Modern Physics

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PHY 223

       Course Name: Modern Physics

       Credits: 4 (3 lecture; 2 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

PHY 222 with a minimum grade of C.

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course continues PHY 222. Content includes special relativity, classic experiments leading to the development of quantum mechanics, wave-particle duality, wave motion and wave packets, uncertainty principle, Bohr model of hydrogen, Schrödinger equation, infinite and finite square well, quantum harmonic oscillator, tunneling, angular momentum and the hydrogen atom, atomic structure, and basic nuclear physics.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students should be able to do the following:

  1. Outline the historical background relating to the development of modern physics.
  2. Describe the key experiments of the nineteenth and early twentieth century that could not be explained by classical theory.
  3. Explain the difference between Newton's and Einstein's approach to relativity.
  4. Explain how the concepts of relativity of simultaneity, time dilation, and length contraction are the results of the Lorentz Transformations and apply the Lorentz Transformations to calculate differences in time and space measurements between inertial reference frames.
  5. Solve problems such as collisions, nuclear fusion and fission using relativistic dynamics including conservation of momentum and total relativistic energy.
  6. Explain how blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect and Compton scattering required a new way of thinking about light and energy.
  7. Explain features of the single and double slit diffraction experiment that require both a particle model and a wave model of both light and matter.
  8. Describe the Bohr model of the atom, the assumptions it makes, and the observations that it can not explain. Use the Bohr model to calculate the various wavelengths of light that the hydrogen atom can absorb and emit.
  9. Explain how the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a natural consequence of the wave nature of matter.
  10. Solve problems related to the particle in a box, the finite square well, and the quantum harmonic oscillator.
  11. Calculate expectation values and explain how they are related to observables.
  12. Explain how the Schrodinger equation is solved for the square potential barrier and how quantum tunneling arises.
  13. Explain and calculate quantities related to quantum mechanics in three dimensions such as the particle in a box, components of angular momentum, energies and wave functions of the hydrogen atom, and expectation values of position.
  14. Explain basic properties of the atomic nucleus such as stability, spin, binding energy, and radioactivity.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Special relativity including simultaneity, time dilation, length contraction, Lorentz Transformations, conservation of momentum and total relativistic energy.
  2. Blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect, X-ray production, Compton scattering, pair production and pair annihilation.
  3. Single and double-slit diffraction and wave-particle duality.
  4. Millikan’s oil drop experiment, Rutherford’s model of the atom, the Bohr model of the atom, quantization of angular momentum.
  5. De Broglie wavelength, wave groups, dispersion, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
  6. Separation of variables of the time-dependent Schrodinger equation and stationary states.
  7. Properties of wave functions and normalization.
  8. Wave functions and energies for a free particle, the particle in a box, the finite well, and the quantum harmonic oscillator.
  9. Expectation values and observables.
  10. The potential step, the square potential barrier and quantum tunneling and some applications.
  11. The Schrodinger equation in three dimensions, the hydrogen atom, angular momentum in three dimensions, and space quantization.
  12. Properties of atomic nuclei including stability, structure, binding energy and radioactivity.

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Lecture, demonstration, problem solving, cooperative learning, and discussion methods will be used throughout the course. In addition, laboratory demonstrations and hands-on activities will be performed, and selected videos may be shown.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

  1. The required readings will include the textbook, laboratory manual, and selected material supplied by the instructor.
  2. Mathematics and problem solving will be emphasized. Differential and integral calculus will be used throughout the course. A review of these skills may be necessary. Students should be aware that such a review might be needed and should seek appropriate assistance. Students will be expected to use a hand‑held scientific calculator throughout the course.
  3. Laboratory practice includes correct setup of the apparatus, performing the experiment, collecting and analyzing the data, and submitting a write-up as required by the instructor. Students are required to locate, retrieve and replace all needed lab equipment at designated places and clean up the work area before leaving.
  4. Students will be expected to write at least four laboratory reports. The instructor will determine the experiments that will be written up.
  5. Team work is encouraged and needed for efficient lab work.
  6. Safe work practices, as established by the instructor, must be strictly followed by all students.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Text equivalent to: Modern Physics, Harris, 2nd edition, Addison Wesley, 2008.

Lab activity handouts produced by Oakton Community College’s Department of Physics will be available electronically.

Calculator:  Any Scientific Calculator. However, the instructor may require a specific calculator to be used during quizzes and exams.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

This may vary by instructor. In general, methods of evaluation will include tests and quizzes that include an opportunity for students to demonstrate problem solving ability and conceptual understanding of the material. Homework will be assigned, but its inclusion in the student’s grade may vary by instructor. Lab write-ups will be required but their format and weight on the student’s grade may vary by instructor.

XI.   Other Course Information

Attendance policy is determined by the instructor.

Tutoring services are available through the Learning Center.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.