The Interaction of Light with the World





Melissa Franklin (Department of Physics)
Freshman Seminar 52H 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment: Limited to 12

The interaction of light with matter dominates both our sensory and scientific understanding of the world. The way the sunlight scatters from atoms in the atmosphere to shine on objects so that we can see them, for instance. This interaction is deeply rooted in quantum mechanics, and requires a good understanding of the atom which we will develop with very, very few equations. We will read from essays of physicists who built the theory of quantum mechanics about the atom. These essays give a real sense of the way these scientists thought. We will include readings from more recent essays by scientists concerning the way we use light, for instance, to understand quantum entanglement for use in quantum computers. Although we will include current understanding of the interaction of light with matter, at least half of the seminar will focus on understanding simple phenomena. This is a seminar largely based on readings and physical demonstrations of phenomena. There will be at least 5 demonstrations per class. If online classes continue into the fall the demonstrations would be videos, or possibly with our demo expert doing the demos in real time so that the students can interact by asking him to change parameters or settings.

Prerequisites: This seminar is open to all. No prerequisites needed. As usual, we follow the Harvard honor code. In this seminar you are encouraged to work together, but it is important that you hand in your own work.


See also: Spring 2021