Spring, 2000

Last revised 2000/04/26

There should be three people per group, although a few exceptions for adequate reasons are acceptable. Two-person groups are discouraged so that we will have time for in-class reports from all groups. We will set up the groups in class on April 28, and I would like for each group to have chosen a project to work on by May 1.

No more than two groups should be working on the same project, and they should work separately except for sharing useful references. Carry the project as far as you can in a reasonable amount of time and then write a joint report. I will want to talk briefly with groups that do not give classroom reports. I am most impressed by projects that show that you have integrated material from more than one source or have worked out something on your own; mere book reviews are unimpressive. You should properly document information you get from books or other people. Projects are due Wednesday of the last week of classes, and groups who wish to present a report to the class on their project are encouraged to do so. These reports will be given either at a lecture hour or during the recitation hour of the last week of classes.

You may do a project of your own invention after talking to me about it. I will veto suggestions only with extreme reluctance, but if you do an experimental project, you must convince me that the project is feasible before making any measurements. Finding a situation in your own major where physics is used is one source of good ideas, and some suggestions follow. In any project worth doing you are likely to have to talk to me more or less frequently for suggestions and comments.


  1. How does the speedometer in your car work?
  2. How does a lightning rod work and why?
  3. Why are trees dangerous in an electrical storm? Are some more dangerous than others? What kind of damage does a tree sustain if hit by lightning and why? What is the safest thing to do when outdoors during an electrical storm?
  4. Pick a simple part of a hi-fi system and analyze it.
  5. Pick a musical instrument and analyze its behavior (or its sound) physically.
  6. What techniques are used to generate music with computers?
  7. How do CD players work?
  8. How do Xerographic copiers and laser printers work?
  9. Write a computer program exploring some significant part of physics. [For instance, plotting the Electric Field for a complicated set of charges.]
  10. What is the difference between science and pseudoscience? How can you tell which is which?

    Go to project bibliography