Cartoon by Lidia del Rio (ETH Zurich)

Physics 110
First-year seminar in Physics: Entropy

Benjamin Schumacher

Class meeting
WF 2:10 - 3:30 pm
RBH 109


The first-year seminar in Physics is taken by first-year students in fall semester introductory physics in lieu of a regular laboratory section. The seminar explores some special topic in physics through class discussion, homework problems, class projects, and lab experiments. This year, the topic is Entropy, one of the most profound ideas in physics. Our course will touch on an enormous range of physical concepts, from heat engines to Maxwell's demon and black hole physics.

Get the course syllabus here.

Study notes for the final exam (Exam time: 6:30 pm on Thursday, 15 December 2011)

"Birdodynamics" or The Modern Science of Bird-Watching (a fable -- provisional draft)

Week 0 (26 Aug 2011)

         Introductory lecture

Week 1 (31 Aug / 2 Sep 2011)

         Watch a video lecture on "PVT systems and equations of state".

         Read the week's lecture notes.

         Homework (due 7 Sep 2011).

         Laboratory: Ideal Gas Law lab. The lab handout. Some instructions for using Igor. Some slides on data analysis.

Week 2 (7 Sep / 9 Sep 2011)

         Watch a video lecture on "Energy, work and heat".

         Read the week's lectures notes (PDF).

         Homework (due 16 Sep 2011).

         Laboratory: Conclude the ideal gas lab from last week.

Week 3 (14 Sep / 16 Sep 2011)

         Problems from our First Law Olympiad.

         Laboratory: Energy and temperature.

Week 4 (21 Sep / 23 Sep 2011)

         Watch a video lecture on "A glimpse of entropy".

         Read the week's lecture notes (PDF).

         Laboratory: Newton's Law of Cooling

Week 5 (28 Sep / 30 Sep 2011)

         PowerPoint slides about reversible and irreversible processes. (PDF version)

         Homework (due 5 October 2011)

         Slides on entropy, including basic results for ideal gases.

         No lab this week!

Week 6 (5 Oct 2011)

         Lecture notes on Entropy

         Homework (due 14 October 2011)

         No lab this week!

Week 7 (12 Oct / 14 Oct 2011)

         Laboratory: Random Processes

Week 8 (19 Oct / 21 Oct 2011)

         Laboratory: Heat of vaporization of liquid nitrogen

Week 9 (26 Oct / 28 Oct 2011)

         Suggested topics for the class presentation.

Week 10 (2 Nov / 4 Nov)

         Notes (coming soon!)

         Homework (coming soon!)

Week 11 (9 Nov / 11 Nov)

         Bennett's 1987 Scientific American article about Maxwell's demon

         A recent (2011) article by Bennett and Schumacher in Nikkei Science

         Charles Bennett visits the class on 11 November

         Related to Bennett's discussion of complexity: A colloquium talk I gave at Kenyon in 1989.

Week 12 (16 Nov / 18 Nov)

         A 1980 article by Jacob Bekenstein in Physics Today, reviewing black hole thermodynamics (external link).

Week 13 (30 Nov / 2 Dec)

         Wednesday student presentations:
Alex Blickle:  Topic #9, "Connecting to calculus"
Hetty Borinstein:  Topic #5, "Jet engines"
Daniel Seidman:  Topic #3, "Entropy and rust"
Aidan Lee:  Topic #14, "Economic analogy"
Ryan McKeeby:  Topic #1, "Thermodynamics of heating a room"

         Friday student presentations
Alex Christoff:  Topic #6, "Simple model for Carnot"
John Dunn:  Topic #8:  "Explaining inrreversibility"
Emily Smith:  Topic #1, "Evolution and entropy" (2 articles)

Week 14 (7 Dec / 9 Dec)

         Wednesday student presentations
Colin Hass and Ross Mauck:  Joint project on topic #16, the rubber band heat engine
Elena Anachkova:  Topic #11, "Heat capacity in bits"
Jonathan Amador:  Topic #17, "Thank you, Boltzmann ...."
Tim Scully:  Topic #18, Raizen article on ultracold atoms

         Friday student presentations
Sam Safranek:  Topic #13, "Entropy, information and computation"
Win Ward:  Topic #10, "Black hole in a finite box"
Nick Connolly:  Topic #19:  Bekenstein article on holographic universe

This page is maintained by Benjamin Schumacher. It was last updated 2 November 2011.