Instructor: Prof. Robert K. Logan
Text: Poetry of Physics and Physics of Poetry – Robert K. Logan – World Scientific
THE APPROACH TO OUR STUDY OF PHYSICS IN THE
The basic concepts of physics are described in simple non-mathematical and non-technical language. The beauty of the ideas, namely, the poetry of physics, is presented.
A short history of development of the ideas will be given so that students can relate to the ideas of physics that we are studying to their studies in other fields particularly those of a historical nature. Students are urged to read literature that corresponds to the period of physics we are studying. We shall also examine the impact of the physics on the humanities, such as philosophy, the arts, economics, politics, and sociology.
There will be a short written assignments and one major paper due at the end of the course. Students are asked to write an essay relating physics to some aspect of the humanities, arts or society. The short assignment will be worth 30% of your final grade and can be any where from 1,200 to 2,000 words. The final assignment is a more major paper of 2,500 to 4,000 words and will be worth 60% of your final grade. The final 10% of the grade will be determined from classroom participation. The theme of the paper should incorporate a number of the topics we will be studying and the paper should sum up the core of your learning experience in the course. This paper can contain further development of some of the ideas from your shorter essay.
Suggestions for essay topics:
1. Choose a scientist from the era being studied and write about how he/she was a product of his times and/or how he/she changed the thinking of his/her times?
2. Analyze a scientific breakthrough in terms of Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift as articulated in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
3. Discuss the philosophical implications of some aspect of physics such as Newtonian causality, the breakdown of causality in quantum mechanics, the idea of action at a distance, the concept of entropy, the quantization of energy, or the relationship of causality and free will.
4. Discuss how a scientific idea affected the arts, the development of technology, politics, economics or social life.
5. Compare a scientific idea or system with the world view or philosophical system of a non- scientific and/or non-Western culture. For example - compare Newtonian physics with Chinese physics, or modern cosmology with the Copernican universe or the creation myths of an oral culture.
6. Analyze a piece of literature for scientific content or use of metaphors from science.
Outline of the Course
Section 1: Overview - What Is Physics and What Are We Going to Learn? (POP Ch 1-2)
The domain of physics is scoped out and the methodology of science is described and compared to other forms of knowledge. The universality of scientific expression is demonstrated through an examination of pre-literate creation myths. Science is shown to be part of an evolutionary chain of languages which includes speech, writing, mathematics and computing. The relation of science to these other languages is examined.
Section 2: Equilibrium, the Dynamics of Earthly and Heavenly Motion and