Reading Assignments

All reading assignments are required, and should be completed before each lecture. The following three books are required:

  • Buy at Amazon McCormmach, Russell. Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist. Harvard University Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780674624610.
  • Buy at Amazon Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. Anchor Books, 2000. ISBN: 9780385720793.
  • Buy at Amazon Badash, Lawrence. Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons: From Fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939–1963: The Control of Nature (Control of Nature S). Humanities Press International Inc, 1995. ISBN: 9780391038738.

Reading Strategies

Cathryn Carson, of the University of California Berkley has a list of suggestions on how to read for history courses. Read more

Introduction and Background
Week 1: The Nineteenth-Century Legacy 1 Introductory Lecture
  • Begin reading Russell McCormmach, Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist, to be completed by Ses #3.
2 Maxwell, Electrodynamics, and Cambridge Wranglers
  • Buy at Amazon Clerk Maxwell, James. Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism,(Clarendon Press series). 3rd ed. Clarendon, 1892, pp. v-xii and 155–68.
  • Buy at Amazon Hunt, Bruce J. The Maxwellians (Cornell History of Science Series). Cornell University Press, 1991, pp. 73–107. ISBN: 9780801426414. [Preview with Google Books]
Einstein: Relativity, Quanta, and the Philosopher-Scientist
Week 2: The Rise of Theoretical Physics 3 Mechanical and Electrodynamical World Pictures
  • Finish reading McCormmach, Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist.
4 Special Relativity and the Ether
  • Buy at Amazon Einstein, Albert. "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies." In Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity: Emergence (1905) and Early Interpretation (1905–1911). Translated and reprinted by Arthur I. Miller. Addison-Wesley, 1981, pp. 392–6. ISBN: 9780201046793.
  • Janssen, Michel. "Appendix: Special Relativity." In The Cambridge Companion to Einstein. Edited by Michel Janssen and Christoph Lehner. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, pp. 1–19.
Week 3: Philosophy, Experiment, and Special Relativity 5 Einstein and Experiment
  • Buy at Amazon Holton, Gerald. "Mach, Einstein, and the Search for Reality." In Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein. 2nd ed. Harvard University Press, 1988, pp. 237–77. ISBN: 9780674877481. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Galison, Peter. "Einstein's Clocks: The Place of Time." Critical Inquiry 26, no. 2 (2000): 355–89.
6 Reception of Special Relativity
Week 4: From the Special to the General Theory 7 The Origins of General Relativity
  • Buy at Amazon Einstein, Albert. "What is the Theory of Relativity?." In Ideas and Opinions. Edited by Carl Seelig. Dell Publishing Company, 1954, pp. 227–32. ISBN: 9780285647251.
  • Kaiser, David. General Relativity Primer. 2nd ed. Unpublished manuscript, 2006 [1998].
  • Graham, Loren. "Do Mathematical Equations Display Social Attributes?" Mathematical Intelligencer 22, no. 3 (2000): 31–6.
Week 5: First Stirrings of Quantum Theory 8 Rethinking Light
  • Buy at Amazon Segrè, Emilio. "Planck, Unwilling Revolutionary: The idea of Quantization." In From X-Rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries. W. H. Freeman, 1980, pp. 61–77. ISBN: 9780716711469.
  • Kuhn, Thomas. "Revisiting Planck." Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 14 (1984): 231–52.
9 Rethinking Matter
  • Buy at Amazon Heilbron, John. "Bohr's First Theories of the Atom." In Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume. Edited by A. P. French and P. J. Kennedy. Harvard University Press, 1985, pp. 33–49. ISBN: 9780674624153.
Week 6: Emergence of Quantum Mechanics 10 Matrices and Uncertainty
  • Buy at Amazon Heisenberg, Werner. "Quantum-Theoretical Re-Interpretation of Kinematic and Mechanical Relations." Translated and reprinted in Sources of Quantum Mechanics. Edited by B. L. van der Waerden. Elsevier Science Publishing Co Inc, 1967, pp. 261–6. ISBN: 9780720401110.
  • Cassidy, David. "Heisenberg, Uncertainty, and the Quantum Revolution." Scientific American 266 (1992): 106–12.
11 Waves and Probabilities
  • Buy at Amazon Moore, Walter. Schrödinger: Life and Thought. Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 191–200. ISBN: 9780521354349. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Buy at Amazon Bohr, Niels. "The Bohr-Einstein Dialogue." In Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume. Edited by A. P. French and P. J. Kennedy. Harvard University Press, 1985, pp. 121–40. ISBN: 9780674624153.
Week 7: The Contexts of Quanta 12 Quantum Mechanics in Weimar Germany, Interwar US
  • Buy at Amazon Forman, Paul. "Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory, 1918–1927: Adaptation by German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment." In Darwin to Einstein: Historical Studies on Science and Belief. Edited by Colin Chant and John Fauvel. Longman, 1980, pp. 267–302. ISBN: 9780582491564.
  • Assmus, Alexi. "The Americanization of Molecular Physics." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 23 (1992): 1-34.
13 Bell's Theorem and Entanglement
  • Einstein, Albert, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen. "Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Reality be Considered Complete?" Physical Review 47 (1935): 777–80.
  • Buy at Amazon Kaiser, David. "Spooky Actions at a Distance." In How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. W. W. Norton, 2011, pp. 45–67. ISBN: 9780393076363.
Oppenheimer: Physics, Physicists, and the State
Week 8: Bomb Physics, Here and There 14 Physics under Hitler: Deutsche Physik and the bomb
  • Buy at Amazon Frank, Charles, ed. Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts. University of California Press, 1993, pp. 70–91. ISBN: 9780520084995. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Carson, Cathryn. "Placing Frayn's Play in the Historical Tradition." Unpublished Lecture Delivered at the Niels Bohr Archive, Copenhagen, 22 September 2001.
15 Film: The Day After Trinity
  • Buy at Amazon Badash, Lawrence. Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons: From Fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939–1963: The Control of Nature (Control of Nature S). Prometheus Books, 1998, pp. 27–47. ISBN: 9781573925389.
  • Buy at Amazon Crease, Robert. Peace and War: Reminiscences of a Life on the Frontiers of Science. Columbia University Press, 1998, pp. 121–44. ISBN: 9780231105460.
Week 9: Physics on the Front 16 Wartime physics in the US: Radar and the Bomb
  • Buy at Amazon Hoddeson, Lillian. "Mission Change in the Laboratory: The Los Alamos Implosion Program, 1943–1945." In Big Science: The Growth of Large-Scale Research. Edited by Peter Galison and Bruce Hevly. Stanford University Press, 1992, pp. 265–89. ISBN: 9780804718790.
  • Buy at Amazon Gordin, Michael. Chapter 3 in Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War. Princeton University Press, 2007, pp. 39–58. ISBN: 9780691128184.
17 Secrecy and security in the nuclear age
Week 10: Cold War Physics 18 From "atomic secrets" to the anti-ballistic missile debate
  • Kaiser, David. "The Atomic Secret in Red Hands? American Suspicions of Theoretical Physicists During the Early Cold War." Representations 90 (2005): 28–60.
  • Buy at Amazon Moore, Kelly. "Confronting Liberalism: The anti-Vietnam War Movement and the ABM Debate, 1965–1969." In Disrupting Science: Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945–1975 (Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology). Princeton University Press, 2008, pp. 130–57. ISBN: 9780691113524. [Preview with Google Books]
19 Film: The Decision to Build the H-Bomb
  • Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy. "Development of a Super Weapon." Hearing Typescript dated 9 January 1950, declassified.
  • Buy at Amazon Bernstein, Jeremy. "The Need to Know." In Asymptotic Realms of Physics: Essays in Honor of Francis E. Low. Edited by Alan H. Guth, Kerson Huang, and Robert L. Jaffe. MIT Press, 1983, pp. xvii-xxiv. ISBN: 9780262070898.
  • Buy at Amazon Badash, Lawrence. Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons: From Fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939–1963: The Control of Nature (Control of Nature S). Humanities Press International Inc, 1995, pp. 48–62 and 80–8. ISBN: 9780391038738.
Week 11: Big Science 20 The Rise of Big Science
  • Morrison, Philip. "The Laboratory Demobilizes." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 2 (1946): 5–6.
  • Kaiser, David. "The Postwar Suburbanization of American Physics." American Quarterly 56 (2004): 851–88. (This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.PDF)
  • Kaiser, David. "Training Quantum Mechanics." Physics World 20 (2007): 28–33.
Feynman and Postwar Theory
Week 12: Particles and Fields 21 The Conservative Revolution: QED and Renormalization
  • Buy at Amazon Mills, Robert. "Tutorial on Infinities in QED." In Renormalization: Lorentz to Landau (and Beyond). Edited by Laurie M. Brown. Springer, 1993, pp. 57–88. ISBN: 9780387979335.
  • Buy at Amazon Feynman, Richard. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Princeton University Press, 1986, pp. 77–101. ISBN: 9780691083889.
  • Kaiser, David. "Physics and Feynman's Diagrams." American Scientist 93 (2005): 156–65.
22 The Challenge to Field Theory
23 Quarks, Gauge Fields, and the Rise of the Standard Model
  • Buy at Amazon Fritzsch, Harald. Quarks: The Stuff of Matter. Basic Books, 1989, pp. 47–87 and 123–37. ISBN: 9780465067848.
Week 13: Standard Models 24 The Birth of Particle Cosmology
  • Kaiser, David. "When Fields Collide." Scientific American 296 (2007): 62–9. (This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.PDF)
Week 14: Cosmology and Unification 25 Inflation and Superstrings
  • Guth, Alan, and David Kaiser. "Inflationary Cosmology: Exploring the Universe from the Smallest to the Largest Scales." Science 307 (2005): 884–90.
  • Buy at Amazon Galison, Peter. "Theory Bound and Unbound: Superstrings and Experiment." In Laws of Nature: Essays on the Philosophical, Scientific, and Historical Dimensions (Philosophie Und Wissenschaft, Transdisziplinare Studien, Bd. 8). Edited by Friedel Weinert. Walter de Gruyter, 1995, pp. 369–408. ISBN: 9783110139181.
26 Course summary