PHY 201: Perspectives of Modern Physics

3 credits | Prerequisites: PHY 102, 103 for Major; MAT 104 for Minor

Course rationale

Introduces the special theory of relativity, quantum theory, atomic structure, nuclear structure, wave properties of matter, and statistical physics. Communicate relativistic effects on space and time. It explains quantum principles and how they model nature at small scales. Learn about various atomic and nuclear models from a historical perspective. Understand the beginning concepts of quantum mechanics and the basic concepts of wave property of matter.

Course content

Relativity: Special theory of relativity, Einstein’s postulates, Galilean & Lorentz’s transformation, time dilation, contracted length, energy; Radiation: Black body radiation & Planck’s hypothesis: Photons, Wave mechanics & matter waves; Atomic structure: Bohr model of atomic hydrogen, De Broglie wavelength, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, wave functions; Quantum model of the atom: Spin, Fermi-Dirac statistics, Bose-Einstein statistics, Maxwell velocity distribution; Nuclear structure: nuclear properties and forces, radioactivity, neutrinos, time dating using lead/carbon, Nuclear radiation, Nuclear reactions, and medical applications; Particle physics: accelerators, standard model, quarks, families of matter, and neutrino oscillations.

Course objectives

  1. Explain why we call relativity theory and quantum mechanics “Modern Physics”.
  2. Explain the meanings of Galilean and Lorentz transformations and write the corresponding equations.
  3. Define the principle of equivalence of general relativity and apply it, for instance in applying the gravitational Doppler shift.
  4. Understand the atomic structure
  5. Define the concept of entropy and account for its role in free energy and in the condition of thermodynamic equilibrium.
  6. Introduce the statistical mechanics to understand thermodynamics
  7. Understand the radioactivity, atomic emission, and the Pauli exclusion principle
  8. Explain the concept of `wave, matter-wave, and the uncertainty principle


  1. Modern Physics, Kenneth S. Krane, 3rd Edition, 2012, ISBN 978-1-1180-6114-5
  2. Perspective of Modern. Physics, Arthur Beiser. Sixth Edition. Wiley Blackwell.