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The Quantum Revolution in Technology

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
June 30, 2014 - July 11, 20142M-F 9A-11:50AWaitlistedTimothy Raben10425

Course Description

Nearly 100 years ago, quantum mechanics changed the face of physics forever. The orderly, deterministic rules of classical physics were turbulently turned on their head, unveiling a veritable zoo in which particles can behave like waves and waves like particles, particles can tunnel through walls, and either the position or speed of an object can be known, but both can't be known simultaneously. In this course, we will explore these principles, as well as several others from quantum mechanics, and discuss how they have impacted technology that is used every day.

The topical focus of this course is quantum mechanics, the laws of physics which govern the behavior of objects on the scale of atoms and molecules. Topics discussed (and their technological implications) will include the uncertainty principle, photons (the photoelectric effect), electron waves (electron microscopy), quantum tunneling (scanning tunneling microscopy), spin angular momentum (magnetic resonance), and discrete quantum states and energy levels (lasers). The course will conclude with a discussion of where quantum mechanics is taking technology today. The course will teach students to think like a physicist by trying to isolate the important variables which dominate the behavior of a complex system that is not fully understood.

Students will be able to explain a variety of quantum phenomena in terms of basic physical concepts, such as conservation of energy and momentum, with additional insights about the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. They will also be able to think about technologies that are used every day and try to postulate physical explanations for how they operate.

The primary prerequisite for this course is one year of high school physics. Familiarity with concepts such as conservation of energy an momentum, basic force laws in electricity and magnetism, and circuit rules, such as Ohm's law will help further students' understanding of the material. In addition, students should be comfortable with algebra and familiar with basic concepts in probability.