From Newton to Einstein:
University-level Physics Curriculum for Online Learners
Here is where we chart a learning course. The starting point is somewhere near a high-school level education. If you're not there yet, fear not! The Khan Academy has a truly excellent set of online resources to get you there. In fact, they've got us pretty well covered for math, and we'll be able to go to them for a lot of our physics as well. I can't say enough good things about the Khan Academy. If you haven't been to their site recently, GO! So, back to our map: we'll take for granted at least some background in mathematical concepts like algebra and trigonometry.
Our goal is to get a grasp on the real meanings of modern physics . . . at whatever level of depth we choose. At a minimum, we'll want to know the true meaning of time and space as far as they have been revealed by relativity and quantum theory. And since this meaning isn't likely to agree with the intuition we develop in our everyday interactions with the world, we'll want to know how science arrived at our modern understanding.
We're going to break up our curriculum into multiple "years" (we'll call each one a "series," since you are free to go at your own pace) like a typical university physics program. Unlike such a physics program, however, this online course of study will not provide you supervision in a physical laboratory nor a series of experiments to perform; what we do here could be considered a good preparation for college study rather than a complete substitute for it.
We're also going to break the material up into individual course names like you might find at a university. In fact, we'll be borrowing many course names, numbers, and descriptions from the University of Washington course catalog. But rather than listing just the prerequisites of these courses, we will identify several learning objectives within each course and be more specific about the dependencies between each of these objectives. For example, preparing for a full third-year course may require a particular first-year course, but there may still be many worthwhile objectives in the third-year course which do not depend on such prior learning. Whether you want to be able to crunch the numbers or you're just looking for the highlights, we'll try to map out the learning path.
As online resources are identified for each course, you will be able to click on the course numbers in the left-hand column below to see an annotated, organized list; as well as a more detailed breakdown of learning objectives and some otherwise helpful coaching hints.
Don't be put off by the complicated-sounding names and descriptions; we've totally got this! Read the detailed course descriptions (as available) and see what they're all about in simple terms.
|MATH 124||Calculus with Analytic Geometry I||Single-variable differential calculus|
|MATH 125||Calculus with Analytic Geometry II||Single-variable integral calculus||Prerequisite: MATH 124|
|MATH 126||Calculus with Analytic Geometry III||Introduction to multivariable calculus: partial differentiation and multiple integrals||Prerequisite: MATH 124,125|
|PHYSICS 121||Classical Mechanics||Recommended:MATH 124, 125|
|PHYSICS 122||Electricity and Magnetism||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 121
Recommended: MATH 124, 125
|PHYSICS 123||Waves and Oscillatory Motion||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 122|
|MATH 218||Linear Algebra||Vectors and matrices; systems of linear equations; bases; determinants; linear transformations|
|MATH 224||Advanced Multivariable Calculus||Double and triple integrals; Green's theorem; Stokes' theorem; divergence theorem||Prerequisite: MATH 124,125,126|
|PHYSICS 224||Statistical Mechanics||Thermodynamics||Prerequisite: MATH 124,125,126; PHYSICS 122|
|PHYSICS 225||Modern Physics||Special theory of relativity; introduction to quantum physics||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 121,122,123
Recommended: PHYSICS 224
|MATH 307||Differential Equations||Prerequisite: MATH 124,125,126|
|PHYSICS 227||Mathematical Physics I||Prerequisite: MATH 124,125,126,218|
|PHYSICS 228||Mathematical Physics II||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 227|
|PHYSICS 311||Relativity and Gravitation
||Introduction to the general theory of relativity.||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 121,122,123|
|PHYSICS 321||Electromagnetism I||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 121,122,123,227|
|PHYSICS 322||Electromagnetism II||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 321|
|PHYSICS 324||Quantum Physics I||Prerequisite: MATH 224, PHYSICS 225,227|
|PHYSICS 325||Quantum Physics II||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 324|
|PHYSICS 326||Quantum Physics III||Prerequisite: PHYSICS 325|
|PHYSICS 401||Quantum Theory I|
|PHYSICS 402||Quantum Theory II|
|PHYSICS 405||General Relativity||General covariance and tensor analysis; the relativistic theory of gravitation as given by Einstein's field equations|