Modern Physics Course Materials
Please contact if you would like to be notified when these materials are updated.
Are you using these materials? Please contact us if you plan to use all or part of these course materials for your own modern physics course. If you have already used these materials, please fill out a short survey (~ 5 min.) about your experience. Your valuable feedback will help us understand where and how these materials are being used, and ways they might be improved.
Modern Physics is the third semester in our three-semester sequence of introductory physics courses. It comes in two flavors at CU: a course for engineering students (PHYS 2130), and one for physics majors (PHYS 2170). These course materials have been used in both environments.
These materials were first developed and used by Carl Wieman, Kathy Perkins, and Sam McKagan in Fall 2005 and Spring 2006. There have seen significant additions and improvements over the years (see below), and the latest versions include the following topics:
- Special relativity
- Photoelectric effect
- Atomic spectra and lasers
- Bohr and deBroglie models
- Stern-Gerlach, entanglement & single-quanta experiments
- Matter waves and the Schrödinger equation
- Tunneling, α-decay, STM's
- Hydrogen atom and molecular bonding
- Conductivity, semiconductors, BEC
Special relativity was added in Fall 2007 by John Bohn and Noah Finkelstein - these SR materials are based on active-learning principles, but not specific research into student difficulties with special relativity. Several faculty members at CU have contributed to their expansion and revision since then, including: Chuck Rogers, Thomas Schibli, and Dan Dessau. They were further modified in Fall 2010 by Charles Baily and Noah Finkelstein to include contemporary research on the foundations of quantum mechanics (e.g. single-quanta experiments) and more explicit treatment of interpretive themes (indeterminacy, wave-particle duality, the physical reality of the wave function). Further details on the development process and education research surrounding these course materials can be found in the Associated Research and About the Course tabs.
The text in the course description explains much of the transformation process and rationale behind it. The first part (2006) reports on the state of affairs following the first year of the process, after the course had been taught twice (in the FA05 and SP06 semesters). The second part details additional changes that were made to the materials in 2010 as part of Charles Baily's dissertation project on quantum perspectives.
The most recent versions of these modern physics course materials:
- Colorado School of Mines - Spring 2011 [Baily] (includes Special Relativity)
- University of Colorado - Fall 2010 [Baily, Finkelstein] (no SR)
- University of British Columbia - Summer 2009 [Wieman] (no SR)
Instructors and education researchers are free to use and adapt these materials for non-commercial purposes, according to the Creative Commons license below. We ask for your cooperation in not making any solutions you may create for the homework (and exam problems, clicker questions, etc…) available on the open web, out of respect for instructors and students at other institutions, and for maintaining the integrity of our research.
|This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Supported by the University of Colorado, The Hewlett Foundation, & NSF CAREER Grant No. 0448176.|
Download a zipped file containing all course materials EXCEPT homework and exam solutions. (see below) [223 MB]
Don't know where to begin? We'd suggest starting off with the lecture slides and clicker questions...
- Download just the lecture slides and clicker questions. [153 MB]
Please email for a password to the homework and exam solutions. [58 MB]
Link to the Quantum Mechanics Conceptual Survey (QMCS) - developed by Sam McKagan with Carl Wieman.
"Reforming a large lecture modern physics course for engineering majors using a PER-based design."
S. B. McKagan, K. K. Perkins, and C. E. Wieman, PERC Proceedings 2006, AIP Press (2006). pdf
"Interpretive Themes in Quantum Physics: Curriculum Development and Outcomes"
Charles Baily and Noah D. Finkelstein, PERC Proceedings 2011, AIP Press (2011). pdf
For other supporting research documents, see the Associated Research tab.
- Instructor's guide for "Best Practices in Clicker Use".
- PER at the University of Colorado with posters, talks and research papers on similar topics.
- OSU Paradigms Wiki site for other upper-division activities.
- University of Maryland Applied Quantum Physics Course Materials.