Tim Gfroerer, Davidson College



Introduction: Since you are all seniors, we will do final projects in lieu of a final exam.  This gives you the opportunity to contribute to the content of the class and learn something from each other.  The projects will account for 20% of your final grade.


Topic Selection: Your topic should include plenty of statistical and/or thermal physics, preferably but not necessarily quantum statistics.  Please consult sections 7.3 - 7.6 of your textbook to get some initial ideas.  Your project should also address a recent (i.e. within the last decade or so) and high-profile idea, observation, or experiment.  Please see me in my office to discuss possibilities and to identify good resources for investigating the subject.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Degenerate Fermi gases and the behavior of cold fermionic vapors.

  • Bose-Einstein condensation of cold bosonic vapors.

  • Cold atoms in tunable optical lattices.

  • Blackbody radiation and the Cosmic Microwave Background or Greenhouse Effect.

  • Symmetry-breaking phase transitions in the early universe.

  • Entanglement entropy.

  • Thermal or statistical issues in quantum computing.

  • Applications of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics (phase transformations) - try this link


Proposal: Your proposal should include a short description of your topic and at least one good reference.  By good reference, I mean one that you can understand and work with.  Finding a good article will have a significant impact on the success of your project, and time spent on this search is time well spent.  Usually, these kinds of articles come from journals like Science, Nature, Physics, or Physics Today, which are intended for general scientific readers.  You should avoid specialists journals like Physical Review A.


Presentation: You will give a 15 minute class presentation on your topic (please try to allow a few minutes for a question/answer session).  These presentations will take place during our last two class meetings.  You should plan on spending about 5 minutes introducing your subject, including any connections that can be made between your topic and what we have discussed in class, and an additional 10 minutes applying the relevant theory to a recent observation or experiment.  Try to work an example that shows how some of the physics is actually done.  You should realize that 15 minutes is not a lot of time and you will need to think carefully about how you can present the most important ideas efficiently.  You can use PowerPoint to design and deliver your presentation.  After the class meeting, please submit an electronic copy of your presentation to me via email.


Evaluation: For evaluation of your presentation, I will primarily be interested in your demonstrated comprehension of the underlying physics and how effectively it is conveyed.  Secondarily, I will consider the organization, content, and quality of the presentation.  Your attention to and participation in the discussion of other presentations will also contribute to your grade.  Here is the rubric for evaluation: