Caltech California Institute of Technology

Caltech Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Physics 12 - Waves, Quantum Physics, and Statistical Mechanics, 2014-2015

A full-year introduction to the physics of waves, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, for students planning to major in physics, astronomy, or related fields.

Physics 12a - Introduction to Waves, Oct-Dec 2014.

Simulation of what gravitational waves produced by colliding black holes might look like. Image courtesy Henze / NASA.

It goes without saying that this page is under construction.....


Instructor: Prof. Alan J. Weinstein
Office 1: 260 Lauritsen; Mail Code: 256-48; Phone: x6682
Office 2: 354A West Bridge; Mail Code: 100-36; Phone: x2166
E-mail: ajw AT
I do not have regular office hours; email me!

Math 1abc or equivalent (differential equations, complex numbers, ...).
Physics 1abc, or equivalent (mechanics, special relativity, electromagnetism).

Tuesdays, 10:30-11:55, 269 Lauritsen.
Thursdays, 10:30-11:55, 201 East Bridge.
Any changes will be announced well in advance. Please arrive on time!

Textbooks for Phys 12a:
There is no required textbook for this course!. Because this is well-established material, there are many textbooks which cover most of the material we will cover in this course. Find the one(s) that you find easiest to read and understand!
Crawford, Waves (Out of print; free pdf download here). Most of the course presentation is based on this text, but many students think it is too wordy and poorly written (Others like it just fine!).
Georgi, The Physics of Waves (free pdf download here, used with permission). This is a relatively well-written text; it may not go into sufficient detail in some topics.
French, Vibrations and Waves; amazon; note that there are free downloadable pdf versions on the web, I don't know the legal status of them...
Hecht, Optics; amazon. This is a more advanced text with far more detail on optics than we will cover in this course, and little introductory detail.
The Feynman Lectures, chaps 21-36, 47-51.
See also Ph 12a notes by Adam Jermyn from 2011 (only available on the campus network).

Class notes:
PDF files below under "Handouts".

Problem Sets:
Posted below on Thursday of each non-exam week, due in the Physics 12c IN box across from 264 Lauritsen in class (10:30) on the following Thursday, and returned to the Physics 12b OUT box across from 264 Lauritsen by the following Monday. Solution sets will be posted on the web. You are strongly encouraged to check your work when it is returned to you.
Problem sets are essential for mastering the material in this class!

Midterm and final exams during appropriate weeks of the term (5th and 10th). Both will be take-home and ``limited" open-book (only the text and class notes allowed). The final exam will be comprehensive.

Approximately 50% problem sets, 15% midterm, 35% final exam.

Wed 2pm, Location: Downs 103
    Matthew Heydeman; matthew.heydeman AT; Office hours: Wed 3-4pm in 414 Lauritsen, following recitation.
Tue 8pm; Location: 269 Lauritsen
    Ingmar Saberi; isaberi AT; Office hours: Tue 9pm, following recitation.

Kung-Yi Su, kungyisu AT, Office hours: TBD, TBD.


Honor Code and Collaboration policy:

I greatly appreciate student feedback; feedback prior to the end-of-term evaluations lets me modify the class to fit your needs. If you want to send a comment about the course, click here.
I also welcome any comments in person, by email to ajw AT, by campus mail, whatever you like.
Or, talk to your:

Ombudsfolk are student volunteers who represent the students of each of the undergrad houses. They collect suggestions, comments, complaints, etc, and present them to the head ombudsperson at periodic meetings (free lunch!). Talk to your ombudsperson!
  • Nikita Sirohi, nsirohi AT caltech, Ruddock
  • Angela Gui, ygui AT caltech , Blacker
  • Ankit Kumar, akumar AT caltech, Lloyd
  • Jacob Abrahams, jabraham AT caltech, Ricketts
  • Justin Leong, jleong AT caltech, Avery
  • Yanbing Zhu, yzzhu AT caltech, Page
  • Chris Dosen, cdosen AT caltech , Dabney
  • Marco Cruz-Heredia, mcruzher AT caltech, Ricketts

  • Brief Outline of course, fall term:
    Note that although the outline references chapters from Crawford, other recommended texts work fine as well!

    Handouts: (Access to solutions are restricted to Caltech)

    Last Updated: Dec 16, 2014
    Alan Weinstein/ajw AT