Fall 2008

The Newtonian Synthesis: Dynamics of Particles and Systems, Waves

Listed in: Physics and Astronomy, as PHYS-23


Paul S. Bourgeois (Section 01)
Jagu Jagannathan (Section 01)


The idea that the same simple physical laws apply equally well in the terrestrial and celestial realms, called the Newtonian Synthesis, is a major intellectual development of the seventeenth century. It continues to be of vital importance in contemporary physics. In this course, we will explore the implications of this synthesis by combining Newton’s dynamical laws with his Law of Universal Gravitation. We will solve a wide range of problems of motion by introducing a small number of additional forces. The concepts of work, kinetic energy, and potential energy will then be introduced. Conservation laws of momentum, energy, and angular momentum will be discussed, both as results following from the dynamical laws under restricted conditions and as general principles that go well beyond the original context of their deduction. Newton’s laws will be applied to a simple continuous medium to obtain a wave equation as an approximation. Properties of mechanical waves will be discussed. Four hours of lecture and discussion and one three-hour laboratory per week. Requisite: Mathematics 11. Fall semester. Professor Jagannathan. Professor Bourgeois.