Physics 511A, 2014: Graduate Electrodynamics

From Ilya Nemenman: Theoretical Biophysics @ Emory
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Back to Physics 511A, 2014: Graduate Electrodynamics.


  • Class is over! Thanks for attending. Ilya 10:24, 12 May 2014 (EDT)
  • Judging by the midterm grades, I will need to be curving the grades. Ilya 09:56, 07 April 2014 (EDT)
  • Student lectures assigned. We will have 2 students per lecture, each should plan for 30 minutes. Please verify your assigned time. You should come to my office to discuss the lecture after you have already made your lecture plan. Ilya 09:56, 25 March 2014 (EDT)
  • Today we will focus on exam solutions and catching up with what we didn't do in the previous lectures. I will update the schedule for the rest of the semester before Thursday. Thursday Problem Solving Session stays. Ilya 09:29, 18 March 2014 (EDT)
  • Exam 1 has been posted. Due Friday, Mar 7, 10 am in my mailbox.
  • Per request from Prof. Family, to avoid overlaps with homeworks/tests between E&M and StatMech, the dates of the first test have been moved. Ilya 8:47, 25 February 2014 (EST)
  • Catch-up lectures have been scheduled. Ilya 8:49, 23 February 2014 (EST)
    Tuesday, Feb 25
    10:00 -- 11:15 -- regular class
    11:15 -- 12:30 -- catchup class #1 (we will probably have it a few minutes short)
    Wednesday, Feb 26
    11:30 -- 12:45 --catchup class #2
    12:45 -- 2:00 -- I am taking over Fereydoon's class as previously agreed
    Thursday, Feb 27
    10:00 -- 11:15 -- regular class
    11:15 -- 12:30 -- catchup class #3 (we will probably have it a few minutes short)
  • The first midterm will be rescheduled due to weather delays. Stay tuned. Ilya 12:16, 14 February 2014 (EST)
  • Lectures to be rescheduled have been announced; midterm schedule shifted. Ilya 22:34, 22 January 2014 (EST)
  • Welcome to the class! Ilya 08:32, 14 January 2014 (EST)


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 classes. 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 (not everything that I will do will work!), and this will guide you preparations. I expect that each one of you will deliver a lecture 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 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 Friday, May 2, 8:00-11:00. We will find three hours in the evening that work for everyone for both midterms (Feb 18 for Midterm 1, and Apr 1 for Midterm 2; subject to change).
In class problem solving and lectures – 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 may be curved.
Rescheduled classes
Due to my travel schedule, I will not be able to deliver some of the classes. Since all of you are concurrently taking Dr. Family's Statistical Mechanics class, we will trade with Dr. Family, and he will lecture his class when I am away, and I will lecture when he is away instead. Note that he will not be lecturing E&M instead of me, but his own class, and vice versa. We may need to find additional times for make-up lectures as needed. I intend to deliver all 28 lectures. The following lectures will be rescheduled
  1. Feb 20 to be lectured by Dr. Family; I will lecture instead on Feb 26
  2. Mar 4 and 6 to be lectured by Dr. Family; I will lecture instead on Mar 26, 28
  3. Additionally, Dr. Mugler, postdoc at the department, may replace me for the lecture on Apr 3.

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 14
Chapter 1, Volume 2. The principle of relativity
Sections 1-5.
Jan 16
Chapter 1, Volume 2. The principle of relativity
Sections 6, 7.
Chapter 2, Volume 2. Relativistic mechanics
Sections 8, 9.
Jan 21
Chapter 2, Volume 2. Relativistic mechanics
Section 10, 14.
Chapter 3, Volume 2. Charges in electromagnetic field
Sections 15, 16
All sections.
Jan 23
Problem solving session.
Problems for Chapters 1 and 2.
No problems for Chapter 3 will be discussed.
Jan 28
Chapter 3, Volume 2. Charges in electromagnetic field
Sections 17, 23, 24, 25, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.
Jan 30 -- No class
Snow day
Feb 4
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 26 - 31
Feb 6
Chapter 4, Volume 2. Electromagnetic field equations
Sections 32, 33, 35
Feb 11 -- No class
Snow day
Feb 13 -- No class
Snow day
Feb 18
Problem solving session.
Problems for Chapters 3 and 4
Feb 25
10:00 AM - Chapter 5, Volume 2. Constant electromagnetic fields
Sections 36-40. Note additional homework assignments.
11:15 AM, Chapter 5, Volume 2. Constant electromagnetic fields
Sections 41-44. Note additional homework assignments.
Feb 26
11:30 AM, Chapter 6, Volume 2. Electromagnetic waves
All sections
12:45 AM: Problem solving session
Chapter 5
Come ready with your own questions, preparing for Test 1
Feb 27
10:00 AM Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Sections 53-57.
11:15 AM, Chapter 7, Volume 2. Propagation of light
Sections 58-61.
Mar 3 -- Exam 1 distributed; due Mar 7, 10 AM
Chapters 1-5 will be tested
Mar 4, 6 -- no class (APS March Meeting)
Mar 11, 13 -- no class (spring break)
Mar 18
Exam solutions.
Catch-up, unfinished sections.
Mar 20
Problem solving session.
Problems for Chapters 6 and 7
Mar 25
Chapter 8, Volume 2. The field of moving charges
Sections 62-64.
Mar 26
Chapter 9, Volume 2. Radiation of electromagnetic waves
Sections 66-67, 71.
Mar 27
Chapter 9, Volume 2. Radiation of electromagnetic waves
Sections 74, 75, 78, 79
Mar 28
In-class problem solving
Chapters 8 and 9
Apr 1
Midterm 2, chapters 6, 7, 8, 9.
Apr 3 -- student teaching
Midterm 2 solutions
Chapter 1, Volume 8. Electrostatics of conductors -- Thees, Michael
The following notes may be useful:,
Sections 1, 2, 3, 5
Apr 8 -- student teaching
Chapter 2, Volume 8. Electrostatics of dielectrics -- Villhauer, Elena
Sections 6, 7, 10 (only relations for energy/free energy of a field inside a dielectric, Eq. 10.15-10.16), 13, (17, 19 if time permits).
Chapter 3, Volume 8. Steady current -- Freeman, Ryan
Sec 21, 22, 23, 24, (26 if time permits).
Apr 10
In class problem solving
Chapters 1, 2,3
Apr 15 -- student teaching
Chapter 4, Volume 8. Static magnetic field -- Chen, Hao
Sec 29, 30, 31, 33, 34.
Chapter 5, Volume 8. Ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism -- Ma, Xiaolei
Sec 37, 39, 47, 48 (44, 46 if time permits).
Apr 17 -- student teaching
Waves in media
Sec 58, 59, 61, 62, 63 -- Nforneh, Benjamin
Sec 75, 77, 78, 83, 84 -- Shanshan, Li
Apr 22 -- student teaching
Sec 53-55 -- Rivera, Catalina
Sec 56-57 -- Zhang, Haoyu
Apr 24
Sec 107, 108, 110, (111 if time permits) -- Jorge Milan
In class problem solving
All remaining chapters.