University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Phys 4303.001

Electrodynamics and Waves

Syllabus (August 18 version)
modified 18-Sep-2017 at 4:14PM by Oriol T. Valls



Physics 4303 provides students with
a broader knowledge of electromagnetism, going beyond 4202, including electromagnetic
wave propagation and related Special Relativity.
This course has recently been made mandatory for Physics majors
on the "graduate school" track, and is recommended for all
other majors. However, it is not yet mandatory for students
who began their major before this requirement was added.

This Syllabus includes important information about the course: students
are responsible for knowing its contents and should read it thoroughly.


PHYS 4202 or its equivalent is obviously a prerequisite. Knowledge
of elementary Special Relativity at the level of PHYS 2503 is
also expected. It is desirable that students be familiar with Classical
and Quantum Mechanics at the 4-level, but this is not required.
Knowledge of mathematical techniques at the usual level
for an upper division Physics student is expected, including
Calculus, Linear Algebra and simple differential equations. Knowledge
of Fourier analysis would be very useful. Some more
advanced mathematics may be introduced in the course itself. Some
knowledge of programming (C++, Fortran) or symbolic (Mathlab, Mathematica...)
languages will be useful, but no sophistication in these things is expected.

Students contemplating taking the course who are not sure
they have the background, or who formally are lacking any
prerequisite should consult with the Instructor. Special permissions will be
very liberally granted to all willing to do some extra work.


The homework is the fundamental tool you have to learn the problem solving
skills that you need to really understand Electromagnetism. Nobody ever learned Physics by talking about it. Basically
all of your grade (as you will see below) will be assigned based on
problem solving. If you think you understand the book and the lectures but
cannot solve the problems, then you do not really understand the material.
On the other hand, attempting to solve the problems will help you a lot
in reaching a true understanding of the material.

Homework will be assigned weekly every Monday, and be due one week after.
No late homework will be ever accepted. .
If illness or other valid reason prevents you from doing a set, an adjustment
will be made in the denominator of your homework percentage.
Sample solutions will be posted at the course
web site (see below). Homework will be graded.

You should feel free to work with other people on the homework, as an
informal group. You must hand in your own individual
solutions however, reflecting your own understanding of the problem, correct or not.
In group situations, make absolutely sure that you pull your
own weight and that you understand everything on your own terms. By the
same token, be ruthless to expel any freeloaders from the group, if there
should be any: you'll be doing them a favor in the long run. Remember that
ultimately your grade basically depends on your ability to solve problems

Attempting all the homework is so important that the grade formula for
the course, as explained below, makes it essentially mandatory. "Attempting"
is not at all the same as "solving correctly": it means trying to.

Handing in solutions copied from another person, or found in the web, would,
be, besides cheating, evidence of lack of interest
in learning, and of inability to keep minimum professional standards:
it would be dealt with accordingly with great severity.

The assigned homework is the minimum amount of practice exercises students
should do. All are encouraged to solve as many additional problems (from
the book or other sources) as possible.


Lectures are MWF at 13:25 in room Tate B55. Attendance is recommended.
There are instructor office hours in Tate 130-25 on MW 2:15 to 3:15
and TA (Menxing Ye) office hours at the same time on Fridays, room Tate 201-03


The official textbook for the course is Griffiths, "Introduction
to Electrodynamics", fourth edition. You probably own a copy from 4202.
If you do not, buy one. If you are broke find a
used copy of a previous edition (but note that numbering of equations and
problems may be inconsistent). You should count on keeping this book
after the course, do not resell it: workers do not sell their good tools.

The textbook is deceptively thin: many steps are skipped (some of those
will be covered in the lectures) and students are expected to work them out on
their own: do so. You may find this difficult at first, but in the long run
it'll be good for you. The textbook will be followed relatively
closely, but not slavishly so. Examples as in the book, or
similar ones, will be discussed in class.

If you can, buy also another book for extra reference. No specific 'second
book' can be recommended for everybody. The rule is:
if you find yourself always borrowing the same book from a friend, or
the Library, because you like the explanations in that book better than
Griffith's, then you should buy your own copy.
There are many other Electromagnetism books; just do a google
search. They are of various levels
of difficulty. Jackson and Panofsky&Philips are graduate level. Saslow's
is more elementary than Griffiths and has many interesting insights.
Keep also handy your 2503 book in case you have to review
anything. The same goes for your math books. Also, you need to look
up integrals, series, or special function properties. Do not waste time
doing computations for which you can look up the answer. If you have access to
a symbolic package such as Mathematica, these are built-in. In hard copy, the
Gradshtein-Ryzhik "Tables" and the Abramowitz-Stegun "Handbook of special
functions" are the holy writ.


We will cover Electromagnetism, Electromagnetic
wave propagation beyond PHYS 4002 and Special Relativity beyond 2503:
basically, the textbook after Chapter 7. We will do relativity earlier
than its place in the book. There will be a little more emphasis
than in the book on the properties of actual materials as opposed to
'in vacuum' electromagnetism.

Always read, before a lecture, the material in the book that you expect
will be covered in that lecture. You should expect to find some parts
too difficult to understand on your own: that's where you must pay
extra attention, and ask questions, during the next lecture. Take notes
in class and read and edit them within 24 hours: this transfers information
from your short-term memory to long-term.

Attending the lectures is not mandatory, but you are responsible for
all material covered in them, whether or not it is in the book.


There will be a one-hour midterm, now set for Wednesday Nov 1,
and a three-hour final on Dec 18, 8:30-11:30, a date and time
mandated by the University. A make up final will be given only in
the cases where it is strictly required by University rules. There will be no
midterm make up: students having a legitimate excuse as per University rules
will have the denominators of their exam percentage adjusted properly.

All exam questions will be problems, with a range of difficulty and
scope similar to that in the homework.


The grades will be determined by two factors:

The regular portion of the grade, R, will be composed of: successful homework
solutions (30% weight), the midterm (30% weight) and the final (40%
weight). R is expressed as a percentage.

The second, participation, P, grade will be computed as
follows: 80% from the number of homework problems you have seriously
attempted (seriously attempted means you have handed in
a solution showing substantial work, even if your solution was 100% wrong)
and 20% from your class participation (asking questions etc) as judged by the
instructor. A diligent student should find it rather easy to get
a P near 100%.

The overall grade T is determined by the square root of P times R.
T=sqrt(R*P). This means for example, that a student getting P=1 (100%) which
is quite doable, and a regular "exams and homework" grade of 64% (a C
according to the formula below) would have
it transformed into 80% (a B/B+). Students
not attempting any homework are guaranteed an F.

Letter grades will be based on overall grade T with 5% intervals corresponding
to +/- increments, that is 15% increments corresponding to every letter.
Thus, you need 40% to get a D-, 55% to get C-, 70% to get B-, 85% to get A-.
This scheme awards A+ to students getting 95% or higher. The University, for
some bizarre reason, does not recognize the A+ grade, students earning one will
have a plain A in their official transcripts, but will receive a
congratulatory email from
the Instructor (which they can frame if they wish). Students
taking the course on an S/F basis must earn at least a C-, a D level grade
is not satisfactory.


The web site of the course is at: 4303.001/index.html
Brief solutions to each homework set will be posted at the web site.
Other information about the course will be posted

Students should periodically check the site, as they are responsible
for knowing the course announcements and other information posted.


No cheating or other unprofessional behavior will be tolerated. The minimum
penalty for cheating is an automatic F for the course. All cases will be
considered for whatever maximum the Supreme Court allows.


For anything not covered above, all relevant University Policies will be
followed. A very comprehensive index of such policies is at