Physics

The Discipline

Physics, the most fundamental of sciences, explores the mechanism of the physical world from the interior of the nucleus to the expanses of the universe. Other physical scientists and engineers look to physics for the foundations of their fields.

While studying physics is challenging, the rewards in terms of personal satisfaction and intellectual growth are great. In what other field of study does one encounter the same variety of questions and disciplines?

  • Quantum mechanics: What does it mean that an electron is a wave and a particle at the same time?
  • Cosmology: What was the universe like during the first 10-43 of a second of the big bang, and how are we able to predict its end in the far future?
  • Astronomy: How is it possible to know the lifecycles of stars, which age over billions of years?
  • Geophysics: Why is Earth’s rate of rotation decreasing, and how does that influence the distance to Earth’s moon?
  • Biomechanics: Why is “follow-through” so important in athletics?
  • Relativity: Why is time-travel into the future possible?
  • Particle physics: Is there an anti-matter universe?

The Norwich program

At Norwich, the Physics program offers a bachelor’s degree as well as courses that support fields such as engineering, architecture and the biological and earth sciences.

Physics majors follow a curriculum containing a full complement of coursework from classical topics such as mechanics, electromagnetism and thermodynamics, to modern subjects that include atomic, nuclear and quantum physics. There is a course in instrumentation and general interest courses in stellar and galactic astronomy and, occasionally, weather and climate.

Laboratory instruction is an important component of a physics education. Norwich emphasizes lab work with its courses utilizing modern, computer interfaced equipment.

One capstone of a major’s education is a research project, conducted senior year, when a student works under the guidance of a faculty member. Projects have included the aerodynamics of wings and propellers, construction of a radio telescope, acoustic resonance in heated tubes, stellar imaging with digital photography, holography, and construction of a magnetometer.

In recent years, most Norwich physics majors have received military commissions, for which physics is a perfect background.

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