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 SCI 121 - Introduction to Physics and Chemistry


This course provides an introduction to Physics and Chemistry, with an emphasis on the first one. The course starts with Newton’s laws governing the motion of objects. Well-known concepts such as work, kinetic energy and potential energy will be explained in a more precise manner. For conservative force fields these concepts will amount to the conservation of mechanical energy, which is one of the most powerful tools to describe the world around us. Newton’s laws tell us in what cases the linear momentum of a moving object is conserved (that is the case in the absence of a net external force). Similar laws can be derived for a rotating object, such as the Earth rotating around the Sun. This requires two new quantities; torque or the moment of a force, and angular momentum. Conservation of angular momentum explains why the Earth orbits around the Sun in a plane. As we will see further on in this course, angular momentum plays a fundamental role in quantum mechanics of atoms. Before making the step to Quantum Mechanics, it is necessary to discuss wave motion and how waves can interfere with each other, resulting in standing waves or in diffraction patterns. Wave motion is governed by the wave equation, which we will derive for a wave propagating along a string. Clear understanding of these classical phenomena is required in order to be able to grasp Quantum Mechanics.

The discussion on Quantum Mechanics will start with a historical overview; in order to describe black body radiation Max Planck proposed that energy comes in small little packages, in other words that energy is quantized. Albert Einstein proposed the existence of light particles, photons, in order to explain the photoelectric effect. Light has a wave character, but, apparently, light also has a particle character. This particle wave-duality was generalized by Louis de Broglie, who proposed the existence of matter waves. These concepts amount to the Heisenberg uncertainty relations, stating that it is not possible to measure simultaneously with infinitesimal precision the position and momentum of an object. In Quantum Mechanics, the motion of objects will be described in terms of wave functions, which represent a probability density function. Clas​sical physics is deterministic, we can predict what will happen. In Quantum Mechanics, on the contrary, we can only say what the probability is of an event. The tool to find the wave functions is the Schrödinger equation, which will be solved for some simple examples.

Next, we will study the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom, and we will make some steps in solving the Schrödinger equation for the hydrogen atom. Using the Pauli Exclusion Principle, we can add electrons to the atoms and built the Periodic Table of Elements. The concepts we will learn from the solution of the Schrödinger equation will give us understanding of the Periodic Table of Elements. The remainder of the course will be an introduction to Chemistry. Our starting point is the Periodic Table of Elements. We will study in detail the various chemical properties of the elements. The next step is to study how molecules are formed from atoms. We will discuss different chemical bonds, and we will study how we can determine the shape of molecules. 

Dr. Ir. Richard van den Doel



The following course is required in order to take this course:

  • SCI 111 Mathematical Ideas and Methods in Contexts

Required for
This course is required in order to take the following courses:

  • SCI 221 Electromagnetism
  • SCI 222 Physical Chemistry