Click here to go to the UPSCALE home page.

This is the home page for PHY100F - The Magic of Physics.



On the 4th of November 1905 Albert Enstein presented the first of a November quartet of highly technical papers that revolutionized our understanding of gravity. At its conclusion he commented: "Hardly anyone who has truly understood this theory will be able to resist being captivated by its magic." The theory of relativity, however is not the only theory in physics that is magical, and Einstein was not physics' only magician. We will uncover the magic of the classical and the quantum world courtesy of the genius of Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, Heisenberg and many others, and study planetary motions, chaos, Schrödinger's cat, time dilation and time travel, black holes and quarks.



Professor Tony Key : MP401, Phone 978-4374



Click here to return to top of document


TEXT: Robert March: Physics for Poets. (McGraw-Hill) 3rd or 4th Edition.

For much of the early part of the course I will be referring to the book by March (though my lectures will not follow it slavishly!), and I suggest that students acquire their own copy. By the end of the course I will assume that everyone has read it through completely. I will also provide hand-outs from time to time, summarising the material I have covered in lectures. The books on the following list are suggested reading; the list is not comprehensive or inclusive, and I welcome suggestions from students on other books which they have enjoyed. I would normally expect that you read at least one book other than March's. I hope you will be motivated by interest; you will certainly need to dip into a few sources in preparation for your essay.

John Barrow : Theories of Everything - the quest for ultimate explanation. (Vintage 1991).
Jeremy Bernstein: Cranks, Quarks and the Cosmos ((Basic Books 1993)
Fritjiof Capra : The Tao of Physics.
Paul Davies : The Mind of God - the scientific basis for a rational world. (Simon and Schuster 1992)
                       About Time - Einstein's Unfinished Revolution (Simon and Schuster 1995)1992).
Richard Feynman : The Character of Physical Law. (MIT Press) ** particularly chapter 6 **
James Gleick : Chaos - Making a New Science. (Viking Penguin 1988).
John Gribbin : Schrödinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality (Little, Brown and Company 1995)
Nina Hall (editor): Exploring Chaos - a Guide to the New Science of Disorder (W.W. Norton, 1993)
Stephen Hawking : A Brief History of Time - from the Big Bang to Black Holes. (Bantam 1988).
Lawrence Krauss: Fear of Physics. (Basic Books 1993)
                                The Physics of Star Trek (Basic Books 1995)
Alan Lightman : Ancient Light - our Changing View of the Universe (Harvard Univ. Press 1981)
Nick Herbert : Faster than Light. (Penguin Plume Books 1989).
Roger Penrose : The Emperor's New Mind - concerning computers, minds, and the laws of Physics.
Michael Riordan : The hunting of the Quark: true story of Modern Physics.(Simon & Schuster 1987)
Carl Sagan: The Demon-Haunted World (Ballantine, 1996)
Joseph Schwartz and Michael McGuinness : Einstein for Beginners. (Pantheon 1979).
George Smoot and Keay Davidson : Wrinkles in Time. (Avon Books New York 1993).
Michael Talbot : Beyond the Quantum - How the new Physics are bridging the Chasm between Science and Faith. (Bantam 1988).
Steven Weinberg : Dreams of a Final Theory (Pantheon 1992)
Gary Zukav : The Dancing Wu Li Masters - an overview of the new Physics. (Bantam 1980).

Often you'll find articles in popular magazines which might be relevant to the course (magazines of interest include Discovery, The Sciences, Omni, Scientific American. For example, the following articles will prove useful to those who want to explore the Quantum world a little more.
David Freedman. Weird Science. (Discovery November 1990).
John Horgan. Quantum Philosophy. (Scientific American July 1992).
Serge Haroche. Entanglement, Decoherence and the Quantum/Classical Boundary. (Physics Today, July 1998)
David Mermin. Is the Moon there when Nobody Looks? Reality and the Quantum Theory. (Physics Today, April 1985).

Often, also, there are films or TV programmes of interest. I will be showing some films, and will announce any others I know of; please let me know of any you discover.

Click here to return to top of document


Grading Scheme
1 Final Examination 2 hours December 35%
2 Term Test 50 minutes Thursday 22 October 1998 25%
3 Essay 1500 words, typed due 20 November 1998, 5 pm 20%
4 Tutorial Mark attendance, homework, particpation.
start week of 21 September, 1998.
sign up in Department.
TOTAL 100%

Although mathematics is the most natural language for physics (an extraordinary fact, but true!) no mathematics will be required in this course. Thus the test and the exam will have questions which require only descriptive answers, sometimes in note form, varying from a brief sentence to a few paragraphs, and perhaps a multiple choice question using words only.

The Essay may be on any topic relevant to Physics; although I would prefer that students make their own choice of topic, I will also provide a list of suggestions.

The exact components of the Tutorial Mark will be decided on after discussion by each tutor and their class. It may include, but may not be limited to, marks for attendance and participation, brief weekly homework assignments and/or in-class quizzes. The homework will be brief, and as far as possible, should give students some idea of the sorts of questions which will appear in the test and exam.

Previous years' exams may be accessed from the University of Toronto homepage. Follow the links to Acdemic Divisions- Students - Undergraduates - Arts and Science - Courses.

PLEASE NOTE : all deadlines are firm, to be relaxed only on submission of a doctor's note or death! Failure to meet any deadline, without a note from a doctor or a College registrar will result in a flat ZERO for the relevant work.

Click here to return to top of document


1. I would prefer that you find a topic that interests you on your own. If you become impossibly stuck, your tutor may be able to give you suggestions.

2. I would expect you to find your information from one or two main sources, with several ancillary ones. Your essay should organize, integrate, and synthesise the information you glean from your readings, and, in addition, include your own critique and ideas.

Please Note: Any and all sources you use must be properly referenced. Any direct copying of material from your sources must be acknowledged, by placing quotes around the excerpted material and referring to the source in the footnotes or reference section. The direct use of material from any source without such acknowledgement constitutes plagiarism, and, if discovered, leads to sever university-imposed penalties.

3. The essay should contain at least the following sections:

4. To mark the Essay, the tutors will consider four main aspects, each of roughly the same weight. The four main points, with indications of what is being looked for, are:

5. As far as style is concerned, imagine that you are writing a "Science" column for the Globe and Mail (see e.g Stephen Strauss's articles in the Saturday Globe, or David Suzuki's in the Star). In other words, write for an intelligent but lay audience; and don't exceed the 1500 word limit - marks will be deducted for overlong essays. Consider the use of diagrams or graphs or analogies to illustrate your argument.

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. "Where shall I begin, please your majesty?" he asked.
"Begin at the beginning", the King said very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end; then stop."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Click here to return to top of document


Classical Physics

Historical Introduction

Classical Mechanics

Electricity and Magnetism

Modern Physics


The Weird World of the Quantum

Click here to return to top of document