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PHYS 423 : Course Syllabus

Course Faculty

Name E-mail Phone Office Office Hours
Course Leader: Craig J Copi cjc5 368-8831 Rock 210 MWF 3:00-5:00 PM (approximately)


There is one required text for the course:

Jackson, Classical Electrodynamics 3rd edition (ISBN: 978-0-471-30932-1).

This book is often considered a rite (or right?) of passage for physics graduate students. If you even mention Jackson to most physicists they cringe. It is well known for its difficult problems. Yet we are going to use it, why? No, it is not (just) to torture you, but because it actually is a good book for preparing you to be a physicist. It is written in a style for physicists and is an invaluable reference for all things E&M related.

There is one recommended text for the course:

Zangwill, Modern Electrodynamics (ISBN: 978-0-521-89697-9).

This is a more standard text book written in a style more familiar to you from undergraduate courses. It gives far more details, does far more examples (topics typically relegated to problems in Jackson), and has a more engaging writing style. It is much easier to read, requiring far less work for you to get through the pages. Of course there are also far more pages to get through .... This book feels more like an advanced undergraduate textbook than a graduate one. However, it can fill in many of the gaps that Jackson expects you to already know/be able to deduce on your own, and thus is quite good at bridging the gap from an undergraduate course to a graduate one.

Lecture Times

The course meets MWF, 10:35AM-11:25PM, ROCK 304


The problem sets can be found elsewhere. There will be almost biweekly individual problem sets that will typically be due on Mondays.

Solutions must be turned in at the beginning of class on the day they are due.

As noted above, Jackson problems are notorious. Part of the reason for this is he expects you to think deeply about the questions and the physics involved. This can be difficult and time consuming. For this reason it is not too hard to find existing solutions to most problems online. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it is good to struggle with the problems, think about them, take false turns and understand why they are false turns, etc. On the other hand, time is finite and we (unfortunately) have more to do than just work on Jackson problems. Looking at existing solutions can be good, if done appropriately. I often look at solutions (and look at far more problems than are assigned) since I do not have time to work all the problems in Jackson either (though that would be a great thing to do). For this reason I am adopting the following policy.

Using Existing Solutions

On the honor system, if you look at an existing solution for a problem, tell me! For each problem assigned from Jackson, state on the homework whether you looked at an existing solution or not. I will grade your work differently depending on whether you have looked at a solution or not. If you have looked at a solution the expectations will be higher. Existing solutions often are incomplete, contain errors, and/or provide the starting point for more serious thought on the topics. You will be expected to go beyond just "string some symbols together" to answer the explicit question asked and instead be expected to more critically discuss topics. The first homework assignment contains a few ideas along this line.

Course Grading Scheme

Below are the approximate weights for the various aspects of the course. These may be adjusted at the instructors discretion.

Homework: 30%
Midterm Exam: 30%
Final Exam: 40%
Total 100%