Sound, Light, and Perception

Light and sound allow us to perceive the world around us, from appreciating music and art to learning the details of atomic structure. Because of their importance in human experience, light and sound have long been the subject of scientific inquiry. How are sound and light related? How do physiology and neural processing allow us to hear and see the world around us? What are the origins of color and musical pitch? This course introduces the science and technology of light and sound to students not majoring in physics. We will start with the origins of sound and light as wave phenomena, and go on to topics including color, the optics of vision, the meaning of musical pitch and tone, and the physical basis of hearing. We will also discuss some recent technological applications of light, such as lasers and optical communications. The class will meet for two 75-minute periods each week for a variable mixture of lecture, discussion, and hands-on, interactive experiments.

Format: mixed lecture/lab/discussion, three hours per week, plus occasional brief tutorial-like meetings.
Evaluation will be based on class participation, 7 problem sets, in-class exams, oral presentations, and a final exam, all with a quantitative component.
No prerequisites.
Enrollment limit: 19 (expected: 19). This is a quantitative/formal reasoning course.