Ronald Brown

Professor of Physics, Emeritus

Physics Department
Cal Poly
San Luis Obispo

Last updated:  April 15, 2015


Phone  Dept. Office - 756-2448

Current and Recent Courses
Physics 122 - General Physics   Fall 2014

Physics 132 - General Physics   Fall 2014

Physics 141 - General Physics   Winter  2015     

Previously Taught Courses

Phys 412 - Solid State Physics 

Phys 413 - Advanced Topics in Solid State Physics 

Text:  SOLID STATE PHYSICS - An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers , Ronald Brown, El Corral (2008)

Brief Resume
Some essays, presentations, and thoughts

Interesting Links

PhysicsCentral - A great link to some interesting physics related ideas by the American Physical Society

Semiconducting Devices - Visualizations and theory of semiconducting devices.

Superconductors - An amazing link to the superconductor world.

Astronomy Picture of the Day


I think we should teach them wonders and that the purpose of knowledge is to appreciate the wonders even more - and that the knowledge is just to put into correct framework the wonder that nature is. - Richard Feynman

If we teach only the findings and products of science - no matter how useful and even inspiring they may be - without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience? The method of science is far more important than the findings of science. - Carl Sagan

Physics 141 - General Physics: Mechanics –

An introductory calculus-based course in classical mechanics. Topics include the description of motion, Newton's laws, the concepts of work and energy, impulse and momentum, and torque and angular momentum and the three conservation laws (energy, momentum, and angular momentum) that characterize the motions of objects and the principles that govern their motion.

Text: PHYSICS For Scientists and Engineers by Randall Knight
Supplement: Physics 141 - SUPPLEMENTAL NOTES AND PROBLEMS - Ronald Brown (El Corral)

Physics 132 - General Physics II: Oscillations and Waves, Thermo, Optics
The second course in the General Physics sequence. This course extends the ideas of Newton's laws and energy concepts to oscillations and waves, including sound. The principles of thermodynamics and of optics will also be covered. (It is almost like three short courses, rather than the continuous thread of related topics that was encountered in Phys 131/141.) The textbook is the same as in Phys 131/141 - PHYSICS For Scientists and Engineers by Randall Knight

Supplement: Physics 132 - SUPPLEMENTAL NOTES AND PROBLEMS by Ronald Brown (El Corral)

Physics 412 - Introduction to Solid State Physics  
Topics in this course include some introduction to quantum theory, the basic structure of crystalline solids, atomic vibrations and heat capacity, electronic properties of metals and semiconductors, and some semiconductor device theory. It is a good course for students of physics, materials science or engineering, and electronics engineering. Prerequisite to the course is some introduction to the quantum theory (as in Phys 211, MATE 409, or a good course in physical chemistry).

The course covers the first seven chapters in SOLID STATE PHYSICS - An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers.

Physics 413 - Advanced Topics in Solid State Physics
Semiconductor devices. Magnetism. Superconductivity andsuperfluidity. A course that extends the ideas of the introductorysolid state physics course to the description of the characteristicsand operation of semiconductor devices, the properties of magneticmaterials and the theory of magnetism, and the properties andcharacteristics of superconducting materials, the theory ofsuperconductivity and how the ideas relate to superfluidity. Thecourse covers the last three chapters in the Physics 412 textbook. There will be many links to interesting topics in the current literature - all dependent on topics covered in the course material itself.

NOTE: This course is usually offered in alternate years, and was last offered Winter 2007 and will be offered Winter 2009 if there is sufficient interest and enrollment.

 Some Essays, Presentations, and Thoughts

  • "Great Ideas that have Changed our Worldview" - Science is ultimately about ideas - and some of those ideas have changed the way we view our universe.
  • "Truth" - We claim to teach the Truth - but, in fact, we parcel out the truth in tiny increments.
  • "Science at the University" The role of science at the university includes, of course, both teaching the principles and methods of the discipline and participating in the scientific enterprise, but also articulating what is current - making the most sophisiticated new ideas in science accessible.
  • "The Nature of Solids". An introduction to the study of solid state physics.
  • "Demonstrating Magnetic Levitation AND Persistent Currents" Levitating a small magnet above a superconducting disk has become a standard demonstration of the Meissner effect. But with a simple extension of the demo, one can also show the persistent current associated with zero resistance.
  • "What Would Happen If You Dropped a Magnet Down a Superconducting Tube?"  A question posed to Richard Feynman in 1987, the discussion that followed, and the physics behind his exuberant "Of course!" when the answer was revealed.
  • "Soccerballs and Superfluids" The 1996 Nobel prizes in Chemistry and Physics as grand discoveries in condensed matter.
  • "Five Short Stories On Teaching" Personal vignettes about teaching -including my only two encounters with Richard Feynman.
  • "October 4,1957" A personal reminiscence about one of the defining moments in science education in this half century.
  • "Some Thoughts on Educational Quality"The role of the university.
  • "On Studying and Doing Science" Science as a puzzle.
  • "How the Universe Works" Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics.
  • "Moment of Inertia in Golf Club Design"  An overview of the concept and application to golf club design.
  • "My Life in Golf - Thoughts and Recollections"  A brief history of my involvement in golf - the game and how it has changed.
  • "Holes in One - and near misses"  The odds of making a hole in one.
  • This collection of thoughts – quotations and original essays (including most of those listed above) – are generally about science and physics in particular and about education and my own thoughts about those two endeavors.

  • "On Caregiving for Adults with Brain Disease - Our Story"  What I learned about caregiving during my wife's twenty month battle with cancer

  • "LESLIE'S JOURNEY"  A story of life, courage, and grace as she fought an aggressively malignant glioblastoma multiforme.


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