Fundamentals of Physics -- About Time
Outline of this course:
In this course we will discuss the concept of "time" and in doing so we will
introduce a number of important concepts of physics. Rather than presenting a
top-down, deductive approach, we will try to understand concepts when
their understanding is needed in the context of our discussion of time.
The course is intended to provide a general knowledge of many of the basic concepts,
facts and methods of physical science. It is designed to help you acquire "scientific literacy"
enabling you to appreciate news relating to science, and to make reasoned judgments about
societal issues relating to or influenced by science.
Even though this course tries to put emphasis on a
conceptual understanding, the use of simple mathematics cannot be completely avoided without
sacrificing knowledge of one of the important characteristics of physics, namely its quantitativeness.
Therefore, some mathematical concepts and tools will be introduced and used as needed.
We will discuss, in various levels of detail, a number of topic areas from
the list below:
The order of discussion may change, and we may jump back and forth between
different topic areas since they are interrelated.
- origin of the concept of time
- measurement of time
- geological time
- relativistic time
- space-time, cosmic time
Textbooks, sources of information:
You do not need to buy a textbook for this course. There are books and other documents
available on the Web, and additional material will be posted in Blackboard.
The main sources of information will be
All of these are available on the Web (see below)
- "From Sundials to Atomic Clocks: Understanding Time and Frequency"
- Benjamin Crowell's "Light and Matter"
- Benjamin Crowell's "Conceptual Physics"
- documents relating to time on the Web:
- From Sundials to Atomic Clocks: Understanding Time and Frequency,
(Second Revised Edition, 1999)
by James Jespersen and Jane Fitz-Randolph;
available at NIST:
A Walk Through Time
- additional documents available through course site in Blackboard
- interesting / useful books relating to time:
- From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time,
by Sean Carroll, Plume; Reprint edition (October 26, 2010);
ISBN-10: 0452296544 ($6.80 at Amazon)
- The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, by Brian Greene,
($11.43 at Amazon)
- It's About Time: Understanding Einstein's Relativity, by N. David Mermin,
Princeton University Press (2009)
($14.28 at Amazon)
- About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, by Paul Davies,
Simon & Schuster; 1st Simon & Schuster Pbk. Ed edition (April 9, 1996),
($10.25 at Amazon)
- General Physics books available on the Web:
Other useful physics resources:
- Astronomy books and notes available on the Web: