Physics 3540 Home Page and Syllabus

Spring semester, 2008

Instructor: Daniel Schroeder

Contact information: SL 208, 626-6048, dschroeder at weber dot edu

Course web site:

Office hours: 9:00 - 9:50 daily. I'll also be available most afternoons (after 1:00 or 2:00). I will not be available immediately after our class, since I have to run straight to my next class in the Lind Lecture Hall. (Lucky you: This means that I can't talk too long!) My full schedule is posted next to my office door, and of course you're always welcome to make an appointment.

Textbooks: A. P. French, Vibrations and Waves (Norton, 1971); John R. Taylor, Classical Mechanics (University Science Books, 2005); David J. Griffiths, Introduction to Electrodynamics, third edition (Prentice Hall, 1999).


This course is essentially a continuation of both Analytical Mechanics (Physics 3500) and Electromagnetic Theory (Physics 3510).

We'll start with a detailed study of mechanical oscillations and waves, working through nearly all of French's book. From time to time we will supplement French with the more mathematical approach used by Taylor (chapters 5, 11, and 16). Then, after mastering the physics and mathematics of waves in this relatively concrete context, we'll move on to the study of electromagnetic waves (Griffiths, chapters 9 and 11).

What you'll find, as the course goes on, is that there is a powerful toolkit of concepts and mathematics that will give us a deep understanding of all sorts of waves--and allow us to solve a huge variety of problems. The buzzwords for the tools won't all mean much to you now, but here are some of them: complex exponentials; linearity; superposition; normal modes; Fourier analysis; dispersion relations; and boundary matching. In any case, this course will be as much about techniques as about physical results.

Our pace as we cover the material will be somewhat flexible; I haven't laid out a rigid day-by-day schedule. However, my goal is to cover French's book at a pace of about one chapter per week, and the two chapters of Griffiths in about two weeks each. That makes 12 weeks total, but I'm sure there will be times when we discover that the material takes somewhat longer.

Course format:

Plan on attending class and participating actively in our discussion. You're now mature enough as physics students to take responsibility for asking your own questions and, sometimes, answering others' questions.

Plan on having a homework assignment each week--and on turning in complete homework solutions, explained in enough detail that you could pick them up a year later and understand exactly what you did. Take pride in your work.

Plan on using Mathematica (or some other computing environment if you prefer) for quite a few of the homework problems.

Plan on 3 or 4 midterm tests, given in the testing center so you won't be limited to 50 minutes.

Plan on some sort of final project at the end of the course, including a typed report and an oral presentation to the class.

After you've done all that, a final exam would be superfluous--so we won't have one.

Here's how I'll compute your final grades:

I know, it adds up to 110%. Pick any 10% you like and consider it extra credit.

Boilerplate that I have to say for every course:

And finally, here are some links to cool and/or useful web sites:

Last modified on 6 January 2008.