Physics 511A, 2012: Graduate Electrodynamics

From Ilya Nemenman: Theoretical Biophysics @ Emory
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Back to Physics 511A, 2012: Graduate Electrodynamics.


  • The final is on Tuesday, 8:30 am, May 8, same classroom. Ilya 03:29, 7 May 2012 (PDT)
  • The class is over. Thanks for attending! Ilya 03:37, 7 May 2012 (PDT)
  • The last in-class problem solving will be on Apr 24. Ilya 14:49, 19 April 2012 (PDT)
  • The second test is Fri, Apr 6, 5:30pm. Please come to N301. The test will cover Chapters 6,7,8,9. Ilya 20:15, 19 March 2012 (PDT)
  • Note that, during problem solving sessions, it's not your choice to come to the board to solve a certain problem, but mine. You are responsible for knowing all of the problems. Ilya 20:05, 19 March 2012 (PDT)
  • The first test is Fri, Feb 24, 5:30pm. Please come to N301.
  • In the last lecture, I have made a repeated sign mistake. The correct expression is . Ilya 11:05, 8 February 2012 (PST)
  • Welcome to the class! Ilya 14:07, 19 January 2012 (UTC)


Office Hours
Thu 2-3pm (my office, MSC N240) and by appointment
Study Session
5:30-7:30pm, Jan 19, Feb 2, Feb 16, Mar 1, 22, Apr 5, 19. These are not mandatory and are, essentially, collective office hours.
Landau and Lifshitz, Volume 2, The Classical Theory of Fields
Landau, Lifshitz, and Pitaevskii, Volume 8, Electrodynamics of Continuous Media
Instructor consent

Class structure

This is a graduate level class, and I feel that it doesn’t require the rigorous struture of large undergraduate classes. The syllabus below is only my intention, and we will surely deviate from it as the class progresses. The class will consist of regular lectures for three out of four lecture hours. You must read the book chapters assigned for the class before the class. I will only cover some of the harder and more important derivations and definitions in class, but I will expect you to know the rest. I will explicitly point out during the lecture what you need to pay attention to.
There will be no mandatory homework problems, but you will be expected to know how to solve the problems that the textbooks include after all of the sections we cover. I may also distribute additional problems from time to time. You are also responsible for knowing all derivation in the sections that the syllabus covers. Curiously, all problems in the textbook come with solutions. With these solutions and the study sessions, you should be able to prepare to the following.
Problem solving
On Jan 26, Feb 9, Feb 23, Mar 8, Mar 29 (may be rescheduled), Apr 5, Apr 24 (every second Thursday, unless otherwise announced) we will have problem solving session in class. I will call a few of you at random to the board to solve a random textbook problem from the previous two weeks or derivate a result skipped in the last three lectures. These answers will be graded on a standard A through F scale. I expect to call each one of you at least twice during the semester, possibly more.
We will have two midterms and a cumulative final. All will be in-class, and will be aimed at three hours duration. The final will be May 8, 8:30-11:30. We will find three hours in the evening that work for everyone for both midterms (the weeks of Feb 20 for Midterm 1, and Apr 2 for Midterm 2).
In class problem solving – 15%
Midterms – 25% each
Final – 35%
If the class scores below B average (85%) for any of the exams, the scores for this particular exam will be curved to B average. If a mean class score is above B, no curving down will happen. I expect that nobody will get 100% on the exams, and typical grades would be around 50% or so, depending on the exam hardness. So curving up is very likely.
Omitted classes
Due to my travel schedule, I will not be able to deliver the following lectures: Jan 24, Feb 6, Feb 28 (possibly), Mar 29 (possibly). You will need to study this material on your own. I will give you, in advance, a collection of chapters and sections within chapters that you will need to read. I will be available before and after these lectures to help you if you don't understand something. With office hours and Study Sessions every two weeks, there will be many opportunities for you to seek help. You may also want to contact the two postdocs who work with me (Martin Tchernookov and Lina Merchan) for help.

Class syllabus

We will cover the following book chapter in class. I will originally aim to cover one ~20-25 pages long chapter every class. I fully expect that we will not be able to keep the pace, and I will announce ahead of each lecture which material you need to read for it. There are 28 lectures in the semester (21 after we remove the in-class problem solving), and I expect to cover only 13 chapters below in the course of the semester. We may end up with as many as 15, or as few as 11. The timeline will develop as the course progresses, and we learn each other's pace. Unless instructed otherwise, you should read all paragraphs in a chapter before the class. I may also rearrange the sequence of chapters (e.g., we may do Chapters 1-4 of Volume 8 after Chapter 5 of Volume 2). Again, I will let you know sufficiently in advance.

Jan 19
Chapter 1, Volume 2. The principle of relativity
Sections 1-5, 7.
Jan 24 -- no class, self-study
Chapter 2, Volume 2. Relativistic mechanics
Sections 8, 9, 11, 14 only.
Jan 26
In-class problem solving
Jan 31 (may slip partially to Feb 2)
Chapter 3, Volume 2. Charges in electromagnetic field
All sections.
Feb 2
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 26 - 33
Feb 7 -- no class, self-study
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 33 -35
Feb 9
In-class problem solving
Feb 14
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 33-35, Note additional homework assignments, addition 1 and addition 2.
Feb 16
Chapter 5, Volume 2. Constant electromagnetic fields
Sections 36-40. Note additional homework assignments.
Feb 21
Chapter 5, Volume 2. Constant electromagnetic fields
Sections 41-44. Note additional homework assignments.
Feb 23
in-class problem solving
Feb 24 -- First test
Feb 28
exam problems solutions
Mar 1
Chapter 6, Volume 2. Electromagnetic waves
All sections
Mar 6
Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Sections 53-57.
Mar 8
In-class problem solving
Mar 12-16 -- Spring break
Mar 20
Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Sections 58-61.
Mar 22
Chapter 8, Volume 2. The field of moving charges
Sections 62-64.
Mar 27
Chapter 9, Volume 2. Radiation of electromagnetic waves
Short lecture
Sections 66-67.
Mar 29 -- no lecture, self-study
Apr 3
Chapter 9, Volume 2. Radiation of electromagnetic waves
Sections 71, 74, 75, 78, 79
Apr 5
In-class problem solving
Apr 6 -- Second test
Apr 10 -- Test solutions
Apr 12
Chapter 1, Volume 8. Electrostatics of conductors
Sections 1, 2, 3, 5
The following notes may be useful:
Apr 17
Chapter 2, Volume 8. Electrostatics of dielectrics
Sections 6, 7, 9, 10 (only elations for energy/free energy of a field inside a dielectric, Eq. 10.15-10.16), 13. Extra reading -- Sections 17, 19.
Apr 19
Chapter 3, Volume 8. Steady current
Sec 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28.
Apr 24
In-class problem solving
Apr 26
Chapter 4, Volume 8. Static magnetic field
Sec 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35.
May 1
Waves in media
Sec 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 75, 77, 78, 83, 84, 85, 86.