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Introduction to Electromagnetism (

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The physics of the universe appears to be dominated by the effects of four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear forces, and strong nuclear forces. These forces control how matter, energy, space, and time interact to produce our physical world. All other forces, such as the force you exert in standing up, are ultimately derived from these fundamental forces.

The classical (i.e., non-quantum) theory of electromagnetism was first published by James Clerk Maxwell in his 1873 textbook A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. A host of scientists during the nineteenth century carried out the work that ultimately led to Maxwell’s electromagnetism equations, which is still considered one of the triumphs of classical physics. Maxwell’s description of electromagnetism, which demonstrates that electricity and magnetism are different aspects of a unified electromagnetic field, holds true today. In fact, Maxwell’s equations are consistent with relativity, which was not theorized until 30 years after Maxwell completed his equations.

In this course, we will first learn about waves and oscillations in extended objects using the classical mechanics that we learned about in Introduction to Mechanics. We will also establish the sources and laws that govern static electricity and magnetism. A brief look at electrical measurements and circuits will help us understand how electromagnetic effects are observed, measured, and applied. We will then see how Maxwell’s equations unify electric and magnetic effects and how the solutions to Maxwell’s equations describe electromagnetic radiation, which will serve as the basis for understanding all electromagnetic radiation, from very low frequency, long wavelength radio waves to the most powerful astrophysical gamma rays. We will briefly study optics, using practical models largely consistent with the predictions of Maxwell’s equations but that are easier to use. Finally, this course provides a brief overview of Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

Course Requirements: Have completed Introduction to Mechanics as a pre-requisite. Have basic knowledge of calculus or have completed Single-Variable Calculus I and Single-Variable Calculus II.

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