The Physics of Time

Course Code: NATS 1795 A 6.0

Instructor's Name: Robin Kingsburgh

Course Description:

The concept of time has intrigued thinkers from all ages. The impact of measuring and marking time intervals on the development of human culture, and our understanding of the world around us, cannot be understated. The drive to measure and understand time led ancient peoples to a very sophisticated knowledge of the sky; from that knowledge emerged accurate calendars, as well as mathematics itself. We will look at how changing concepts of time and the technological accuracy of measuring time drove fundamental changes in physics, and deepened our understanding of the world around us. This course examines the history of physics through the lens of time. The first half of the course covers timekeeping methods, including the sky as a clock, mechanical clocks, and quartz and atomic clocks. The second half of the course focuses on modern issues of time including time perception, Einstein’s revolutionary discoveries on the relative nature of time, and cosmic time.

Course Format:

Three lecture hours per week.

Course Credit Exclusions:

NCR Note: This course is not open to any student who has passed or is taking SC/PHYS 1010 6.00, SC/PHYS 1410 6.00 or SC/PHYS 1420 6.00.

Mathematical Content:

Mathematical content includes reading and interpreting graphs, as well as understanding and using scientific notation. This course emphasizes the physical and conceptual bases of important equations (like the relation between wavelength and frequency), rather than requiring calculations using the equations. Simple calculations (with basic arithmetic, exponents, basic geometry) may be discussed and demonstrated in class. There will be no calculations on the midterms nor final exams.

Course Outlines:

Course Outline Fall/Winter