Models of Motion, Matter and Interactions
Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 quarters
Scientists gather data, make observations, look for patterns, build models and use those models to predict behavior. Powerful models in physics help us explain interactions involving matter and energy. New models need new mathematical methods—for example, calculus was developed partly to understand models of motion. Even with powerful mathematics, a model may yield answers only in simplified circumstances. We can analyze more complicated physical systems by simulating them on a computer. Learning how to create and apply mathematical and computational methods effectively to models in physics will be one of the major goals of this program.
In two quarters we will cover the equivalent of a year of calculus and physics and one quarter of computer programming at the introductory level through interactive lectures, small group workshops, hands-on and computer programming labs, seminars and projects. Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning in individual and collaborative contexts, including in-class work, homework, lab write-ups, papers, presentations, projects, quizzes and exams. The work will be intense and invigorating, involving time-intensive engagement with textbooks and problem-solving in a supportive learning community that values the development of theoretical understanding that can be applied to practical problems.
Our physics work covers modern mechanics and electric and magnetic interactions, developing macroscopic and microscopic models of matter and interactions using ideas such as conservation laws, Newton’s laws of motion, statistical and thermal physics and Maxwell’s equations for electricity and magnetism. We will study the programming language Python and develop numerical techniques that can be used to calculate and display our physics models. We will study calculus to apply it to physics and other science and social science fields as well as seeing how mathematics exists on its own as a sense-making endeavor.
No previous background in computer science or physics is expected. Preparation in mathematics including pre-calculus or intermediate algebra and functions is required. Students who successfully complete the fall program The Physical World of Animals and Plants will be prepared for this program. Students with some previous work in calculus, computer science or physics may see that the intersection deepens their understanding of each. Successful completion of this program will be good preparation for further introductory work in computer science and intermediate or advanced work in mathematics and physics.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day