Physics is the science which describes nature based on a small number of fundamental assumptions. Mathematics is the language physicists use to translate those assumptions into testable predictions. In lots of interesting applications, the mathematics is too difficult, or too tedious, to carry out by hand. This is a shame, because it makes so much exciting physics inaccessible to so many students.
Mathematica is a program that allows you to do the math. This includes algebra, calculus, differential equations, data analysis, and visualization, as well as other applications. The aim of this course is to give you an introduction, and practice exercises, so that you will feel comfortable using Mathematica to solve typical problems that you'll face in courses and research.
This is not a course in computational physics, and you will not be an expert in Mathematica after you're finished with it. However, you will end up with a good, usable understanding of the program, and will know where to go when you want to learn more.
Letter grades (but no grade modifiers) will be assigned at the conclusion of the course. Most of the grade (80%) will be based on in-class activities. There will be 12 classes with activities, and you will need to turn in (at least) 10 of them. The rest of the grade will be based on a single "homework" problem of your choosing.
The activities are designed to be straightforward, following on just what we cover in class that day. You should certainly be able to have them done by the end of class, but you have until 8am the next morning if you really want it. Send your completed activities here. Steve will record a grade for you on the exercise, based on his assessment of how well you completed the assignment. See him for questions, if you have them, regarding his criteria.
Grades for the assignments will be posted for you to look up at RPI LMS.
The single homework problem will be due at the end of the semester, and will be graded on a scale from one to ten. You can make up the problem yourself if you like, or pick one from one of the many textbooks that are in use in our department. Computer problems are given in Halliday, Resnick, and Krane (used in Honors Physics); Taylor (Intermediate Mechanics); Ohanian (Electromagnetic Theory); and several other courses. Please tell the instructor by the end of the second week of class what problem you've elected to solve. Two students are not allowed to work the same problem, but it is possible to collaborate in some cases. Such things can only be worked out if we coordinate. Of course, keep in touch as you make your selection or as the semester progresses.
Academic integrity statement. Don't cheat! I want you to collaborate with others in class, but don't copy someone else's work. If I suspect you have done so, I will ask for an explanation. If your explanation is unsatisfactory, you will be given a grade of zero and reported to the Dean of Students. If this happens more than once, you will be given an F for the course.