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Viewing: PHYS 080 N: Phys and Consciousness

Last approved: Fri, 17 Aug 2018 15:05:44 GMT

Last edit: Fri, 20 Jul 2018 18:18:16 GMT

First Name Last Name Userid Title Home School Org Short Name
Marija Drndic drndic Professor School of Arts and Sciences Physics and Astronomy
Fall 2018
Fall 2018
Phys and Consciousness
We will explore basic quantum physics (theory and modern technology), as well as the link to quantitative thinking and areas of consciousness and brain research. This will include phenomena in classical and quantum physics, the nature of physical measurements, observation, the role of the observer, the role of the human mind in interpreting reality and consciousness. Brain imaging studies enabled by physical phenomena may be used to support certain theories of how we process information. The course will review cutting edge physical phenomena and be as quantitative as possible. We will explore related areas of psychology including the area of emotions and try to explore new links between them and the limits of quantitative approaches in these topics. We will explore decision making and links to quantum theories. For example, the making of a decision has been hypothesized to collapse "a thought wave into a particle". Much of human thinking is probabilistic in nature and we will link this to physics. We will explore quantum entanglement, quantum computing, information, and free will. We will explore work showing that quantum models were able to predict effects shown in national surveys. We will explore how the physical reality works, including how the brain works, how this is linked to ways of thinking and deciding, as well as psychology (develop useful methods for rational living).
Every Other Term

Sector Requirements

Your department or program fields a variety of courses to meet distinct educational needs. Please explain how this course fits into your department's plan for participating in the general education curriculum of the College. The sector panel will want to know what is distinctive about this course along with the other courses your department lists in the sector that makes them suitable for the sector requirement.
Course usually offered in Fall term
Natural Science & Math Sector
Marija Drndic
Standing Faculty
Standing Faculty
This course can be useful for any major, as well as for the physics major as we can go as deep as possible and some topics/assignments can be tailored for individual student level (especially if we have fewer than 30 students). To me this course may have some similar flavor to Physics 016, where you have students from different schools at Penn, including advanced physics students. Some students asked me if this can replace quantum mechanics 411 and i said no. We will have a different take on quantum mechanics here, more motivational/historical and related to other fields, rather than immerse ourselves in calculations right away, like it's done in typical more advanced quantum textbooks but we will also be much more quantitive than in popular books on quantum physics (in time i can develop a mini-textbook for the course, like there is for Physics 016).
My objective is to introduce students to cutting edge quantum physics ideas, experiments and theories. I plan to do this by teaching them the basic principles of quantum physics. I will start by briefly reviewing the world views through centuries that lead to the 20th century and present. My goal is two-fold: to teach students the most impactful topics in modern physics and related mathematics, as well as to practice quantitative thinking, ability to discuss and question existing worldviews and science by having strong background physics knowledge. My objective is also to have students understand the great ramifications of (quantum) physics on everyday world including our economy as well as on our ways of perceiving the world and ourselves, by exploring our physical intuition and how it fits the experimental reality.

Methods of Assessment

Weekly homework including quantitative and qualitative-thinking questions.
One in-class midterm (80 minutes) and one final exam (2 hours).
Depending on the class size (if below 30) we will do in-class student presentations.

Sector I - Society


Sector II - History and Tradition


Sector III - Arts & Letters


Sector IV - Humanities and Social Science


Sector V - Living World


Sector VI - Physical World


Sector VII - Natural Sciences and Mathematics

This course spans the basic principles of classical and quantum physics that link to concepts in neuroscience and cognitive science (the notion of consciousness). At the end of the course we will discuss how physics benefits other fields, and how other fields can influence physicists’ thinking and theories (specifically, the role of neuroscience, cognitive behavioral theories, artificial intelligence, deep learning, robotics, sociobiology, and even cyborgology, all influencing how we think about the physical world). The course will attempt to be as quantitative as possible, which is a hallmark of the reductionist physics approach, while also embracing qualitative discussions, debates and complexity, a hallmark of social sciences.
The basic physics in this course will be illustrated with plenty of examples from experiments that led to the original notions of quantum mechanics. These include: the two slit experiment, the concept of light interference, the photon entanglement, the explanation of thermal radiation and other examples. Many of these will be discussed using in-class demonstrations and/or visits to nearby labs in the David Rittenhouse Laboratory. We will explore the basis of quantum theory hand in hand with modern quantum technology, that forms about 1/3 of our economy (such as magnetic resonance imaging, quantum sensors, computers etc.). There will be abstract parts of the course, such as basis of quantitative thinking and link to consciousness and brain research. Other theoretical and abstract discussions will include the role of the observer, the role of the human mind in interpreting reality and free will. The practical sides will include discussion and some demonstrations of technological applications such as quantum devices and sensors, quantum entanglement, and quantum computing.

Administrative Field

College Natural Science and Mathematics Panel
Stephanie Jones (stephanr) (Fri, 20 Jul 2018 18:17:04 GMT): Rollback: Trying to assign
Key: 523