Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics
Situated at the intersection of physics and philosophy, Kaća’s research is focused on foundational questions of the physical interpretation of the mathematical formulations of gauge theories of gravity, and particularly on the role of conformal and projective structures.
Kaća’s artistic work explores the use of metaphor as means of understanding the relations among physical, intellectual, and emotional spaces. A project of note is Projections, a series of paintings based on impressions of academic talks.
Prior to coming to Hampshire College, she taught at Wellesley College and Boston University. More details about her work can be found at www.kacabradonjic.com.
What are the basic features of reality? Where and when do these things exist? How and why do they change? This course will explore the ways that physicists and philosophers have answered these questions and have dealt with reconciling incompatible perspectives. Students will engage these questions through reading, writing, observation, mathematical problem-solving, art-making, and active discussion. We will use high school algebra and graphs to understand the fundamentals of Einstein's special theory of relativity and quantum mechanics; and we will consider philosophical theories about the nature of reality, time, space, and change through texts by Western and non-Western philosophers. Along the way, we will ask: How do we decide what is real? Does observation take precedence over theory (or vice versa)? What role do models and imagination play in this inquiry? What are the structures of authority that legitimize scientific and philosophical claims? No prior exposure to physics or philosophy is required.
Fundamental forces of electricity and magnetism govern the interactions of atoms and molecules, and consequently most of macroscopic processes, from biological to astrophysical. Practical applications of electromagnetic theory include electric motors, generators, communication systems, telescopes, and medical diagnostic tools, such as EKG and MRI. Physics II is a calculus-based introductory course on electromagnetic theory and covers topics such as electromagnetic induction, electric circuits, and basic optics, both physical and geometric. The course will approach these topics in the active-learning style, in which hands-on lab activities are integrated with problem-solving sessions and mini-lectures. It is aimed at all students seeking the basic understanding of the electromagnetic theory, and particularly at those on a premed track or focusing on any of the physical sciences. Readings and written work will be assigned for each class.
This course will explore the concept of color and its use in the visual arts from the perspective of a physicist. We will cover the basics of wave mechanics and the electromagnetic theory needed to describe light as an electromagnetic wave, the absorption and emission of light through quantum-mechanical processes and basic optics. We will then explore the relation between these physical principles and the fundamentals of color theory and its application in painting. Among other things, we will study the physics of additive and subtractive color mixing: the basics of saturation, hue and brightness: the mechanisms by which the perception of color emerges from the interaction of light with the retina and the processing of the resulting neural signals in the brain. The course will be of interest to students with either science or art concentrations who are interested in the interplay between the two. High school algebra and trigonometry will be reviewed and used throughout the course. Readings and written work will be assigned for each class.
Physics I covers the fundamental principles of physics by teaching quantum mechanics, while emphasizing the correspondence to classical physics. The topics will include the essence of measurement, properties of elementary constituents of Nature (particles and probability waves), mechanics (motion and its causes), and fundamental interactions. Special focus will be placed on general principles, such as the conservation laws (energy, linear and angular momentum, spin) and the superposition principle. Students will approach these topics in an active-learning style, wherein hands-on lab activities are integrated with problem-solving sessions and mini-lectures. The course aims itself at all who seek a basic understanding of the fundamental laws of physics, including students on pre-professional track, students who focus on physical or mathematical sciences, and students who have philosophical interests in quantum mechanics. Readings and written work will be assigned for each class.
Physics II is a calculus-based physics course that covers thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and electromagnetism at a basic level. Project-like labs look at the thermodynamics of Nitinol, building circuits with operational amplifiers and measuring environmental electric fields.
The Science of Space and Time : What are space and time? This course will follow the evolution of the scientific understanding of these concepts which are so fundamental to our experience of the world and of ourselves. Our journey will trace the intellectual paths of physicists who grappled with these questions, including Newton and Einstein, taking us from the conceptions of space and time familiar from our daily experiences to the modern understanding of four-dimensional spacetime as described by the special theory of relativity. Occasionally we will look for insights from philosophers and for inspiration from writers and artist. Since mathematics is the language of physics, we will use basic high school algebra and graphs. No prior exposure to physics is necessary. This course is best suited for students so fascinated with the ideas of space and time that they are willing to grapple with abstract concepts and sometimes tedious algebra in order to gain a basic, but genuine understanding of special relativity.
Modern Physics encompasses the major discoveries made in the early 20th century, which can be broadly divided into relativity and quantum mechanics. This course is a survey introduction to the special theory of relativity, the development of quantum theories of matter, light and their interactions, and the application of these theories to atomic, nuclear, and solid state physics. The topics covered will include special-relativistic mechanics, the atomic structure of matter, black body radiation, photo-electric efect, particle-wave duality, Schrodinger equation in one and three dimensions, and electron spin. The course is essential for students intending to pursue advanced physics courses on these topics and would be of interest to science students who want to gain a basic understanding of the foundations of modern physics.