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Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics

Kaća Bradonjić

Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics

Natural Science

kbNS@hampshire.edu

Mail Code NS

Kaca Bradonjic

Cole Science Center 306

413.559.6211

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.

- The Science of Space and Time
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
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.

- Physics of Color
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.

- Thermal Physics
Physical processes are governed by the laws of thermodynamics, which deal with macroscopic phenomena such as temperature, heat, pressure, and volume. These can in turn be explained with statistical mechanics, which describes them in terms of motions and interactions or atoms and molecules. This course will provide an introduction to both thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, using biological and chemical processes as motivating examples. The topics will include the relation between work, energy, and heat; conservation of energy; phase transitions; the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics; kinetic theory of gases; and entropy. The course is best suited for students of physics, biology, chemistry, and environmental science, as well as math students who want to solidify their understanding of calculus and probability theory through applications. Problem sets will be assigned weekly.

- Science in a Cultural Context
In this course we will develop an understanding of scientific inquiry and its methods as a human activity, inextricably linked to the cultural context in which it unfolds. By examining some of the major scientific revolutions in physics, we will ask: What kinds of truths do the sciences produce and how? What is the role of data and technology in the making of scientific progress? What is the interaction between the sciences and other aspects of culture, such as politics, religion, and the arts? What kind of a person is a scientist and how does that depend on the time and place? We will seek the answers by collaboratively studying a variety of sources, including historical documents; scholarly works of historians, philosophers, and other types of scholars; and both scientific and reflective writings of scientists themselves. This course will be accessible to all students who are interested in how scientific inquiry fits into the historical and contemporary cultural contexts. This is a reading- and writing-intensive course and written work will be assigned for each class.

- Physics of Color in the Context of the Visual Arts
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 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 physics basis 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.

- Symmetries of Nature: An Introduction to Group Theory
Motivated by geometric symmetries found in nature, such as rotational symmetry of snowflakes and bilateral symmetry of some animals, this course will introduce the mathematical foundations of the branch of mathematics known as group theory. Group theory, among other things, allows us to describe symmetries of an object in terms of operations, such as rotations, which leave the object unchanged. The course is divided into three parts. In the first part we introduce the basic definition of a group by considering symmetries observed in nature. In the second part we will study the formal structure of some special groups, such as rotations and inversion in three-dimensional Euclidean space, the distinction between abelian and non-abelian groups, the notion of a subgroup, etc. The third part is reserved for special topics on applications of group theory to physics (crystallography, particle physics, relativity, etc.) in the form of group projects. The course is best suited for students with concentrations in math and physical sciences, but will be accessible to anyone with a general interest in the subject. Knowledge of linear algebra will be useful but is not required. Readings and written work will be assigned for each class.