University of Maryland

Department of Physics


Fall 2008              Prof. Carter Hall                      Physics 375


Title: PHYS 375  Experimental Physics III: Electromagnetic Waves, Optics and Modern Physics.  Third course in the three-semester introductory sequence.  Methods and rationale of experimental physics. Experiments chosen from the areas of electromagnetic waves, optics and modern physics.  In keeping with efforts to improve the department curriculum, this course is evolving into a hybrid Lecture/Laboratory optics course.  It will nominally consist of lectures on topics in optics, and a series of six labs.  This is a 3 credit course.



PHYS 273 and PHYS 276.   Credit will be granted for only one of the following: PHYS 375 or former PHYS 296



Prof. Carter Hall, Room 2220B, Phone: 5-6103, e-mail:



Monday section: No TA.

Tuesday section: Rong Zhou,



One meeting weekly:  M....... 2:00pm- 5:50pm (0101) (PHY 3104)  

                                        T........2:00pm - 5:50pm (0301) (PHY 3104)


Required Texts:

Introduction to Optics (3rd Edition) by F. L. Pedrotti, L. S. Pedrotti, L. M. Pedrotti.  ISBN: 0-13-149933-5.

1 Carbon Copy Lab Notebook (ex: Roaring Spring Paper Products Lab Notebook with carbon, 11 3/4” x 9 1/4”, 4x4 Quad., 100 pages with duplicates, bound, numbered pages, $29 at the bookstore)

Instructor’s notes


Suggested Additional Reading:

An Introduction to Error Analysis by J. R. Taylor, ISBN: 0-935702-75-X.

Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences (Second Edition) by P. R. Bevington and D. K. Robinson, ISBN: 0-07-005135-6.

Other books on optics and modern physics, including your Phys 171/272/273 texts.



PHYS375 is a three (3) credit course that meets four hours a week. It  includes a substantial lecture component, so that students learn optics in a coherent fashion. The primary laboratory objective consists of learning physics through experimental investigation. Topics to be covered include electromagnetic waves, geometrical optics, polarization, interference and interferometers, diffraction, and atomic spectra.  There will be six experiments, each lasting for two class periods, as well as lectures.  This course will allow you to develop practical laboratory skills including experimental design and experimental uncertainty inherent in all measurement. You will be required to submit lab notes and lab reports for each experiment completed, along with homework submitted on those weeks when a lab report is not due.  There will be a final exam, but no midterm exams.



The lectures are a required component of this class.  This is an excellent opportunity to learn optics and to make connections to your other courses (electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, etc.) and deepen your understanding of physics.  Note that no student shall be allowed into the lab unless they have participated in that week’s lecture.





Developing a working knowledge of computers in the context of physics problem solving is an important skill.  You will accumulate data with a computer-based data acquisition system. 


Additional information:

Regular communication is essential in this laboratory. Besides face-to-face discussions during the required attendance on your scheduled lab day, email is the next easiest way to stay in touch. You are expected to check your email and the WEB page regularly for announcements.


Dropping the Course:

Note: the last day to drop without a “W” is September 15.  The last day to drop with a "W" is November 10.



Your final grade will be based on 100 points determined by your lab reports, homework, and final exam, according to the following scheme:

6 Lab reports @ 10 pts each


60 pts

6 Homeworks @ 3.33 pts each


20 pts

Final exam


20 pts



100 pts


Phys 375 Lab Manual

We will not be using a traditional Lab Manual (no more cookbooks!).  Information necessary for each lab will be posted on the course website for download.


Lab Reports:

The emphasis in the lab reports will be to learn how to keep a laboratory notebook.  This should be a record of what you did in the lab (including mistakes – never erase!).  The lab report should consist of two main parts – the record of what you did in the lab, including notes on the apparatus , how you acquired data, and the raw data. The second part is data analysis, including plots, extraction of the actual quantities to be measured, and uncertainty analysis.  It should end with a discussion of ways to improve the measurement.  This may be a different form for a lab report than you are used to – rather than having you repeat the material we already know (what the problem is, what the equipment is,…) you should focus on what you did and what conclusions you drew.  The grading will be as follows


Laboratory notes


5 pts

Data analysis (in lab report)


4 pts

Discussion of uncertainties (in lab report)


1 pts



10 pts


You have 1 week to turn in your lab report after completion of the lab.  The reports will be due by at the beginning of class on the Tuesday following the completion of the lab.  Any lab reports submitted after the deadline will suffer an automatic 50% reduction if they are up to 1 week late, and a 100% reduction if they are more than 1 week late. If you should miss any lab for any reason, you should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make an arrangement for makeup. Any missing lab will result in failing the entire course. (Note that if you have a lab report which is more than 1 week late, you still must turn it in - and receive a zero - to avoid failing the class.)



Homework is assigned for every week that a lab report is not due.  This material is designed to complement the lecture and laboratory segments of the course.  Late homework will not be accepted and will receive a grade of 0.  As recompense, the single lowest homework grade will be dropped before the final homework grade calculation.


Lab Notebook:

You will be required to purchase a carbon copy notebook, so that you can turn in a copy your lab notes at the end of each class period. These notes will be graded every other week, along with your lab report. If you are a light writer, then you must take care to make sure that your notes are being transferred to the second copy. Your grade will suffer if the grader cannot read your notes!


Academic Dishonesty (cheating):

Academic dishonesty is a serious offense that may result in suspension or expulsion from the university.  In addition to any other action taken, the normal sanction is a grade of “XF”, denoting “failure due to academic dishonesty,” and will normally be recorded on the transcript of the offending student.


Office Hours

I will not hold regular office hours, but you are welcome to come by my office at any time. You can also schedule an appointment with me by email or in person. However, I will occasionally be traveling, and during these times you can contact me by email.


Course Web Site:

The course web site is located at:

All of the course notebooks are located there, along with helpful notes about error analysis, keeping a lab notebook, contact information, this syllabus, etc.


Nitty Gritty:

Please do not bring any food or drink into the lab under any circumstances.  This includes water.


Tips For Doing Well In This Course:


1)  Read the pre-lecture reading and  lab description before class. 


2)  Freely ask questions in lab, and lecture.  Also discuss problems with your friends and class mates.


3)  Do the homework and turn it in on time.


4)  Keep a neat and well-organized lab notebook.  It is good to learn this now because you will be required to use one in PHYS 405.


What Should You Learn in this Class?

                This is one of the few opportunities in our undergraduate curriculum to learn some geometrical and wave optics.  You will also learn how to carefully take data, analyze it, understand the origins and propagation of errors, and to better appreciate the subtleties of experimental physics.  You will also learn how to make useful written presentations of scientific results.  Finally, we hope to convince you that experimental physics is fun!