Physics 471 - Winter 2012

Welcome to Physics 471!

Winter 2012

Instructor: John S. Colton;
 Office: N335 ESC
Office hours: 3-4 MWF, in the Underground Lab under the skylight

TAs: Grayson Tarbox ( and Claira Wilson (
TAs' office hours: 4-6 pm Tues (Grayson), 4-6 pm Thurs (Claira), in the walk-in lab S415 ESC



  •  Physics of Light and Optics, by Peatross and Ware. Required textbook. (Called P&W, for short.) This is the main textbook for the class, and can be purchased at the bookstore. It is also available online at //; feel free to download a copy. Please do not use the department printers to print the book from the pdf file, though, since the bookstore already sells the book at cost.
  •  Optics, by Eugene Hecht. Optional textbook. This is the standard text in the field, and the one that I myself used when I was an undergraduate student at BYU. Its strengths and weaknesses make it the perfect complement for P&W: Hecht has a ton of qualitative descriptions and applications of the various concepts, but is a bit skimpy on the math. P&W on the other hand is much more mathematically intense but lacks a lot of real-world examples. I have turned to my own copy of Hecht for reference too many times to count since I graduated from BYU. It’s now on the 4th edition, but cheap older editions are available. (I used the 2nd edition myself, back in the day.) If you have any inkling of doing optics in graduate school or on a professional level, you should buy this book.
  •  Electrodynamics, by David Griffiths. Optional textbook. This is the standard text for Physics 441 and 442, and overlaps the first part of this course quite a bit. Specifically,  Griffiths chapters 8 and 9 are directly related to Peatross & Ware chapters 1-3—and in my opinion Griffiths is a clearer treatment.

Syllabus and Course Packet

Lecture Notes

Special Reading Assignments/Other Handouts

Scores and Grade

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Class Identification Numbers

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I-Clicker registration

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  • Most of the labs have  introductory videos that should help you get started. Please view the appropriate video before you begin the lab.

Old Exams 

  • Here are some exams from Winter 2008 semester for you to use as study aids. Important notes: (a) Some of the chapters were in a different order compared to the current version of the book, so the exams didn't cover things in the same order. (b) There were only two midterm exams, rather than three. That also changed the coverage per exam.
  •  Winter 2008 exam 1 |  solutions
  •  Winter 2008 exam 2 |  solutions
  •  Winter 2008 final exam |  solutions

How to get started

  • You need to do the following things as soon as the semester begins. (If you have added the class late, it's even more important to do them ASAP.)
    • If you have not received one in an email, get a "class ID number" using the "Obtain your class ID number" link on this page. You will use the CID as your personal identifier for all your assignments.
    • Read the syllabus, available either as a pdf file elsewhere on this web page, or as a handout on the first day of class. Among other things, the HW assignments and the "Colton problems" are found in the syllabus.
    • Get a copy of the Peatross & Ware textbook, either electronic or physical, or both. (See textbook info, elsewhere on this web page.)
    • Do the reading assignments for each upcoming lecture as marked  on the schedule on the first page of the syllabus; if joining late, do the past reading assignments. In particular, go through the "What you should already know" handout below, as soon as you can.
    • Get an "i-clicker" at the bookstore if you don't already have one. Bring your clicker to each class.
    • Register your clicker (via the link elsewhere on this page) so that you get credit for in-class clicker quizzes.
    • Start working HW problems! The first assignment is due Tues, Jan 10. You can get partial credit for late assignments, so work the HW sets you miss/have missed, in addition to the ones coming up. HW due-dates are marked on the first page of the syllabus.
    • Turn in your HW problems to the slot labeled “Phys 471” in the box near room N375 ESC.
    • Sign up for a departmental computer account if you don't have one already, so that you can use the departmental computers (for e.g. problems that require Mathematica/Matlab).
    • Gain access to the departmental computer labs (N337 and N212) if you don't have access already, by talking to Diann Sorenson in room N281.

Supplementary Material

Current Topics in Physics