Undergraduate Courses

Spring 2018

The Universe
This course, whose subject matter covers the entire universe, targets the frontiers of modern astrophysics. Topics include the planets of our solar system; the birth, life, and death of stars; black holes; the search for extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life and intelligence; the zoo of galaxies and their evolution; the big bang and the expanding universe; and dark matter, dark energy, and the large-scale structure of the universe. This course is designed for the non-science major and has no prerequisites past high school algebra and geometry. High school physics would be useful, but is not required.
Instructors: Christopher F. Chyba, Jo Dunkley, Michael Abram Strauss
Topics in Modern Astronomy
This course provides a broad overview of modern astronomy and astrophysics for students in the sciences. Emphasis is on the application of basic physics to understanding of astronomical systems. Topics include the Solar System; planetary systems and exoplanets; the birth, life, and death of stars; white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; the Milky Way and distant galaxies; cosmology, dark matter and dark energy, and the history of the Universe.
Instructors: Joshua Nathan Winn
The Science of Fission and Fusion Energy
Nuclear fission power offers a low-carbon source of electricity. However it also carries with it significant risks: nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Iran), major accidents (Fukushima), and waste disposal (Yucca Mountain). Fusion energy is moving towards realization as an alternative low-carbon source of energy from the nucleus. It carries fewer risks, but the timetable for its commercialization is not yet known. We will delve into the physics of these energy sources, so you can understand the issues for yourself. A benefit of this course is that you will expand your scientific skills by applying them to important real-world problems.
Instructors: Robert James Goldston
A general review of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. Topics include the properties and nature of galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters, the large-scale structure of the universe, evidence for the existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, the expanding universe, the early universe, and the formation and evolution of structure.
Instructors: Neta A. Bahcall
Dynamics of Stellar and Planetary Systems
Review of hamiltonian mechanics and potential theory. Planetary systems: current surveys and statistics; keplerian elements; restricted 3-body problem; disturbing functions; secular approximations; resonance; tidal effects. Stellar systems: collisionless equilibira and stability; spiral density waves; dynamical frictions and dynamical relaxation; structure of the Galaxy; current surveys; the Galactic Center.
Instructors: Jeremy J. Goodman
High Energy Astrophysics
Selected astrophysical applications of electrodynamics, special and general relativity, nuclear and particle physics. Topics may include synchrotron radiation, comptonization, orbits and accretion in black-hole metrics, radio sources, cosmic rays, and neutrino astropysics.
Instructors: Anatoly Spitkovsky
Numerical Algorithms for Scientific Computing
A broad introduction to numerical algorithms used in scientific computing. The course begins with a review of the basic principles of numerical analysis, including sources of error, stability, and convergence. The theory and implementation of techniques for linear and nonlinear systems of equations and ordinary and partial differential equations are covered in detail. Examples of the application of these methods to problems in engineering and the sciences permeate the course material. Issues related to the implementation of efficient algorithms on modern high-performance computing systems are discussed.
Instructors: Michael Edward Mueller
Seminar in Observational Astrophysics: Current Research Topics in Astrophysics
Students prepare and deliver presentations on selected topics in observational astronomy, and discuss each other's work.
Instructors: Adam S. Burrows
General Plasma Physics II
This is an introductory graduate course in plasma physics, focusing on magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) and its extension to weakly collisional or collisionless plasmas. Topics to be covered include: the equations of MHD and extended MHD, the structure of magnetic fields, static and rotating MHD equilibria and their stability, magnetic reconnection, MHD turbulence, and the dynamo effect. Applications are drawn from fusion, heliophysical, and astrophysical plasmas.
Instructors: Amitava Bhattacharjee, Hantao Ji
Irreversible Processes in Plasmas
Introduction to theory of fluctuations and transport in plasma. Origins of irreversibility. Random walks, Brownian motion, and diffusion; Langevin and Fokker-Planck theory. Fluctuation-dissipation theorem; test-particle superposition principle. Statistical closure problem. Derivation of kinetic equations from BBGKY hierarchy and Klimontovich formalism; properties of plasma collision operators. Classical transport coefficients in magnetized plasmas; Onsager symmetry. Introduction to plasma turbulence, including quasilinear theory. Applications to current problems in plasma research.
Instructors: Matthew Walter Kunz
Seminar in Plasma Physics
Advances in experimental and theoretical studies or laboratory and naturally-occurring high-temperature plasmas, including stability and transport, nonlinear dynamics and turbulence, magnetic reconnection, selfheating of "burning" plasmas, and innovative concepts for advanced fusion systems. Advances in plasma applications, including laser-plasma interactions, nonneutral plasmas, high-intensity accelerators, plasma propulsion, plasma processing, and coherent electromagnetic wave generation.
Instructors: Stewart C. Prager, Allan H. Reiman
Turbulence and Nonlinear Processes in Fluids and Plasmas
A comprehensive introduction to the theory of nonlinear phenomena in fluids and plasmas, with emphasis on turbulence and transport. Experimental phenomenology; fundamental equations, including Navier-Stokes, Vlasov, and gyrokinetic; numerical simulation techniques, including pseudo-spectral and particle-in-cell methods; coherent structures; transition to turbulence; statistical closures, including the wave kinetic equation and direct-interaction approximation; PDF methods and intermittency; variational techniques. Applications from neutral fluids, fusion plasmas, and astrophysics.
Instructors: Gregory Wayne Hammett
Laboratory in Plasma Physics
Develop skills, knowledge, and understanding of basic and advanced laboratory techniques used to measure the properties and behavior of plasmas. Representative experiments are: cold-cathode plasma formation and architecture; ambipolar diffusion in afterglow plasmas; Langmuir probe measurements of electron temperature and plasma density; period doubling and transitions to chaos in glow discharges; optical spectroscopy for species identification; microwave interferometry and cavity resonances for plasma density determination; and momentum generated by a plasma thruster.
Instructors: Samuel A. Cohen
Introduction to Classical and Neoclassical Transport and Confinement
The first half of this course intends to provide students with a systematic development of the fundamentals of gyrokinetic (GK) theory, and the second half provides students with an introduction to transport and confinement in magnetically confined plasmas.
Instructors: Hong Qin, William Ming-Wu Tang
Junior Independent Work
Senior Departmental Exam