Physics 511A, 2013: Graduate Electrodynamics

From Ilya Nemenman: Theoretical Biophysics @ Emory
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Back to Physics 511A, 2013: Graduate Electrodynamics.


  • The full schedule is online, with cancellations and catch-ups. Ilya 20:07, 10 April 2013 (PDT)
  • Please see substantial schedule changes -- double and catch up classes. Ilya 18:07, 25 March 2013 (PDT)
  • The days when I will have to be absent have changed. Ilya 9:20, 7 Feb 2013 (PST)
  • Welcome to the class! Ilya 20:15, 14 January 2013 (PST)


Office Hours
Thu 2-3pm (my office, MSC N240) and by appointment
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 structure 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. In the middle of the semester, we will switch from the instructor-delivered lectures to the student-delivered lectures format. Research shows that students learn a lot more this way -- and also you get some training to deliver these lectures in your professorial future. In the first few weeks, by listening to me, you will get a feel for what works and what doesn't work during the lectures, and this will guide you preparations. I expect that each one of you will deliver about 2, maybe 3, lectures in the course of the semester to the rest of the class. I will give you at least a week to prepare between when a lecture is assigned and when it has to be presented.
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 will 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, but I advise you to try to solve the problems on your own before reading the solutions. It's OK to work on problems collectively.
Problem solving
About every second Thursday (see the schedule below) we will have problem solving session in class. I will call some or all of you in turn to the board to solve a random homework problems from the previous two weeks, or to derive a result skipped in the last lectures, or to solve a totally new problem that you haven't seen before. These answers will be graded on a standard A through F scale. I expect to call each one of you many times during the semester.
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 3, 8:30-11:30. We will find three hours in the evening that work for everyone for both midterms (the weeks of Feb 18 for Midterm 1, and Mar 25 for Midterm 2).
In class problem solving – 15%
Midterms – 25% each
Final – 35%
The percentage scores will translate into letter grades as follows: 90-100% -- A; 85-90% -- A-; 80-85% -- B+; 75-80% -- B; 70-75% -- B-; 65-70% -- C+; 60-65% -- C; 55-60% -- C-; 55% and below -- failed.
The grades won't be curved.
Rescheduled classes
Outdated Due to my travel schedule, I will not be able to deliver the following lectures: Feb 5, Feb 28 or March 5, Mar 19, Mar 21. Fereydoon Family will take over these classes and give Statistical mechanics lectures instead. I will take over the same number of his classes (WF 12:45-2:00) in April; exact classes TBA.

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 about 15 chapters in the course of the semester. We may end up with as many as 17, or as few as 13. 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 15
Chapter 1, Volume 2. The principle of relativity
Sections 1-5.
Jan 17
Chapter 1, Volume 2. The principle of relativity
Sections 6, 7.
Chapter 2, Volume 2. Relativistic mechanics
Sections 8, 9.
Jan 22
Chapter 2, Volume 2. Relativistic mechanics
Section 10, 14.
Chapter 3, Volume 2. Charges in electromagnetic field
Sections 15, 16, 17
All sections.
Jan 24
Problem solving session.
Additional problem: A massive particle of energy traveling with a velocity , not necessarily small relative to the speed of light, emits a photon of the energy in a certain direction in its rest frame. What is the angle, by which its velocity is deflected in a nonmoving reference frame?
No problems for Chapter 3 will be discussed.
Jan 29
Chapter 3, Volume 2. Charges in electromagnetic field
Sections 23, 24, 25, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.
Jan 31
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 26 - 31
Feb 5
no class (taken over by Fereydoon Family)
Feb 7
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 32, 33, 35
Feb 12
In-class problem solving
Feb 14
no class (taken over by Fereydoon Family)
Feb 19
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 26
First test
Feb 28
exam problems solutions
Mar 5
Chapter 6, Volume 2. Electromagnetic waves
All sections
Mar 7
Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Sections 53-57.
Mar 11-15 -- Spring break
Mar 18-21 -- APS March meeting, no classes
Mar 22 -- Catch-up class.
Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Sections 58-61.
Mar 26 -- Catch-up, double class
In-class problem solving and Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Chapter 8, Volume 2. The field of moving charges
Sections 62-64.
Mar 28 -- Catch-up, double class
Chapter 9, Volume 2. Radiation of electromagnetic waves
Sections 66-67.
Sections 71, 74, 75, 78, 79
Apr 2
In-class problem solving
Apr 4
Second midterm.
Apr 9
No class
Apr 11 -- Catch-up, Double Class
Chapter 1, Volume 8. Electrostatics of conductors
Sections 1, 2, 3, 5
The following notes may be useful:,
Chapter 2, Volume 8. Electrostatics of dielectrics
Sections 6, 7, 9, 10 (only relations for energy/free energy of a field inside a dielectric, Eq. 10.15-10.16), 13. Extra reading -- Sections 17, 19.
Apr 16 -- Catch-up, Double class
Chapter 3, Volume 8. Steady current
Sec 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28.
Midterm 2 solutions
Apr 18
In-class problem solving
Apr 23
Chapter 4, Volume 8. Static magnetic field
Sec 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35.
Apr 25 -- Catch-up, Double class
Waves in media
Sec 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 75, 77, 78, 83, 84, 85, 86.
Physics 511A, 2013: Superconductivity
Sec 53-57