Course Description

Course Description

This module seeks to explore the importance of various key ideas in the history of physics by considering a selection of examples each semester as a means of examining the whys and hows of certain scientific revolutions. The theme underlying the choice of topics to be covered will be to explore the evolutionary aspect of scientific understanding which finds, sometimes only centuries later, inter-connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. The student should take away from this module a sense of the revolutionary nature and scientific importance of the ideas explored that semester, as well as the deep inter-connections which science establishes - 'Nature's Threads' as it were. The group of fundamental ideas to be explored this semester and that, surprisingly, turn out to be intimately connected are:

  • The Unification of Electricity & Magnetism
  • The Relativity of Simultaneity

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The student will be encouraged to engage, especially at a conceptual level, in a critical analysis of the scientific importance of certain revolutionary ideas which have occurred in the long and evolving history of physics. The course attempts to give the student an appreciation of why such ideas are regarded as being of fundamental significance by scientists. Some tutorial sessions and group project assignments will give students the opportunity to undertake simple, hands on experiments. Students taking this module should by the end of the course gain some real, quantitative sense of what physics regards as important questions and why.

Primarily, this module is aimed at providing students with an insight into the nature of science, more specifically physics, as practised by scientists both past and present and some quantitative grasp of the crucial issues involved. It also seeks to trace the gradual evolution of certain key ideas and most importantly to explore the connections between them.