Alejandro Satz

Undergraduate Discipline

Physics

BS, MS, University of Buenos Aires. PhD, University of Nottingham (UK). Research focus on quantum field theory and semiclassical gravity. Current research involves formulating notions of entanglement entropy and informational content for a discrete subset of quantum field observables and applying them in cosmology, black-hole physics, and quantum gravity. Previously researched and taught at Penn State University. SLC, 2017–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Physics

Quantum Mechanics

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisites: Students must have completed one year of calculus, as well as one year of general physics.

Quantum mechanics, which describes physics at small scales, requires an entirely different set of principles, concepts, and mathematical techniques than the classical physics covered in introductory courses. In this course, we will introduce the basic principles of quantum theory and discuss their applications in atomic and subatomic physics—including, among others, the meaning and computation of particle wave functions, the energy levels of atoms, and the properties of quantum angular momentum (spin). This is an intermediate course recommended for students interested in pursuing physics, physical chemistry, or engineering.

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The Quantum World

Open , Seminar—Fall

Quantum physics revolutionized our understanding of the physical world almost a century ago, and today concepts from it (“Schroedinger’s cat,” “Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle,” “parallel universes,” “entanglement”) can be found all over popular culture—often in confused and distorted ways. In this open course, we will explore the true meaning of quantum theory in a way that does not require physics or mathematics prerequisites. The course will cover the historical process that led to the development of quantum physics, the conceptual meaning of the theory, the ways it is applied in modern physics and technology, and the ongoing philosophical debates about its implications for the nature of reality.

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Introduction to Electromagnetism, Light, and Modern Physics (General Physics Without Calculus)

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Calculus is not a requirement for this course. Students should have had at least one semester of physics (mechanics).

This course covers electromagnetism and optics, as well as selected topics in modern physics. Students considering careers in the health sciences, as well as those interested in physics for physics’ sake, should take either this course or Classical Mechanics. Emphasis will be placed on scientific skills, including problem-solving, development of physical intuition, scientific communication, use of technology, and development and execution of experiments. Seminars will incorporate discussion and exploratory and problem-solving activities. In addition, the class will meet weekly to conduct laboratory work. A background in calculus is not required.

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Introduction to Mechanics (General Physics Without Calculus)

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course or equivalent is required to take Introduction to Electromagnetism, Light, and Modern Physics (General Physics Without Calculus) in the spring.

This course covers introductory classical mechanics, including dynamics, kinematics, momentum, energy, and gravity. Students considering careers in architecture or the health sciences, as well as those interested in physics for physics’ sake, should take either this course or Classical Mechanics. Emphasis will be placed on scientific skills, including problem-solving, development of physical intuition, scientific communication, use of technology, and development and execution of experiments. Seminars will incorporate discussion, exploratory activities, and problem-solving activities. In addition, the class will meet weekly to conduct laboratory work. A background in calculus is not required.

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Previous Courses

Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Students must have completed one year of calculus, as well as one year of general physics and/or general chemistry.

What does a thermometer measure? How does a fridge work? How do materials react to the application of heat or magnetism? In this course, we will introduce an array of concepts—such as temperature, entropy, and internal energy—with which these and similar questions can be addressed. We will cover the laws satisfied by these quantities (thermodynamics), their grounding on the statistical properties of large collections of particles (statistical mechanics), and their applications through various topics in physics, chemistry, and engineering. Seminars will include a mixture of discussion and mathematical problem solving. This is a standard intermediate course for students interested in pursuing physics, physical chemistry, or engineering.

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Space, Time, and the Universe

Open , Seminar—Fall
What are space and time? Are they absolute or relative? What is the broad description of the universe, and what are its origin and fate? This course will explore these perennial philosophical questions through the lens of physics and cosmology. The presentation will be primarily conceptual and will not require previous background in physics or mathematics beyond algebra. Topics covered will include the cosmological frameworks and conceptions of space and time in ancient, medieval, and Newtonian science; the experimental and conceptual challenges that led Einstein to the theory of special relativity; the merging of space and time into spacetime; and the relation between gravity and the geometry of spacetime described by general relativity. Finally, we will discuss the current Big Bang cosmological model, the evidence for it, and the open problems in the field. Seminars will incorporate discussion and some problem-solving activities.
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