PHY 422: Modern Physics for Nonscientists:
Black Holes, The Quantum, & Cosmology

Class Schedule:
  Th 8pm--10pm (09/04, 09/25, 10/16)
Professor: Steve Liebling
Classroom: PH202 (blended) Office:  Pell Hall 210
  • Book I: Thorne's Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy
  • Book II: Ford's The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone
  • Book III: Singh's The Big Bang
Office Hours: M W 1:00-2:00pm
Web: Phone: 299-3439
Course Credit: 3 credit hours Pre-Requisites: none

Course Description (from the campus bulletin): Modern physics is important for all of us. Advances in physics over the past 100 years have brought us technology ranging from GPS navigation to the Internet, and shed light on some of the deepest questions concerning the nature of the Universe. Exposure to the concepts, history, and implications of modern physics is arguably an integral part of a modern liberal arts education. In this course, the physics of the last 100 years will be addressed using popular-level books and movies. Einstein's theories of relativity will be the foundation for discussing the union of space with time, black holes, wormholes, and the possibility of time travel. Quantum physics will cover the wave nature of matter, indeterminacy of wave functions, and the implications of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Finally, we will discuss the great strides that cosmologists have taken towards understanding the nature, structure, and evolution of our universe as a whole.

Course Objectives: Student knowledge will be evaluated through the use of quizzes and tests. Student knowledge will be assessed by questions embedded in two tests and a final exam . Ultimately, the goals of the class are:

Grading Policy: Grades will basically follow the traditional divisions at 90% (A or A-), 80% (B+, B, B-), 70% (C+, C, C-), and 60% (D), with minimal adjustments based on how the class proceeds.

Classroom Work, Participation, and Attendance 5%
Online Discussions 35%
Test 1 20%  
Test 2 20%
Final Exam 20%

Class Work & Participation: Everyone starts with 90% participation grade. Subtractions are made for being disruptive (excessive talking, ringing phones, being late, etc) as well as excessive absences. Additions are made for contributing (questions or answers) to class discussions. Problems will also be given to be done in class. These problems can be done in groups (up to 3 people). The intent of these is to have you benefit both from working in groups and have my (limited) assistance at making it past the stumbling blocks of problem solving.

Tests: The class will have two tests given online during the time periods scheduled on the syllabus.

Final: The final will be given online during a specified time period.

Technology: Students will need Internet access and a PC computer or a Macintosh with the latest version of a web browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer). You can access Blackboard anywhere you have Internet access, but there are some guidelines to follow that will make your experience much more productive. Here are some recommendations:

Student Resources/Technical Support Blackboard is available at Support is available at or by contacting the Office of Information Technology at 516-299-3967. Students will need ongoing access to LIU's online library, which will require an updated student identification card. The library site can be accessed at

Expectations for Students Completing Online Work All assigned work must be completed by or prior to due date and submitted via Blackboard or methods designated by the instructor. Time management is essential for student success in online courses. Some recommended tips include:

Netiquette Communication is very important in this online course. In order to maintain a positive online environment for our class, we all need to follow the netiquette guidelines summarized below. All students are expected to:

LIU Post Academic Conduct Policy The Academic Conduct Policy of the C.W. Post Campus promotes an academic community characterized by respect, honesty, originality, and fairness. Academic misconduct such as plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, sabotage or assisting someone in the committing of any of the acts, is a violation of this Policy. Any student found engaging in academic misconduct is subject to disciplinary action.   Information about the Policy and resources to prevent violating it can be found in the Academic Conduct Policies and Standards section of the Web site. All students are required to review the contents of the Website located at:   Students are also required to familiarize themselves with all university policies as outlined in the student handbook and the university Website. If you have any questions about the policies, please speak to your professor.

Disability Services If you are a student with a disability and require accommodations, please contact the Learning Support Center in Post Hall (lower level, East wing) at 299-3057 during the first week of the semester.

Communication Procedures Using your LIU e-mail account, you may e-mail the professor at . E-mails will be responded to within 24-48 hours Monday-Friday.

The announcement feature of Blackboard will be utilized by the instructor to communicate any changes and or reminders to the course schedule. Announcements made by the professor will be both posted to the Blackboard course and sent via LIU e-mail. Students are required to check the Blackboard course regularly throughout each week.

A General Questions Forum is setup within the Blackboard course. If you have a general question about this course, then please post it to this discussion forum. Often times, more than one student will ask the same question, so posting the question may help others in the class. To ask a question, click on the General Questions link and then click on Create Thread. Please note, the General Questions Forum is not a private forum, so it is recommended to e-mail the instructor for any private matters or use the private message feature during live chats.

A Student Forum is set up within the Blackboard course. I encourage students to actively engage in discussions with each other without the input of the instructor. To begin a conversation, simply click on Student Forum link and click on Create Thread.

Week 1 Sept. 4-10 (F2F)   F2F: Introductions; Course overview; Discuss Relativity;
      Online: Book 1, Chs. 1-4 and discussion
Week 2 Sept. 11-17 (Online)   Online: Book 1, Chs. 5-10  
      Online: Watch Movie I: Einstein's Big Idea (2hrs) and discuss
Week 3 Sept. 18-24 (Online)   Online: Book 1, Chs. 11-14 and discussion 
  Sept. 24 (Online)     Test I: within time block 6-10pm
Week 4 Sept. 25-Oct. 1 (F2F)   FSF: Finish Relativity; Introduce Quantum Mechanics;
      Online: Read and discuss Book II Chs. 1-4  
Week 5 Oct. 2-8 (Online)   Online: Book II, Chs. 5-7 and discussion 
      Online: Watch Movie II:The Elegant Universe (Part 1) (1hr) and discuss
Week 6 Oct. 9-15 (Online)   Online: Book II, Chs. 8-10 and discuss  
  Oct. 15 (Online)     Test II: within time block 6-10pm
Week 7 Oct. 16-22 (F2F)   FSF: Finish QM; Introduce Cosmology  
      Online: Book III, Chs. 1-3 and discussion
Week 8 Oct. 23-29 (Online)   Online: Book III, Chs. 4-epilogue and discussion; Final Survey  
  Oct. 29 (Online)     Final Exam (Test III ): within time block 6-10pm

Last updated August 13, 2014.
Steve Liebling (home)