December 1986

·

167 Reads

Published by American Association of Physics Teachers

Online ISSN: 1943-2909

·

Print ISSN: 0002-9505

December 1986

·

167 Reads

We present a simple application of the three-dimensional harmonic oscillator which should provide a very nice particle physics example to be presented in introductory undergraduate quantum mechanics course. The idea is to use the nonrelativistic quark model to calculate the spin-averaged mass levels of the charmonium and bottomonium spectra.

February 1989

·

182 Reads

This Resource Letter provides a guide to the literature about intelligent life beyond the human sphere of exploration. It offers a starting point for professionals and academics interested in participating in the debate about the existence of other technological civilizations or in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). It can also serve as a reference for teaching. This Letter is not intended as an exhaustive bibliography, but several extensive bibliographies have been cited. The letter E after an item indicates elementary, nontechnical material of general interest to persons becoming informed in the field. Intermediate level material, of a somewhat more specialized nature, is indicated by the Letter I. The annotation A indicates advanced, technical material. An asterisk (*) precedes items to be included in an accompanying Reprint Book.

September 2013

·

133 Reads

Photoacoustic (PA) imaging techniques have recently attracted much attention and can be used for noninvasive imaging of biological tissues. Most PA imaging systems in research laboratories use the time domain method with expensive nanosecond pulsed lasers that are not affordable for most educational laboratories. Using an intensity modulated light source to excite PA signals is an alternative technique, known as the frequency domain method, with a much lower cost. In this paper, we describe a simple frequency domain PA system and demonstrate its imaging capability. The system provides opportunities not only to observe PA signals in tissue phantoms, but also to acquire hands-on skills in PA signal detection. It also provides opportunities to explore the underlying mechanisms of the PA effect.

February 2006

·

1,243 Reads

We describe a simple framework for teaching the principles that underlie the dynamical laws of transport: Fick's law of diffusion, Fourier's law of heat flow, the Newtonian viscosity law, and the mass-action laws of chemical kinetics. In analogy with the way that the maximization of entropy over microstates leads to the Boltzmann distribution and predictions about equilibria, maximizing a quantity that E. T. Jaynes called "caliber" over all the possible microtrajectories leads to these dynamical laws. The principle of maximum caliber also leads to dynamical distribution functions that characterize the relative probabilities of different microtrajectories. A great source of recent interest in statistical dynamics has resulted from a new generation of single-particle and single-molecule experiments that make it possible to observe dynamics one trajectory at a time.

April 2003

·

100 Reads

This Resource Letter provides a guide to the literature on optical tweezers, also known as laser-based, gradient-force optical traps. Journal articles and books are cited for the following main topics: general papers on optical tweezers, trapping instrument design, optical detection methods, optical trapping theory, mechanical measurements, single molecule studies, and sections on biological motors, cellular measurements and additional applications of optical tweezers. (C) 2003 American Association of Physics Teachers.

May 2005

·

88 Reads

After a historical introduction to Poisson's equation in Newtonian gravity, we review its analog for static gravitational fields in Einstein's theory. The source of the potential, which we call the active mass density, comprises not only all possible sources of energy, but also the pressure term 3P/c 2. In the Hamburg seminar on relativity in the 1950s we discussed whether this term due to Fermi pressure in different atomic nuclei could be detected in Cavendish-type experiments. Our reasoning contained an instructive mistake that we are now able to resolve. We conclude that this term should not lead to discrepancies for different materials in a Cavendish-type experiment, although it is important in the early universe and collapsing stellar cores.

April 2004

·

1,847 Reads

In July 1925 Heisenberg published a paper [Z. Phys. 33, 879-893 (1925)] which ended the period of `the Old Quantum Theory' and ushered in the new era of Quantum Mechanics. This epoch-making paper is generally regarded as being difficult to follow, perhaps partly because Heisenberg provided few clues as to how he arrived at the results which he reported. Here we give details of calculations of the type which, we suggest, Heisenberg may have performed. We take as a specific example one of the anharmonic oscillator problems considered by Heisenberg, and use our reconstruction of his approach to solve it up to second order in perturbation theory. We emphasize that the results are precisely those obtained in standard quantum mechanics, and suggest that some discussion of the approach - based on the direct computation of transition amplitudes - could usefully be included in undergraduate courses in quantum mechanics. Comment: 24 pages, no figures, Latex, submitted to Am. J. Phys

December 2002

·

1,124 Reads

The results obtained by Pauli, in his 1926 article on the hydrogen atom, made essential use of the dynamical so(4) symmetry of the bound states. Pauli used this symmetry to compute the perturbed energy levels of an hydrogen atom in a uniform electric field (Stark effect) and in uniform electric and magnetic fields. Although the experimental check of the single Stark effect on the hydrogen atom has been studied experimentally, Pauli's results in mixed fields have been studied only for Rydberg states of rubidium atoms in crossedfields and lithium atoms in parallel fields. Comment: 11 pages, latex file, 2 figures

October 2001

·

43 Reads

The Dirac equation in a 1+1 dimension with the Lorentz scalar potential g|x| is approached. It is claimed that the eigenfunctions are proportional to the parabolic cylinder functions instead Hermite polynomials. Numerical evaluation of the quantization condition does not result in frustration. Comment: Submitted to American Journal of Physics

September 2007

·

103 Reads

In special relativity a gyroscope that is suspended in a torque-free manner will precess as it is moved along a curved path relative to an inertial frame S. We explain this effect, which is known as Thomas precession, by considering a real grid that moves along with the gyroscope, and that by definition is not rotating as observed from its own momentary inertial rest frame. From the basic properties of the Lorentz transformation we deduce how the form and rotation of the grid (and hence the gyroscope) will evolve relative to S. As an intermediate step we consider how the grid would appear if it were not length contracted along the direction of motion. We show that the uncontracted grid obeys a simple law of rotation. This law simplifies the analysis of spin precession compared to more traditional approaches based on Fermi transport. We also consider gyroscope precession relative to an accelerated reference frame and show that there are extra precession effects that can be explained in a way analogous to the Thomas precession. Although fully relativistically correct, the entire analysis is carried out using three-vectors. By using the equivalence principle the formalism can also be applied to static spacetimes in general relativity. As an example, we calculate the precession of a gyroscope orbiting a static black hole. In an addendum the general reasoning is extended to include also rotating reference frames.

April 2012

·

353 Reads

We comment on a recent paper by Hobson, explaining that quantum "fields" are
no more fields than quantum "particles" are particles, so that the replacement
of a particle ontology by an all-field ontology cannot solve the typical
interpretational problems of quantum mechanics.

August 2013

·

414 Reads

Physics Education Research (PER) applies a scientific approach to the
question, "How do our students think about and learn physics?" PER allows us to
explore such intellectually engaging questions as, "What does it mean to
understand something in physics?" and, "What skills and competencies do we want
our students to learn from our physics classes?" To address questions like
these, we need to do more than observe student difficulties and build
curricula. We need a theoretical framework -- a structure for talking about,
making sense of, and modeling how one thinks about, learns, and understands
physics. In this paper, I outline some aspects of the Resources Framework, a
structure that some of us are using to create a phenomenology of physics
learning that ties closely to modern developments in neuroscience, psychology,
and linguistics. As an example of how this framework gives new insights, I
discuss epistemological framing -- the role of students' perceptions of the
nature of the knowledge they are learning and what knowledge is appropriate to
bring to bear on a given task. I discuss how this foothold idea fits into our
theoretical framework, show some classroom data on how it plays out in the
classroom, and give some examples of how my awareness of the resources
framework influences my approach to teaching.

April 2012

·

182 Reads

Physicists seeking to understand complex biological systems often find it
rewarding to create simple "toy models" that reproduce system behavior. Here a
toy model is used to understand a puzzling phenomenon from the sport of track
and field. Races are almost always won, and records set, in 400 m and 800 m
running events by people who run the first half of the race faster than the
second half, which is not true of shorter races, nor of longer. There is
general agreement that performance in the 400 m and 800 m is limited somehow by
the amount of anaerobic metabolism that can be tolerated in the working muscles
in the legs. A toy model of anaerobic metabolism is presented, from which an
optimal pacing strategy is analytically calculated via the Euler-Lagrange
equation. This optimal strategy is then modified to account for the fact that
the runner starts the race from rest; this modification is shown to result in
the best possible outcome by use of an elementary variational technique that
supplements what is found in undergraduate textbooks. The toy model reproduces
the pacing strategies of elite 400 m and 800 m runners better than existing
models do. The toy model also gives some insight into training strategies that
improve performance.

September 1997

·

76 Reads

We answer to question Nr. 55 [Are there pictorial examples that distinguish covariant and contravariant vectors ?] posed by D. Neuenschwander, Am. J. Phys. 65 (1), 11 (1997) Comment: 3 pages, LaTeX, 2 figures, Am. J. Phys. in print

January 2011

·

664 Reads

Electromagnetic fields of an accelerated charge are derived from the first
principles using Coulomb's law and the relativistic transformations. The
electric and magnetic fields are derived first for an instantaneous rest frame
of the accelerated charge, without making explicit use of Gauss's law, an
approach different from that available in the literature. Thereafter we
calculate the electromagnetic fields for an accelerated charge having a
non-relativistic motion. The expressions for these fields, supposedly accurate
only to a first order in velocity $\beta$, surprisingly yield all terms exactly
for the acceleration fields, only missing a factor $1-\beta^2$ in the velocity
fields. The derivation explicitly shows the genesis of various terms in the
field expressions, when expressed with respect to the time retarded position of
the charge. A straightforward transformation from the instantaneous rest frame,
using relativistic Doppler factors, yields expressions of the electromagnetic
fields for the charge moving with an arbitrary velocity. The field expressions
are derived without using Li\'{e}nard-Wiechert potentials, thereby avoiding
evaluation of any spatial or temporal derivatives of these potentials at the
retarded time.

August 2007

·

78 Reads

We investigate the effects of the aberration of light for a uniformly accelerating observer. The observer we consider is initially at rest with respect to a luminous spherical object--a star, say--and then starts to move away with constant acceleration. The main results we derive are the following: (i) The observer always sees an initial increase of the apparent size of the object; (ii) The apparent size of the object approaches a non-zero value as the proper time of the observer goes to infinity. (iii) There exists a critical value of the acceleration such that the apparent size of the object is always increasing when the acceleration is super-critical. We show that, while (i) is a purely non-relativistic effect, (ii) and (iii) are effects of the relativistic aberration of light and are intimately connected with the Lorentzian geometry of Minkowksi spacetime. Finally, the examples we present illustrate that, while more or less negligible in everyday life, the three effects can be significant in the context of space-flight. Comment: 7 figures; subject: special relativity; pedagogical article; replaced to match version appearing in Am. J. Phys

October 2009

·

305 Reads

Quantum mechanics predicts an exponentially small probability that a particle
with energy greater than the height of a potential barrier will nevertheless
reflect from the barrier in violation of classical expectations. This process
can be regarded as tunneling in momentum space, leading to a simple derivation
of the reflection probability.

February 2014

·

143 Reads

It is widely believed that classical electromagnetism is either unphysical or
inconsistent, owing to pathological behaviour when self-force and radiation
reaction are non-negligible. We argue that there is no inconsistency as long as
it is recognized that certain types of charge distribution are simply
impossible, such as, for example, a point particle with finite charge and
finite inertia. This is owing to the fact that negative inertial mass is an
unphysical concept in classical physics. It remains useful to obtain an
equation of motion for small charged objects that describes their motion to
good approximation without requiring knowledge of the charge distribution
within the object. We give a simple method to achieve this, leading to a
reduced-order form of the Abraham-Lorentz-Dirac equation, essentially as
proposed by Eliezer, Landau and Lifshitz.

June 2002

·

175 Reads

We compare the behavior of propagating and evanescent light waves in absorbing media with that of electrons in the presence of inelastic scattering. The imaginary part of the dielectric constant results primarily in an exponential decay of a propagating wave, but a phase shift for an evanescent wave. We then describe how the scattering of quantum particles out of a particular coherent channel can be modeled by introducing an imaginary part to the potential in analogy with the optical case. The imaginary part of the potential causes additional scattering which can dominate and actually prevent absorption of the wave for large enough values of the imaginary part. We also discuss the problem of maximizing the absorption of a wave and point out that the existence of a bound state greatly aids absorption. We illustrate this point by considering the absorption of light at the surface of a metal. Comment: Brief Review, to appear in the American Journal of Physics, http://www.kzoo.edu/ajp/

July 2006

·

1,017 Reads

We present a simple method to determine the mutual inductance $M$ between two coils in a coupled AC circuit by using a digital dual-phase lock-in amplifier. The frequency dependence of the real and imaginary parts is measured as the coupling constant is changed. The mutual inductance $M$ decreases as the distance $d$ between the centers of coils is increased. We show that the coupling constant is proportional to $d^{-n}$ with an exponent $n$ ($\approx$ 3). This coupling is similar to that of two magnetic moments coupled through a dipole-dipole interaction.

October 2008

·

382 Reads

We consider a primary model of ac-driven Brownian motors, i.e., a classical particle placed in a spatial-time periodic potential and coupled to a heat bath. The effects of fluctuations and dissipations are studied by a time-dependent Fokker-Planck equation. The approach allows us to map the original stochastic problem onto a system of ordinary linear algebraic equations. The solution of the system provides complete information about ratchet transport, avoiding such disadvantages of direct stochastic calculations as long transients and large statistical fluctuations. The Fokker-Planck approach to dynamical ratchets is instructive and opens the space for further generalizations.

August 2014

·

193 Reads

We address some questions related to radiation and energy conservation in
classical electromagnetism. We first treat the well-known problem of energy
accounting during radiation from a uniformly accelerating particle. We present
the problem in the form of a paradox, and then answer it using a modern
treatment of radiation reaction and self-force, as it appears in the expression
due to Eliezer and Ford and O'Connell. We clarify the influence of the Schott
force and the total radiated power, which differs from Larmor's formula.
Finally, we present a simple and highly visual argument which enables one to
track the radiated energy without the need to appeal to the far field in the
distant future (the 'wave zone').

January 2004

·

241 Reads

A detector undergoing uniform acceleration $a$ in a vacuum field responds just as though it were immersed in thermal radiation of temperature $T=\hbar a/2\pi k c$. A simple, intuitive derivation of this result is given for the case of a scalar field in one spatial dimension. The approach is then extended to treat the case where the field seen by the accelerated observer is a spin-1/2 Dirac field. Comment: 11 pages, no figures, (written in REVTEX4). Submitted to Am. J. Phys, 26Jan04. - Accepted Am.J.Phys (to appear Nov 2004). 15 pages, fixed confusing typo in Eq.(8), expanded references citng related previous works, discussion of parameter domain of integrals used, and relationship of Minkowski to Rindler vacuum

July 2005

·

475 Reads

We show, by exploring some elementary consequences of the covariance of Maxwell's equations under general coordinate transformations, that, despite inertial observers can indeed detect electromagnetic radiation emitted from a uniformly accelerated charge, comoving observers will see only a static electric field. This simple analysis can help understanding one of the most celebrated paradoxes of last century.

March 2010

·

625 Reads

The relationship between uniformly accelerated reference frames in flat
spacetime and the uniform gravitational field is examined in a relativistic
context. It is shown that, contrary to previous statements in the pages of this
journal, equivalence does not break down in this context. No restrictions to
Newtonian approximations or small enclosures are necessary.