The aim of this course is to introduce you to the techniques of experimental physics. In this course you will learn how things work (electronics, detectors, and some optics), how to make measurements, solve problems encountered in experiments, how to analyze data, identify sources and nature of error and estimate their numerical significance on key findings of your experiments, and write up scientific articles on your experimental results. Like in real life experiments, you will need to find your way through unknowns and failures, these are not cook book type experiments. You will completely "own" your experiment, from design to construction to analysis to publication. Scientific writing is emphasized.
You will work in pairs. However you will assemble, troubleshoot, record/analyze experimental set ups and data, and write lab reports by yourself. It is very important that you read the assigned and suggested reading BEFORE class. Full Pre-Lab reports are due on the first day of a lab. You will not have time to come up to speed during lab class. Your first week is critical. You should gain sufficient working knowledge of data analysis, error estimation and least squares fitting methods so that you come into your nuclear decay experiment prepared. You need to get a copy of the required text, Melissinos Experiments in Modern Physics. You will find Bevington and Robinson Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences a useful reference.
A lab book with large gridded and numbered pages: the Ampad #22-157, 9-1/4" x 11-3/4" is required. It is available in the campus bookstore [#074319221579], or Amazon: $15. Bring this to the first class.
We have created this website which describes the mandatory and elective labs for this class. You are encouraged to explore the various pages for each experiment before the first class. Read the overview, experiment guides, related material etc, but do not expect the guides to be step by step, cook book manuals.
In the first week you will:
- Sign up for two elective experiments (1st, 2nd, 3rd choice) using the form on the back page of the syllabus.
- Complete a required lab on Data Analysis.
- Start your required experiment, Nuclear Decay.
- Read On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research.
In the second week you will explore the Electronics lab and do several experiments using test equipment.
Be sure to complete assigned reading in advance of class, we will frequently give quizzes at the start of class.
Pre-Lab assignments must be handed in at the start of Lab.
Tony Tyson 514B Physics
Xiangdong Zhu 237 Physics
Andrew Bradshaw 518 Physics
Jared Garst 382 Physics
Professors and TAs will be available Tu, Th 2:10 PM - 6:00 PM in 154 & 156 Roessler.
The same labs will be available to students M-F 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. Entrance via 156 Roessler.
Physics 104A, 105A, 110A, 110B, 115A, and 112. This course satisfies 4 units of the GE writing requirement.
Your letter grade will be based on a combination of "points" and your in-lab performance. The counting statistics experiment is worth 10 points, quizzes and lab books are worth 10 points and each of the two elective experiments is worth 40 points. Letter grade will also be based class performance including teamwork and demonstrated ability to problem-solve. You will not be penalized for not getting the correct answer, rather your grade will depend on how systematically you approach the tasks and solve the inevitable problems. Note that the goal of this course is not to teach you the right answer but to instruct you how you can figure out the answers. We are here to help and to guide you in this process. We will teach you problem-solving strategies, for instance, by asking questions rather than giving you the answer you might actually seek.
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