Physics is the fundamental natural science. At its simplest, it is the study of energy and matter, their interactions, and their motion through space and time. At Carleton, students can explore many different aspects of physics, including Newtonian mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, thermodynamics, optics, and electricity & magnetism. Astronomy, inseparably linked with Physics, can have particular appeal for those who wonder about the universe on a grand scale.
Whether investigating elementary particles or surveying galactic superclusters, the broad scope of courses and research opportunities at Carleton gives Physics and Astronomy students a wellrounded understanding of the physical world and how things in it work.
About Physics and Astronomy
Consonant with the liberal arts nature of Carleton, our department serves not only physics and astronomy majors but also other science majors requiring a background in physics or astronomy, and nonscience majors desiring an introduction to these subjects. We have goals for the knowledge we would like students to acquire, the skills they should master, and the experiences they should have in learning and doing physics.
Some of the general skills include:
 The ability to communicate clearly in written work and oral presentation
 The ability to work collaboratively with their peers
 The ability to continue learning on a largely independent basis
More specific skills include:
 Logical problemsolving and mathematical analysis
 Experimental design and the use of measurement apparatus, and
 The use of computers for modeling physical phenomena and for data acquisition and analysis
Requirements for the Physics Major
Prospective physics majors are strongly encouraged to begin their study of physics and mathematics in the first year. Physics courses are somewhat sequential and are developed in close association with mathematics courses. The curriculum provides an excellent basis for many postCarleton career paths, including teaching, medicine, working in industry, and graduate study in physics, astronomy, and in various fields of engineering.
Most firstyear students considering a major in physics will take either two 5week courses (Physics 131 AND Physics 151) or one 10week course (Physics 143 or Physics 144). Although taught from slightly different perspectives, the two 5week courses or the 10week course will cover fundamental topics in Newtonian mechanics and special relativity that prepare students for further work in physics and related fields. We also offer a section of Physics 143 with problem solving that is taught in the spring term. This section provides additional problemsolving instruction and is appropriate for students who could benefit from additional support in the study of collegelevel physics.
Required courses, 72 credits total
Introductory courses required are either:
Other required Physics courses:
 PHYS 228 or PHYS 226/227
 PHYS 231
 PHYS 235
 PHYS 335
 PHYS 342
 PHYS 400
 plus one applied physics course:
Required mathematics courses:
Additional courses that are often recommended include Physics 123, 346, 356, Astronomy 113, 356, Chemistry 123, Mathematics 241, 261, 341, and Computer Science 111. Students considering graduate school in physics are strongly encouraged to take Physics 346, 352, and 355.
Major Under Combined Plan in Engineering:
In addition to completing the requirements for the physics major listed above, the student should also take the following courses required for admission to our partner institution, Washington University: Mathematics 241, Chemistry 123, and Computer Science 111.
Physics Courses

PHYS 123 What Physicists Do
A program of five lectures by invited speakers that is intended to give students some perspective on the kinds of work done by people with a physics background. Visitors from industry, government, business, and research and educational institutions will discuss their work and workrelated experiences. The abstracts for the talks can be found at https://www.carleton.edu/physicsastronomy/phys123speakerseries/.
 Spring 2024
 S/CR/NC
 1
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 131, 143, 144, 145, 151, 152, or 165.
 Arjendu Pattanayak 🏫 👤

PHYS 131 Introduction to Physics: Newtonian Mechanics and Lab
A traditional introduction to classical mechanics using the Newtonian worldview. The kinematics and dynamics of some simple systems are investigated using Newton’s laws, vector analysis, and the conservation laws of momentum and energy. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. Weekly laboratory work.
 Fall 2023
 3
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Concurrent registration in or successful completion of Mathematics 101 or 111, not open to students who have completed Physics 143, 144 or 145 at Carleton
 Arjendu Pattanayak 🏫 👤 · Seth Kimbrell 🏫 👤 · Chris West 🏫 👤

PHYS 143 Physical Systems: Mechanics and Relativity and Lab
This course begins with an introduction to classical mechanics using the Newtonian worldview. Descriptions of motion and change in motion of some simple systems at human speeds are investigated using Newton’s laws, vector analysis, and the conservation laws of momentum and energy. The course moves beyond the Newtonian framework to consider a relativistic framework where time and space are intertwined and explores the motion of objects whose speeds approach the speed of light. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. Weekly laboratory work.
 Winter 2024, Spring 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Previous completion of Mathematics 101 or 111. Not open to students who have completed Physics 131, 144, 145 or 151 at Carleton.
 Chris West 🏫 👤 · Staff

PHYS 144 Astrophysical Systems: Mechanics and Relativity and Lab
This course begins by reviewing Newtonian mechanics, with applications of vector analysis and the concepts of momentum and energy to largescale gravitational phenomena in the universe. The course moves beyond the Newtonian framework to consider a relativistic framework where time and space are intertwined and explores the motion of objects whose speeds approach the speed of light. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. Weekly laboratory work.
 Winter 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Previous completion of Mathematics 120 or 121. Not open to students who have completed Physics 131, 143, 145 or 151 at Carleton.
 Barry Costanzi 🏫 👤 · Staff

PHYS 145 Mechanics and Waves and Lab
This course begins with the study of the motion of objects on the human scale using Newton’s laws. The course provides the foundation for the study of conservation of energy and momentum, waves, and fluids. Biologic, medical, chemical, nuclear, and geologic applications may be considered. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. Weekly laboratory work.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Mathematics 101 or 111. Not open to students who have completed Physics 131, 143, or 144 at Carleton.
 Chris West 🏫 👤

PHYS 151 Introduction to Physics: Relativity and Particles and Lab
An introduction to principles of physics in the realm of the very small and very fast. The course provides an introduction to special relativity where time and space are intertwined and explores the motion of objects whose speeds approach the speed of light. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. Weekly laboratory work.
 Fall 2023
 3
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Mathematics 101 or 111 (completion or concurrent registration) and Physics 131 (completion or concurrent registration). Not open to students who have completed Physics 143 or 144 at Carleton.
 Seth Kimbrell 🏫 👤

PHYS 152 Introduction to Physics: Environmental Physics and Lab
An introduction to principles of physics and their application to the environment. Topics include energy and its flows, engines, energy efficiency, energy usage and conservation in vehicles and buildings, the atmosphere, and climate change. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. Weekly laboratory work or field trips.
 Fall 2023
 3
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Mathematics 101, 111 (completion or concurrent registration) and Physics 131 (completion or concurrent registration), 143, 144 or 145
 Arjendu Pattanayak 🏫 👤 · Chris West 🏫 👤

PHYS 165 Introduction to Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics and Lab
A study of the principles of electricity, magnetism, and optics with an emphasis on realworld applications to areas such as electronics, medicine, or materials science. Topics include electric and magnetic fields, electric potentials, DC and AC circuits and geometric and wave optics. Designed for science majors who want additional background in physics. Comfort with algebra and the integration and differentiation of elementary functions is assumed. One laboratory per week.
 Winter 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 131, 143, 144, or 145. Mathematics 101 or 111.
 Seth Kimbrell 🏫 👤

PHYS 226 Atomic and Nuclear Physics Theory
An elementary but analytical introduction to the physics of atoms and nuclei. Topics include the particle aspects of electromagnetic radiation, an introduction to quantum mechanics, the wave aspects of material particles, and applications of the these concepts to atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. This course covers the theory portion of PHYS228 without the lab component that will be a separate course, allowing students to proceed through theory courses in the physics major.
Not offered in 202324
 4
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 143, 144 or 151

PHYS 227 Atomic and Nuclear Physics Lab
This lab course covers applications of quantum mechanics to Xray and optical spectra and instruments of nuclear and particle physics. The course meets for one laboratory session per week and covers the lab portion of Physics 228 that is required for upperlevel physics lab classes.
Not offered in 202324
 2
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 143, 144 or 151, Physics 226

PHYS 228 Atomic and Nuclear Physics and Lab
An introduction to quantum mechanics and select applications that explore physics in the realm of the very small world or atoms and nuclei. Topics include wavelike and particlelike behavior of both light and matter, behavior of particles in confined spaces, material properties of solids, radioactive decay, and experimental techniques and instrumentation for exploring these optical, atomic, and nuclear processes. One laboratory per week.
 Fall 2023
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 143, 144 or 151 and Mathematics 120
 Barry Costanzi 🏫 👤 · Jay Tasson 🏫 👤

PHYS 231 Analytical and Computational Mechanics
An analytical and computational treatment of classical mechanics and dynamics. We start from a reconsideration of complicated Newtonian problems and also develop the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalism of classical mechanics. A variety of systems, including some whose equations of motion cannot be solved analytically, will be explored. Possible examples include harmonic oscillators, centralforce problems, chaotic dynamics, astrophysical systems, and medieval siege engines.
 Winter 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 131, 143 or 144 and Mathematics 210 or 211 (completion or concurrent registration) or instructor permission
 Arjendu Pattanayak 🏫 👤

PHYS 232 Astrophysics I
A study of stellar structure and evolution with an emphasis on the physical principles underlying the observed phenomena. Topics include the birth, evolution, and death of stars, pulsars, black holes, and white dwarfs.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 226, 228 or 231
 Ryan Terrien 🏫 👤

PHYS 233 Astrophysics II
A study of galactic and extragalactic astronomy with an emphasis on the physical principles underlying the observed phenomena. Topics include the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way Galaxy and other galaxies, the interstellar medium, quasars and active galaxies, clusters and superclusters, and cosmology.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 228 or 231

PHYS 234 Computer Simulations in Complex Physical Systems
The development of techniques to study complex physical systems from a probabilistic and numerical standpoint, focused on cellular automata models. Subject material is applicable to all the sciences and mathematics. Some topics considered are random walks, percolation clusters, avalanches, traffic flow, the spread of forest fires and diseases, and a brief introduction to Bayesian statistics. No computer programming skills are assumed.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 131, 143, or 144, or instructor permission
 Jay Tasson 🏫 👤

PHYS 235 Electricity and Magnetism and Lab
Electric and magnetic fields in free space, and their interactions with charges and currents. Topics include electric fields and magnetic fields of various charge and current distributions, induction, DC and AC circuits and Maxwell’s equations. Weekly laboratory work explores course content in more practical detail.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 165, 226, 228 or Physics 231; Mathematics 210 or Mathematics 211; or instructor permission
 Seth Kimbrell 🏫 👤 · Ryan Terrien 🏫 👤

PHYS 238 Physics of Soft Matter
An introduction to topics in the interdisciplinary field of soft matter–materials which fall in the liminal space between solids and liquids–studied using a physics perspective. Possible topics include colloids, polymers, viscoelasticity, liquid crystals, biological and natural materials, selfassembly, and surface forces.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 131, 143, 144 or 145

PHYS 251 Theory and Applications of Remote Sensing
Remote sensing – interpreting information about physical systems at a distance using the electromagnetic spectrum – enables scientists to monitor climate change, detect material resources, track urban develoment, or map the surface of other planets, among a host of other applications. This course will explore key satellite remote sensing methods, such as visible and thermal imagery, visible through midinfrared spectroscopy, radar, gamma ray and neutron spectroscopy, and laser altimetry, introducing both the physical theory and practical data analysis techniques.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 100level PHYS (151, 152, 143, 144, 145, 165), Astronomy 110, ENTS 120, or Geology 110. Math 120 or 121 also required

PHYS 311 Nonlinear Optoelectronic Dynamics
The course will start from basic electromagnetism and model the dynamics of laser light interfering via modulated optoelectronics, including feedback with timedelays. Techniques from nonlinear timeseries data analysis will be used to characterize the various different kinds of dynamics. Basic concepts of information theory, network dynamics, and machine learning based on reservoir computing will be introduced. There will be significant handson work, with an exploration of applications to signal processing, optical communication, and random number generation.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 228 and 235

PHYS 333 Survey of Particle and Nuclear Physics
A detailed survey of selected topics in particle and nuclear physics. Particle physics topics might include the Standard Model interactions and mediators, Feynman diagrams, symmetries and tests of conservation laws, Dirac equation and possibly QED Feynman rules. Nuclear physics topics might include the Liquid Drop, Fermi Gas, and Shell models of the nucleus, discussion of radiation, energy deposition in media, and discussion of quantum chromodynamics. Fluency in multivariable calculus is expected.
 Winter 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 235, previous or concurrent registration in Physics 335
 Chris West 🏫 👤

PHYS 335 Quantum Mechanics
An examination of the structure of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics and how this theory differs from those of classical physics. Topics include the mathematics of Hilbert space, the postulates of quantum mechanics, the motion of a particle in one dimension (including the free particle and the simple harmonic oscillator), the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and spin. Multidimensional applications will include the harmonic oscillator, the hydrogen atom. Approximation techniques and applications will be presented.
 Winter 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 226 or 228, and Physics 231 and Mathematics 232. Familiarity with matrix algebra is assumed
 Jay Tasson 🏫 👤

PHYS 341 Waves
The analysis of wave phenomena, including normal mode expansions, the wave equation and boundary value problems, and interference, diffraction, dispersion, and polarization. Applications are made to mechanical, sound, water and electromagnetic waves with particular emphasis on both the unifying principles across all wave phenomena, as well as the nuances of particular types of waves.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 231 and 235, and Mathematics 232

PHYS 342 Contemporary Experimental Physics and Lab
A study of experimental techniques and apparatus basic to the measurements which underlie and validate contemporary theories in physics. Topics include electrical measurements, data analysis and statistics, optical and laser techniques, particle detectors, and time coincidence techniques. Applications are made to experiments such as magnetic resonance, Mossbauer and nuclear spectroscopy and laser optics. Class time is devoted to studying the measurement techniques and considering phenomenological models of the effects observed in the laboratory. One laboratory per week.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 (Physics 227 or 228) and 235 and (Physics 335 or Physic 346) or instructor permission
 Melissa EblenZayas 🏫 👤

PHYS 343 Electronics and Lab
A study of the electrical circuits and electronics underlying modern physics instrumentation. Includes an introduction to microprocessor and microcomputer design. Approximately equal emphasis on analog and digital electronics. One laboratory per week.
 Fall 2023
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 235
 Melissa EblenZayas 🏫 👤

PHYS 344 Classical and Quantum Optics
A junior/senior level course in classical and quantum optics. Includes the phenomena of interference, diffraction and coherence and quantum optical applications, such as unique statistical states of light or the operation of a laser. Modern applications of these areas are studied through such topics as fiber optics telecommunication, optical data storage, or manipulation of atoms by light.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 235 and Mathematics 232

PHYS 345 Advanced Optics
This is a laboratory course that will serve as a followup to Physics 344, Classical and Quantum Optics. Students will conduct a number of experiments pertaining to optical phenomena. The experiments will display effects pertaining to classical, quantum, and nonlinear optics. The lab will take place once a week for four hours each session.
Not offered in 202324
 2
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Corequisite Physics 344 or permission of the instructor

PHYS 346 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
The fundamentals of classical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Topics include the laws of thermodynamics; heat engines and refrigerators; the MaxwellBoltzmann distribution; the various canonical distributions; the statistical concepts of temperature and entropy; FermiDirac, and BoseEinstein distributions with applications to blackbody radiation, phonons, and electrons in solids; the Ising model; and an introduction to critical phenomena.
 Fall 2023
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 226 or 228
 Arjendu Pattanayak 🏫 👤

PHYS 347 General Relativity
Einstein’s theory of general relativity is developed from basic physical principles. Also presented is the mathematics of curved space time. Astrophysical applications of general relativity, including spherically symmetric objects, black holes, cosmology and the creation and detection of gravitational waves are given.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 235 and Physic 231

PHYS 352 Advanced Electricity and Magnetism
The course introduces techniques for applying electromagnetic theory to charge and current distributions beyond what is covered in prior Electricity and Magnetism courses. Additional topics include applications to Maxwell’s equations, radiation, and relativity.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 235, Mathematics 341 strongly recommended
 Arjendu Pattanayak 🏫 👤

PHYS 354 Solid State Physics
An introduction to the physics of solids. Particular attention is paid to the properties exhibited by atoms and molecules because of their association and regular periodic arrangement in crystals. Topics include crystal structure and diffraction, the reciprocal lattice, phonons and lattice vibrations, thermal properties, freeelectron theory and band structure.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement
 Physics 335 or 346
 Barry Costanzi 🏫 👤

PHYS 355 Topics in Advanced Classical Mechanics
Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods including central force motion, coupled harmonic oscillators, and the study of continuous systems. Additional subjects may include fluid dynamics, classical field theory or other specialized topics.
 Fall 2023
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 231
 Jay Tasson 🏫 👤

PHYS 400 Integrative Exercise
An extensive study of a specific topic in physics, culminating in a 60minute presentation during winter or spring term and a 7500 word paper. Students may arrange to complete the bulk of their work during winter or spring term (Physics 400, 6 credits), or divide their effort between terms (Physics 400, winter, 3 credits; Physics 400, spring, 3 credits).
Astronomy Courses

ASTR 110 Introduction to Astronomy
An introduction to current astronomy with an emphasis on how we know what we know. Topics include the solar system; the life cycles of stars; pulsars, quasars, and black holes; and the history and future fate of the universe. No mathematics background beyond high school algebra and trigonometry is assumed.
 Fall 2023, Winter 2024
 6
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Ryan Terrien 🏫 👤 · Staff

ASTR 113 Observational and Laboratory Astronomy
Theory and practice of basic techniques in observational and laboratory astronomy. Certain problems involve the use of the 16inch and 8inch telescopes.
 Fall 2023, Spring 2024
 S/CR/NC
 3
 Science with Lab Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Astronomy 100, 110, 127, 232, 233, Physics 226, 228, 232, 233 or instructor permission
 Seth Kimbrell 🏫 👤 · Staff

ASTR 232 Astrophysics I
A study of stellar structure and evolution with an emphasis on the physical principles underlying the observed phenomena. Topics include the birth, evolution, and death of stars, pulsars, black holes, and white dwarfs.
 Spring 2024
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 226, 228, 231 or instructor permission
 Ryan Terrien 🏫 👤

ASTR 233 Astrophysics II
A study of galactic and extragalactic astronomy with an emphasis on the physical principles underlying the observed phenomena. Topics include the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way Galaxy and other galaxies, the interstellar medium, quasars and active galaxies, clusters and superclusters, and cosmology.
Not offered in 202324
 6
 Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement Quantitative Reasoning Encounter
 Physics 228 or 231 or instructor permission