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