Physics 6850: Modern Physics Lab I

Winter 2002

Lab 9:35-13:30 Tuesday, Room 267, Physics Building

This is a two credit course. The goal of the course is to learn some of the techniques of modern experimental physics. This is done by the students repeating some of the seminal experiments from the history of physics and investigations into modern physics issues. Each student will do five experiments and turn in a traditional lab report for four of them. For the remaining experiment the student will have to present the results as both a paper in the style of a scientific journal article and in a 15 minute presentation in the style of American Physical Society presentation. Examples of such papers and presentations will be given.

Professor: David Cinabro(333 Physics, 313-577-2918,,
Office Hours: 9:00-11:00 Thursday
Text: The Art of Experimental Physics by Preston and Dietz, John Wiley and Sons; 1991 is required.
Lab Reports(50%)
Each lab report is due two weeks after the completion of the lab. It is expected that students will work individually or pairs on each lab. Lab reports are formal documents with the following parts:
  1. Abstract - a one paragraph description of the experiment and its results
  2. Introduction - in general this explains why the experiment is worth doing
  3. Experimental Setup and Technique - describes and diagrams the apparatus, explains the basics of how the experiment is done, and explains any formulae or theory used in the execution of the experiment
  4. Raw Data - Shown in tables
  5. Data AnalysisExplains how the raw data is turned into measurements of something else
  6. Error Analysis - Estimates errors, both statistical and systematic
  7. Results - Discussion and display of the results of the experiment
  8. Conclusions - Comparison with expectations and thoughts on what went wrong or how the experiment could be improved
  9. References - If previous works are used in any part of the experiment they should be referenced here
The main goal of the lab report is to allow another student to reproduce the experiment, not repeat the mistakes that were made, and act on suggestions for improvement.
Lab Performance(25%)
Based on laboratory notebooks that are turned in when experiments complete their data taking.
Experimental Presentations(10%)
Based on a 15 minute oral presentations. These are expected to be of the quality and style of an APS presentation.
Experimental Summary(15%)
Based on experiment summaries. These are expected to be of the quality and style of a submission to a physics journal such as Physical Review Letters. No more than 10 pages.
Class Schedule
Week 1: 8 January Introduction, Students should read the first 39 pages of the book
Week 2: 15 January Start of Experiments
Week 13: 2 AprilEnd of Experiments
Week 15: 16 AprilExperimental Presentations and Experimental Summary Due


  1. Easy ones: Do three or four of these. Start with one of these.
    1. Atomic Quantization I: Photoelectric Effect (h/e)
    2. Electron Beams I: e/m of electron
    3. Electron Beams II: Interaction with fields
    4. Electron Beams III: Diffraction
    5. Radioactivity I: Basics
    6. Thermal Radiation I: Blackbody radiation and Wien's Law (parts 1-3)
    7. Thermal Radiation II: Four Surface Absorber (parts 4 and 1-2)
    8. Microwave Optics I (parts 1-4)
    9. Microwave Optics II (parts 5-8)
  2. Hard ones: Do one or two of these
    1. Atomic Quantization II: Gas Energy Levels, Critical Potentials
    2. Charge Quantization: Millikan Oil Drop
    3. Radioactivity II: Beta Decay Spectrum
    4. Radioactivity III: Rutherford Scattering
    5. Microwave Optics II (parts 9-12)
    6. X-ray Scattering
  3. Not complete ones: Talk to instructor if you want to do one of these.
    1. Sound Resonance
    2. Sonoluminesence
    3. Vacuum
    4. High Temperature Superconductivity
    5. Cloud Chamber
    6. Green Laser
    7. Fluctuations in Earth's Magnetic Field
    8. Optical Spectrometer

Last modified: Tue Jan 29 08:43:49 EST 2002