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Space-time and the Quantum World

Fall 2010

Instructor: Seth Major, smajor, x4919, Sci G052

Office Hours:
Wednesday 2:30 - 5:00 PM. Mondays and Fridays at this time should normally be fine as well

Lectures: Tues-Thurs 10:30-11:45 AM in Sci Ctr G041
Texts: Mermin, It's About Time
  Styer, The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics



Space-time and the Quantum World next offered 2014-15, hopefully.

Course Info and Documents (pdf):

Course Syllabus
Questions from lecture
For Quiz 2 Review Questions with Answers
Info on the final

Guides (pdf):



These are identifed by topic: "SR" means special relativity and "QM" means on the quantum world.


  • GR: About the stunning visualizations of black holes in Interstellar.
  • GR: NASA's Hubble space telescope image of Abell 2218.
  • GR: Andrew Hamilton's amazing videos on black holes.
  • SR: On Wikipedia, a quote of the "Galileo's ship" passage from Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
  • SR: A translation of "Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies", Einstein's original 1905 paper on special relativity. Here's a pdf (1.9 MB) of the original article in German pubished in Annalen der Physik.
  • SR: Dan Styer has also written an introductory text on special relativity, Relativity for the Questioning Mind. (clicking opens a new window) The light clock discussion begins on page 24.
  • For a little more on Ole Roemer's determination of the speed of light see the wikipedia article.
  • SR: From the United States Naval Observatory, the UTC reference time.
  • SR: Visualizations of the full set of SR effects.
  • SR: Real time Relativity - software for simulations of near light speed travel.
  • SR: A beautiful, but qualitative, simulation of the Michelson-Morley experiment.
  • SR: Nick found a YouTube video on concepts in special relativity that has a very clear depiction of light clocks. The discussion on the light clock begins at 3:45.
  • SR: A page in the Discovery of Fusion (hosted by AIP) that includes an audio clip (!) of Einstein's discussing E=mc^2. Explore these pages some more for quotes from Frisch, Bohr and many others.
  • SR: Cosmic ray showers from the Pierre Auger Observatory
  • SR: Beautiful animations of the apparent geometry of relativistic moving objects. The dice and the ride down Marktgasse in Tuebingen are particularly good. Note, however, that redshift is not accounted for.
  • SR: Pictures of Berne's Clock Tower in early 1900's and 2005
  • Simple animations on special relativity at NYU.
  • SR: Nova's homepage for "Einstein's Big Idea" or the relation E=mc^2
  • SR: The homepage for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database (example spectrum and example 2)
  • SR & QM: The "LHC" or Large Hadronic Collider started up for the first time on September 10. The NYT has an article by Dennis Overbye. Check out Kate McAlpine's video, the "Large Hadron Rap", explaining what folks hope it will accomplish.
  • SR: It's not Grammy material but it is a video on the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • SR: A video highlighting the use reference frames in the Olympic coverage of the men's 200 meter event.

Quantum World

  • QM: The lecture (which starts at 3:00 in this video) by Rob Spekkens on Quantum Foundations at the Quantum to Cosmos Festival (Perimeter Institute 2009). I highly recommend it!
  • QM: In class we used a simulation of the Stern-Gerlach experiment. Download it yourself from the Phet quantum simulations and enjoy. Look for the one with the orange background.
  • The Quantum Cakes of Hardy and Kwiat can be found in American Journal of Physics. Here is the direct link to the journal article. If that doesn't work try this (pdf).
  • QM: A March 2007 Physics World article on quantum cryptography and Vienna's quantum cryptography network.
  • QM: A link to a very nice orbital visualization tool.
  • QM: More on quantum key distribution from AIP.
  • QM: Here's the tale.
  • QM: The video of an interference experiment done at Hitachi by Tonomura Here's a link to a Hitachi website with an explanation of the experiment. The history of this experiment (one of the "top 10 beautiful experiments" as determined by readers of Physics World) shows the complicated nature of determining "who is first".
  • QM: A link to a dialog on electron interference, with another electron interference applet
  • QM: Dan Styer maintains a website with extra notes on his book. Note that Lucien Hardy's experiment has been performed. Dan has a summary. Here's the link to the page with the new problem for chapter 10.
  • QM: The original EPR paper.


  • SR: An online exhibit on Einstein hosted by American Insitute of Physics.
  • SR: The Wikipedia bio on Mileva Maric including commentary and, even better, an extensive list of references on the on her possible role in the development of special relativity.
  • SR: AIP has a page devoted to Michelson. The original paper is posted on the page.
  • QM: Scroll down in this "Physical[Physics] Tourist in Frankfurt" page on Backreaction for pictures of the building where Stern and Gerlach worked.
  • From Heisenberg's son, a web page on his father, in reaction to Frayn's play Copenhagen.

Additional Reading

  • SR: Dan Styer, Relativity for the Questioning Mind
  • SR and Einstein: Dennis Overbye, Einstein in Love (A ``1st half" biography of Einstein. It ends in 1915.)
  • SR and Einstein: Abraham Pais, Subtile is the Lord (The full biography of Einstein that has a careful treatment of the science.)
  • QM: Louisa Gilder, The Age of Entanglement

Last modified 19 June 2013
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