Final Exam: Due 2pm PDT Thursday June 3, 2021 for Seniors and Grad students.
Due 2pm PDT Wednesday June 9, 2021 for Frosh-Juniors.
Prof: Sterl Phinney [final] 316 Cahill esp [AT] tapir.caltech.edu Office hours: TBD TAs: Alexander Zlokapa [PS 1, 5, final] azlokapa [AT] caltech.edu Office hours: TBD Stella Wang [PS 2, 6, final] stellaw [AT] caltech.edu Office hours: TBD Nikita Klimovich [PS 3, 4, 7, 8, final] klimovich [AT] caltech.edu Office hours: TBD Trixie When not sleeping, will assist with lectures and demos, and provide fur samples
Approximate class outline (may change depending on student and instructor enthusiasms...)
Week 1 Estimation, Dimensional analysis, scaling 2 More scaling, Bulk Properties of materials 3 Properties of materials, transport 4 Aerosols, SARS-Cov-2 and Covid 19 5 Non-renewable and renewable energy: physics and transitions. 6 Weather, oceans and atmospheres, climate change. 7 Birds, airplanes, helicopters, spacecraft, lift, drag, boundary layers 8-9 student vote from topics below Topics: -Sound waves and acoustics, the ear, musical instruments, recording -Biomechanics and exercise, water waves -Economics, industry and finance. -Bombs, guns, torpedos, nuclear reactors, supernovae and other things that go bang. -Order of Magnitude math. -Earthquakes and their effects. -Nuclear and atomic physics; cross-sections and reaction rates. -Astrophysical objects: stars, planets, cosmology -Biology: neurons, information processing. Evolution, metabolism, lifetime. -Challenge me!
Final exams: see due dates above.
Solution sets will be posted on the website.
Your grade will be a mostly monotonic function of
g = [0.7(sum of homework scores)/(total possible)
+ 0.3(score on final)/(total possible)].
Because new topics and new problems are given every year, and the
mix of students varies,
Sterl determines the connection between letter
grade and numerical score by looking at natural
breaks in the final distribution: there are no fixed cutoffs and no
predetermined curve.
However as a very rough guide, here are the grade cutoffs for previous years:
Year | A+ | A | B | C |
---|---|---|---|---|
2019 | 0.90 | 0.80 | 0.70 | 0.55 |
2017 | 0.93 | 0.89 | 0.75 | 0.65 |
2015 | 0.82 | 0.75 | 0.60 | 0.45 |
2009 | 0.90 | 0.80 | 0.67 | 0.50 |
2007 | 0.90 | 0.85 | 0.75 | 0.60 |
Collaboration on the homework is limited. You must first try every homework problem BY YOURSELF for at least 30 minutes without external help (human or internet), other than looking up fundamental equations (e.g. Navier-Stokes, Schroedinger, Planck black-body, etc) in the recommended texts. This is the fun, OoM part. For estimation problems, this in particular means you must work out an answer using only what is in your brain before typing anything into a search engine. If subsequent Googling suggests your estimate was way off, you can then try to understand what went wrong with your estimate (or, not infrequently, with the dubious web "information").
Visual exchanges of information are strictly forbidden -you may not trade equations, graphs, or look at other people's solution sets from this or any prior year, or from child or grand-child Ph 101-like courses at other universities.
You may consult books and published papers to learn or remind yourself of relevant physics. The recommended texts are (surprise) recommended.
If after spending 30 minutes on a problem you are still stuck on it, you may TALK about the homework with the TA or your fellow students, but all exchanges of information must be general in nature and either exchanged verbally, or with modern replacements for talking (i.e. texting and emailing is ok too, as long as details are avoided -see below). For example the following QandA is ok Q: "I got a density of one atom per cubic km. Isn't that awfully low for lead at room temperature and pressure? A: "Yup, sure is. What variables did you include in your Buckingham Pi list? Oh, I think quantum mechanics is relevant here. Why did you leave out hbar? The following one is NOT OK: Q: "I'm stuck on problem 2. Can you help me?" A: "Sure. You take equation 3.12 of this book, insert equations 2.5 and 3.2, integrate and you should get the right answer which is V k squared over pi squared".
After any discussion with others, you must write up your own homework by yourself, without reference to anyone else's.
In real research, no one else knows the answer to the problems you work on (otherwise why would you be doing them?), so the most important thing you can learn from homework is how to think and solve for yourself, and be confident in your answers.