |
Spring 2019 T, TH: 12:00pm - 1:15am Course website |
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This course is a collaboration between world-class chefs and Harvard professors. Each week, a chef will lecture about some aspect of gastronomy. This lecture will introduce and motivate a lecture about the science of soft materials by a Harvard professor. The course will cover the basic concepts in the science of soft materials, providing a solid understanding of their properties and behavior. All food is made of soft materials, and cooking relies on many of their fundamental properties. The course will also include laboratory work that uses concepts of cooking to understand and motivate experimental measurements on soft materials. |