Mr. Finn's ACP Physics at Wellesley High School
We will be studying topics in modern physics by watching Nova’s “The Elegant Universe” and then reviewing some of the key ideas raised in this video. Specifically, you will be expected to participate in class discussions, give a short presentation in class (or, alternatively, help create a class web site), and write a paper. Topics for the presentation and paper must be approved. A list of suggested ideas is attached.

Class participation will involve the following:
  • involvement in class discussions
  • work on computer simulations (in class and at home)
  • preparation for class by reading assigned materials (web sites, articles, handouts)
  • locating relevant web sites or articles for use in class discussions (posted on class Wiki)
  • peer evaluation of presentations

Each member of the class will either give a short (10-15 min) presentation on an approved topic related to modern physics or prepare some materials on the class Wiki. The presentation will be based on some independent research on a topic. After watching “The Elegant Universe,” we will identify some topics that need further elaboration and background. The presentations will fill in some of these blanks. They can be given at any time in the term. For example, you can use the presentation as a rough draft of a paper and solicit feedback/suggestions to help strengthen the final paper. Everyone in the class will evaluate these presentations. All presentations will be done individually.

Each member of the class will write a 3-5 page paper (double spaced) on their selected topic. The topic must be approved and it can be the same as the presentation or it can be different. Each paper should include: (1) an introduction that provides some background on the issues leading up to the discovery/theory being described in the paper; (2) the theory behind whatever phenomenon/discovery being described; (3) any experimental evidence supporting a theory or that describes the discovery that was made; (4) a conclusion that describes the significance of the discovery/theory and why it is important to our understanding of how the universe works. Finally, an annotated list of references must be provided, one of which must be a printed article/book (i.e., not a web site). The annotations should comment on how useful, understandable, or relevant the source was; whether it was used for background or specific data; whether it was your primary source.

Below is a partial list of possible topics for papers and presentations. All must be approved in advance so that everyone is not doing the same topic in a class.
  1. Special relativity
  2. Special Relativity
  3. General relativity
  4. Maxwell’s theory of electro-magnetism
  5. Elementary particles
  6. Weak nuclear force
  7. Strong Nuclear Force
  8. Standard model of particle physics (quarks)
  9. Theory of the “Big Bang”
  10. Quantum Probability and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle
  11. Parallel universes or multiverses
  12. Quantum Computers/Entanglement
  13. Dark Matter
  14. Dark energy
  15. Critics of string theory (alternative theories such as quantum loop gravity)
  16. More Criticism of String Theory
  17. Symmetry and super-symmetry
  18. Supernovae
  19. Why/Do We Need a "Theory of Everything?"
  20. The 'God Particle' (Higgs boson)
  21. Black Holes
  22. How Can String Theory Be Proven?
  23. How Can String Theory Be Proven? (kyle)
  24. Experimental Evidence of Black Holes
  25. Quantum Gravity
  26. __Higher Dimensions__
  27. Quantum Entanglement
  28. History of String Theory
  29. How Do We Know Black Holes Exist?
  30. The String Theory and The Big Bang Theory
  31. Theory of Big Bang (2)
  32. Elementary Particles 2

Standard Model Activity