Intended Learning Outcomes for Physics II (8.02)

Course Instructor: Professor John Belcher, Physics Department

Course Overview

Electromagnetism I is an introduction to electromagnetic fields and forces. Electromagnetic forces quite literally dominate our everyday experience. The reason you do not fall through the floor to the center of the earth as you are reading this is because you are floating on (and held together by) electrostatic force fields. However, we are unaware of this in a visceral way, in large part because electromagnetic forces are so enormously strong, 1040 times stronger than gravity.

Because of the strength of electromagnetic forces, any small imbalance in net electric charge gives rise to enormous forces that act to try to erase that imbalance. Thus in our everyday experience, matter is by and large electrically neutral, and our direct experience with electromagnetic phenomena is disguised by many subtleties associated with that neutrality. This is very unlike our direct experience with gravitational forces, which is straightforward and unambiguous.

The intended learning outcomes of this course are to tease out the laws of electromagnetism from our everyday experience by specific examples of how electromagnetic phenomena manifest themselves. We want to be able:

  1. to describe, in words, the ways in which various concepts in electromagnetism come into play in particular situations;
  2. to represent these electromagnetic phenomena and fields mathematically in those situations;
  3. to predict outcomes in other similar situations.

The overall goal is to use the scientific method to come to understand the enormous variety of electromagnetic phenomena in terms of a few relatively simple laws.