Introduction to Modern Physics (PH 253)
Spring 2005

Instructor: Andreas Piepke (202A Gallalee; 348-6066)
Time and place: Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 am to 10:45 am in room 200 (Gallalee Hall).
Office hours: 11:00 am to 12:00 am Wednesday. I have an open door policy. You may see me whenever I am in.
Text used: Serway and Jewett, Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics (Sixth Edition)
Prerequisite: MATH 126
PH 102
PH 106
Credit: 3 hours
PH253 Web site:

Learning Objectives:

Physics 253 is a calculus based introduction to modern physics. The class will cover the basic concepts of wave optics (35, 37, and 38) , special relativity (39), quantum physics (40, 41, 42), and survey of microscopic systems (43 to 46). The numbers given in brackets denote the relevant
textbook chapters.
During the course of this class the students should develop a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the class subjects. Physics is a quantitative science describing nature using the language of Mathematics. Math skills, as covered in MATH 126, are thus essential. This mathematical approach will be emphasized in the homeworks and exams.
You are urged to consult the free online service ALEKS that assesses your mathematical readiness. If you find you are not, this service can be used (for a fee) as a tutorial to help get you prepared. Math for Physics is located in the Adult and Continuing Education section.

Class Format:

The class consists of lectures and in-class problems. It is planned to present the formal lectures in form of PowerPoint presentations. Electronic lecture notes will be provided on the web as the class goes on. The lecture notes will not cover class room examples, which will be presented on the white board. It is a good idea to keep notes as some of the in-class examples will be similar to the exam problems. This should encourage class attendance.


Problems are assigned weekly and are due Tuesday 3:00 pm. Late work will not be accepted. Every set of homework problems will count 10 points. The problem solutions must be submitted on the web, using a program called BCA. You can access BCA using either Netscape or Internet Explorer using a PIN. The PIN for this class is: E-546METX958T8S. The PIN is case sensitive.
BCA will give you instant feedback on the correctness of your solution and students can resubmit solutions up to a maximum of 5 attempts. The numbers in the problems are different for each student and will be changed when a solution is resubmitted.

It is important to understand how to work a problem and not just check the boxes. Students must keep a notebook of how they work each problem and be prepared to turn this in for spot grading as requested. Although students may collaborate when working problems, each student must keep a record of problem solutions (not just answers) and should submit their own answers- based on the particular numbers in their problems.

It is essential that you read the textbook, as the lectures will not cover all the material.

Attendance and Makeup Policy:

Students are expected to attend the classes. Regular attendance is a crucial element in being able to pass the exams. Studies have shown a clear and direct correlation of attendance with grades. Short quizzes will be administered from time to time. The quiz grade will count towards the class grade.

No makeup of in-class work or exams will be given. If you have a legitimate reason for missing a major exam, then you must inform the instructor as soon as possible. If the reason is acceptable, then the final exam will count proportionately more. The two lowest grades on in-class exercises and homework will be dropped. This will allow a limited number of missed classes regardless of the reason.


Two "mid-term" exams will be administered: Thursday, February 10 (9:30 am to 10:45 am) and Thursday, March 17 (9:30 am to 10:45 am). The comprehensive final exam is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3 (8:00 am to 10:30 am). All work must be done in pen in an exam book that will be provided. Any work in pencil made not in the exam book will be discarded. The exam results will be published in the glass box in the 2nd floor hallway of Gallalee Hall.


Homework problems will be submitted each Tuesday outside of class. Occasionally, short (10 min) quizzes will be given based on in-class work done during the week and the most recently submitted problem assignment. Problem notebooks will be occasionally collected for spot-checking. Thus, class attendance is very important. There will be no makeup of missed class work. Each exam problem will be assigned a point value. The exams will usually contain extra-credit problems. This will allow you to drop some exam problems without penalty.

Grading Policy

Letter Grade
Numerical Grade

(Min. percentage points)




Superior ability or attainment significantly beyond all minimum expectations (93%)






Good ability or attainment which meets and exceeds many minimum expectations (83%)






Ability or attainment which is acceptable and meets all minimum (required) expectations (73%)






Ability or attainment which does not meet all minimum (required) expectations (63%)




Attainment of some but not a number of important minimum expectations and is, thus, not appropriate for a minimum professional level of performance (0-59%).

Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to follow the Code of Student Conduct, as laid down by The University of Alabama. All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct. In particular each student is expected to do his/her own work on quizzes and exams. Suspected violators of this policy will be referred to the Dean's Office in the College of Arts and Sciences. Students are encouraged to work together when studying and preparing for homework.

Disability Accommodations

To request disability accommodations, please contact Disability Services (348-4285). After initial arrangements are made with that office, contact Dr. Piepke.