SYLLABUS Senior Honors Seminar (Physics 485) Autumn 2009
Physics 485, Autumn 2009
Senior Honors Seminar

Prof. Leslie J Rosenberg
Department of Physics
University of Washington
Physics and Astronomy Building, room C503
phone 206 221-5856

Office Hours: Wednesdays 10-11am and by appointment

Feel free to come by my office any time, you're always welcome. During office hours, you are guaranteed to have my undiluted attention. You may also contact me by phone or email. Please note I typically respond to emails when I come in to my office in the morning and before I leave in the early evening.

Web site

Course meeting times and location
Physics 485 (Honors Seminar) meets Thursdays 12:30am-2:20pm in PAB room C521.The course will rarely use the second course hour. Hence, you'll likely be able to attend other second-hour courses without conflict. To do this, you'll have to file Registraction Transaction Form/Time Conflict in order to register in both courses.

Course Description
This is a supervised, independent study of topics of current interest in Physics. The focus this quarter will be the connections between cosmology and other branches of physics. These connections are the focus of an influential NRC study, "Connecting Quarks to the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century." You can see the report text on the National Academies web site.

The eleven questions are:
1. What is the dark matter?
2. What is the nature of dark energy?
3. How did the universe begin?
4. Did Einstein have the last word on gravity?
5. What are the masses of the neutrinos and how have they shaped the evolution of the universe?
6. How do cosmic accelerators work and what are they accelerating?
7. Are protons stable?
8. What are the new states of matter at exceedingly high density and temperature?
9. Are there additional space-time dimensions?
10. How were the elements from iron to uranium made?
11. Is there a new theory of matter and light needed at the highest energies?

This NRC report was published in 2003. Since then, there has been progress towards answering these questions. Each student will pick one question as their focus for the quarter. You'll give two short presentations to the class, the first an overview of the subject-question. The second a recent measurement or study that advances the field. At the end of the quarter, each student will submit a written description of their study topic, with focus on recent advances and future directions.

Goals of the Course
This course will allow you to explore a topic in experimental or observational physics in considerable depth.

You'll assemble and understand relations between seminal papers on your topic.

You'll learn to give a cogent seminar-type presentation.

You'll attend Physics or Astronomy Department colloquia and learn how to understand and appreciate scientific talks. You'll also learn to identify good and bad presentation techniques.

You'll learn how to write a scientific paper.

You'll learn how to interact with your colleagues on a scientific topic during class discussion.

You'll may also find it refreshing to be able to concentrate for a quarter on an interesting topic.

General Advice

Start your literature research early. This always takes longer than expected. The important threads of a particular topic go far and wide and can take a while to track down. It takes a while to pick up a topic's notation and formalism.

Try to schedule your talks early in the quarter. You will likely find that your are very busy near the end of the quarter on other courses.

For the same reason, don't wait until the last week to write your paper.

You are expected to participate in class discussions, and hence you'll have to attend the class.

Attend the Physics or Astronomy Department Colloquia: Physics is Mondays at 4pm, Astronomy is Thursdays at 4pm. Each week I'll call on someone to give a brief summary of that week's presentation. You'll also be expected to offer your critique of the colloquium speaker's performance. A colloquium is supposed to be directed towards a general, scientifically-savvy audience: that's you. Did the speaker succeed?

Give two 20 minute talks to the class on your topic. The talk should be in electronic form (PowerPoint or PDF).

Submit a paper in a cogent scientific form on "future directions" in your topic. You may find it helpful to meet with me early in the quarter and work out the outline. The paper will likely be 6 or more pages in length. You may choose to use the format of the relevant journal (Astrophysical Journal, Physical Review D, Nature, etc.). This paper is due by 5pm on the last day of instruction, in paper form at my office C503.

Grading policy
Class attendance 10%
Class participation 10%
Colloquium attendance 10%
Talk: overview 20%
Talk: recent result 20%
Paper: future directions 30%

75% corresponds to a grade of 3.5

There is no final exam.