Syllabus Spring 2018 Physics 33400/PHYSE 1402E

PHYS 33400 / PHYSE 1402E: Development of Knowledge in Physics 2


Instructor:         Prof. Richard N. Steinberg
MR 413; NAC 5/205
212 650-5617 / 5698

“Since the mass of pupils are never going to become scientific specialists, it is much more important that they should get some insight what scientific method means than they should copy at long range and second hand the results that [scientists] have reached. Students will not go so far, perhaps, in the ‘ground covered,’ but they will be sure and intelligent as far as they do go. And it is safe to say that the few who do go on to be scientific experts will have a better preparation than if they had been swamped by a large mass of purely technical and symbolically stated information. In fact, those that do become successful [in] science are those who by their own power manage to avoid the pitfalls of a traditional scholastic introduction into it.”

– John Dewey

 “Preschool children almost always ask ‘How do we know? Why do we believe?’ questions until formal education teaches them not to. Most high school and college students then have to be pushed, pulled, and cajoled into posing and examining such questions; they do not do so spontaneously. Rather, our usual pace of assignments and methods of testing all too frequently drive students into memorizing end results, rendering each development inert.”

– Arnold Arons

Class schedule: Tuesdays 4:50– 7:20; MR 411                                           
Attendance and participation at all sessions are required!
If you must be absent or late at any time, please contact me BEFORE class. Make-up sessions will be arranged on an as needed basis.

Office hours:     Tuesdays 2:45-4:45 (MR 413); or by appointment

Course description:  In this course, we will explore the development of knowledge in physics, particularly in the contexts of geometrical optics, waves, physical optics, the particulate nature of light, properties of the atom, and wave particle duality. Class time will include physics activities, in-depth analysis of the process of science, and study of physics education research. For most of the activities, you will work in groups.

Books and notes:  One recommended book for this course is Tutorials in introductory physics. In addition, there will be handouts. You should have a 3-ring notebook in which to keep your notes and course materials. You are expected to keep a complete and organized record of your experimental findings and/or data in your notebook.

Blackboard:      Everyone must use the CUNY electronic Blackboard throughout the class. All announcements and documents posted at this site must be read within 3 days. Homeworks will usually be assigned through Blackboard within 1 day of the previous class session and be due 2-3 days prior to the next class session.

Exams:              There will be one midterm (tentatively set for March 20) and a final (tentatively set for May 15). Exams will be open book and open notes. No make-ups will be given without prior arrangement.

Homework:       Homework assignments will include problems, essays, and readings. Late homework will receive no more than half credit. You are encouraged to discuss homework problems with your classmates, but you are required to turn in your own work.  Unsatisfactory homework will be returned with a resubmission required. All homework must be completed in order to pass the course.

Course grade:   Your final grade for the course will be based on the following:

                           Midterm exam                               15%                       Final exam                30%

                           Class attendance/participation      25%                       Homework               30%

                           Successful completion of ALL of these is required in order to pass the course.

Academic Integrity: See

Disabilities and Accommodations:  See

Tentative schedule:

Class Date


Jan. 30

Introduction; Geometrical optics: light and shadow

Feb. 6

Geometrical optics 2: reflection, refraction, lenses

Feb. 13

Waves 1: Propagation, superposition, sound

Feb. 27

Waves 2: Interference and diffraction

Mar. 6

Waves 3: Interference and diffraction 2

Mar. 13

Wave nature of light 1

Mar. 20


Mar. 27

Wave nature of light 2; Photons

Apr. 10

Wave particle duality

Apr. 17

Nature of the atom

Apr. 24


May. 1


May 8

Quantum mechanics

May 15