PHYS208 is a calculus-based course on introductory topics in electromagnetism, and represents a continuation of PHYS207 course focused on classical mechanics. The honors section is intended for highly motivated students seeking a challenging and invigorating introduction to physics.

What is Electromagnetism?

Electromagnetism is the subfield of classical physics which studies electric charges, currents, and, most importantly, electromagnetic field. This field permeates space, carries energy and momentum, and exerts a force on particles that possess electric charge, while it is in turn affected by the presence and motion of those particles. A changing magnetic field produces an electric field (this is the phenomenon of electromagnetic induction, which underlies the operation of electrical generators, induction motors, and transformers). Similarly, a changing electric field generates a magnetic field.

Because of this interdependence of the electric and magnetic fields, it makes sense to consider them as a single, theoretically coherent entity—the electromagnetic field. This unification, completed by James Clerk Maxwell through Maxwell equations, is one of the triumphs of 19th century physics. Maxwell's equations have far-reaching consequences, one of which was the elucidation of the nature of light: as it turns out, what is thought of as "light" is actually a propagating oscillatory disturbance in the electromagnetic field, i.e., an electromagnetic wave. Different frequencies of oscillation give rise to the different forms of electromagnetic radiation, from radio waves at the lowest frequencies, to visible light at intermediate frequencies, to gamma rays at the highest frequencies. The connection between mechanics and electromagnetism is supplied by the Lorentz law giving the force on a charged (moving) particle. Finally, the theoretical implications of electromagnetism led to the development of special relativity by Albert Einstein in 1905.