Physics 6890: Modern Physics Lab II

Fall 2000

Lab 10:30-12:30 Tuesday and Thursday, Room 267, Physics Building

The goal of the course is to learn how to design, propose, build, run, analyze, present, and write up a physics experiment. Each student is required to propose an experiment based on an original or derived design. For ideas students are encouraged to search literature, speak with colleagues, and recall the history of science. These proposals will be made in 15 minute oral proposal presentations and written proposals. The instructor will "fund" all or some of the proposals based on their physics merit, practicality, cost, size, and time required. The class then cooperatively builds and runs the funded experiments. Students are required to maintain lab notebooks which are collected and graded. At the end of the class the results of each of the experiment are described in experimental presentations and written experimental summaries. Each student is required to give at least a 15 minute experimental presentation, while experimental summaries can have multiple authors.

Professor: David Cinabro(333 Physics, 313-577-2918,,
Office Hours: 8:30-10:30 Tuesday and Thursday
Text: The Art of Experimental Physics by Preston and Dietz, John Wiley and Sons; 1991 is recommended.
Grade is based on oral presentation and written proposal. Whether the proposal is funded or not does not bear on the grade, but proposals must recognize the funding criteria discussed above.
Lab Performance(30%)
Based on laboratory notebooks that are turned in when experiments complete their data taking.
Experimental Presentations(15%)
Based on oral presentations. These are expected to be of the quality and style of an APS presentation.
Experimental Summaries(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. Papers can either have single authors, multiple authors all receiving the same grade, or chapters written by single or multiple authors in which case author grades will be the average of the chapter grade and an overall grade for the summary.
Class Schedule
Week 1: 5 September Proposal Criteria
Week 3: 19 September Proposal Presentations
Week 3 Friday: 22 SeptemberWritten Proposals Due
Week 4: 26 September Funding Discussion
Week 12: 21 NovemberCompletion of Experimental Data Taking
Week 15 Tuesday: 12 DecemberExperimental Presentations
Week 15 Thursday: 14 DecemberExperimental Summaries Due

Idea Sources

  1. Ask physicists for suggestions.
  2. History. Many experiments from the past are worth repeating.
  3. Fundamental Constants. How are they measured?
  4. Precision measurements. Precise measurement of even mundane quantities often require complex instruments.
  5. Scientific American: The Amateur Scientist
  6. Society for Amateur Scientists
  7. PhysLink
  8. Big Chalk
  9. has a list of projects and experiments

Professor David Cinabro
Last modified: Fri Jan 26 08:39:10 EST 2001