Syllabus Spring 2018 Physics 20900 General Syllabus

The City College of New York

Department of Physics

Physics 20900 Physical Optics and Modern Physics

General Syllabus


Catalog Description

Calculus-based study of the basic concepts of wave motion, physical optics, and modern physics 

Topics include: Wave equation, Electromagnetic Waves, Dispersion; Interference, Diffraction, Polarization; Special Theory of Relativity; Particle properties of Waves, Photoelectric Effect, Compton Effect; Wave Properties of Particles, Wave-particle duality; The Nuclear Atom, Bohr Model, Franck-Hertz Experiment; The Schrodinger Equation, Harmonic Oscillator, Hydrogen Atom; Atomic Physics; Molecular Structure and Atomic Spectra; Structure of Solids, Conduction; Nuclear Physics, Nuclear Structure, Nuclear Force, Radioactivity.  Prerequisite: Physics 20800 or equivalent, Math 20300 or 20900; 4 lect. hr./wk.; 4 cr.

Class Schedule:  Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10.00 – 11.20 A.M. (Room: MR-418N)


  • Fundamentals of Physics, 10th Edition (Extended), Halliday, Resnick and Walker, Wiley,

ISBN 978-1-118-23072-5 (Extended edition) Binder-ready version ISBN 978-1-118-23061-9 (Extended edition)" (Required) [Same text used for Physics 20700 and Physics 20800]


  • Optics (4th Edition) by Eugene Hecht, Addison Wesley (ISBN 0-8053-8566-5)
  • Modern Physics for Scientists and Engineers (2nd Edition) by John R. Taylor, Chris D. Zafiratos, and Michael A. Dubson, Pearson/Prentice Hall (ISBN 0-13-805715-X)

Course Objectives

Academic Objectives: Provide a systematic exposition of electromagnetic waves, physical optics, as well as, early developments in modern physics and quantum mechanics to prepare students for higher level physics courses.

After successfully completing this course, students should be able to:

a. Understand attributes of electromagnetic waves and their propagation: reflection, refraction, dispersion.

b. Understand and solve simple problems involving interference and diffraction of light, interferometers    

c. Understand solve problems involving polarization including polarizers, dichroism, birefringence, etc.

d. Understand and apply special theory relativity to relativistic mechanics

e. Understand the role of important experiments in elucidating the nature of atoms, light, and matter

f. Understand the Bohr model of hydrogen atom and quantization of atomic energy levels

g. Understand elements of quantum mechanics, wave functions; set up and solve Schrodinger equation for   simple systems, such as, potential wells and barriers, simple harmonic oscillator, and hydrogen atom

h. Understand Pauli Exclusion Principle, atomic structure and molecular spectra and basics of laser

i. Understand and solve problems involving nuclear size, binding energy, and radioactivity

j. Understand structure of solids, energy bands, conduction etc.        



Topics Covered

  • Wave Motion, Electromagnetic Waves, Light
  • Propagation of Light: Reflection, Refraction, Dispersion
  • Superposition of Waves, Group Velocity, Phase velocity
  • Polarization, Dichroism, Birefringence, Retarders
  • Interference, Young’s Double-Slit Experiment,  Coherence, Interferometer
  • Diffraction, Fraunhofer Diffraction, Diffraction grating, Fresnel Diffraction
  • Special Theory of Relativity, Relativistic Mechanics
  • Particle Properties of Waves, Photoelectric Effect, Compton Effect
  • Wave Properties of Particles, de Broglie Waves, Wave-Particle Duality
  • The Nuclear Atom, Bohr Model, Franck-Hertz Experiment
  • The Schrodinger Equation, Potential Well, Potential Barrier
  • Quantum Theory of Harmonic Oscillator and Hydrogen Atom
  • Atomic Physics, Many Electron Atoms, Pauli Principle, Periodic Table
  • Molecular Structure and Spectra
  • Lasers
  • Structure of Solids, Conduction
  • Nuclear Physics: Nuclear Structure
  • Nuclear Force, Radioactivity


Assessment: Learning outcome will be assessed using:

  1. Homework Problems, attendance, class participation
  2. Short quizzes
  3. In-class hour examinations
  4. Cumulative final examination

Grade in the course will be based on:

Homework 10%;

In-class tests 45% (3 x 15%),

Short quizzes: 5%,

Cumulative final (40%)





Prepared by: Swapan K. Gayen

October 27, 2017