Ben Schumacher works in the emerging field of quantum information theory, studying the surprising relationships between quantum mechanics, information theory, computation, thermodynamics and black hole physics.
Areas of Expertise
Quantum mechanics, information theory, computation, thermodynamics and black hole physics.
1990 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ Texas Austin
1982 — Bachelor of Arts from Hendrix College
Courses Recently Taught
In the early 17th century, Galileo's writings on physics and astronomy helped establish modern scientific thought. Three centuries later, Einstein's work on relativity and quantum theory helped transform it. The ideas of both men proved influential and ignited controversy far beyond the bounds of their scientific disciplines. In this class, we will read essential works by Galileo and Einstein (among others) and explore not only their discoveries, but also their wider views of nature and the human striving to understand her. What principles guide the scientific quest? Are there limits to scientific knowledge? What are the relationships between observation and imagination, between genius and ethics, between science and religion? This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Offered every other year.
"Rocket science" may be proverbial as a complex subject impossible for the ordinary person to understand, but in fact its essential principles are entirely accessible to any Kenyon student. Our course explores the basic concepts of rocket propulsion and spaceflight, including Newton's laws of motion, ballistics, aerodynamics, the physics and chemistry of rocket motors, orbital mechanics and beyond. Simple algebra, numerical calculations and data analysis help us apply the principles to real situations. We also delve into the history of astronautics, from the visionary speculations of Tsiolkovsky and Goddard to the missiles and space vehicles of today. Finally, we take a look at some of the developments in technology and space exploration that may lie just around the corner. In addition to the regular class meeting, there will be several evening and weekend lab sessions, during which we will design, build, test and fly model rockets powered by commercial solid-fuel engines. A willingness to build upon high school science and mathematics is expected. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.
Around us we see a vast, expanding universe of galaxies. The galaxies are composed of stars, some of which planets orbit. At least one of these planets in the universe is inhabited by an astoundingly complex set of living things. Where did all this come from? This course presents an overview of the formation and evolution of the universe, the solar system, planet Earth, and life on our planet. Astronomical observations, computer simulations and laboratory experiments will supplement lectures and readings. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.
This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of classical mechanics and electromagnetism, including motion, forces, fluid mechanics and conservation of energy and momentum. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques emphasize computerized acquisition and analysis of video images to study motion. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course does not count toward the physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in PHYS 130 (or PHYS 140 for sophomores enrolled in PHYS 140). Offered every fall.
This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of wave phenomena, geometrical and physical optics, elementary quantum theory, atomic physics, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear physics and thermodynamics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Students will continue to develop skills in computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course does not count toward the physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in PHYS 135. Offered every fall.
This lecture course is a continuation of the calculus-based introduction to physics, PHYS 140, and focuses on the physics of the 20th century. Topics include geometrical and wave optics, special relativity, photons, photon-electron interactions, elementary quantum theory (including wave-particle duality, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and the time-independent Schrödinger equation), atomic physics, solid-state physics, nuclear physics and elementary particles. PHYS 145 is recommended for students who might major in physics and is appropriate for students majoring in other sciences or mathematics, particularly those who are considering careers in engineering. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 140 and MATH 111 or permission of instructor and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 146 and MATH 112 or permission of department chair. Offered every spring.
This laboratory course is a corequisite for all students enrolled in PHYS 135 or 145. The course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments demonstrating the phenomena of waves, optics, X-rays, and atomic and nuclear physics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques include the use of lasers, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, optical spectroscopy, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data, as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 or 141 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 145. Offered every spring.
This lecture course is the third semester of the calculus-based introductory sequence in physics, which begins with PHYS 140 and PHYS 145. Topics include electric charge, electric and magnetic fields, electrostatic potentials, electromagnetic induction, Maxwell's equations in integral form, electromagnetic waves, the postulates of the special theory of relativity, relativistic kinematics and dynamics, and the connections between special relativity and electromagnetism. This course may be an appropriate first course for particularly strong students with advanced placement in physics; such students must be interviewed by and obtain permission from the chair of the Physics Department. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 140 or equivalent and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 241 (upperclass students) or PHYS 141 (first-years) and MATH 213 or equivalent. Offered every fall.
This course begins by revisiting most of the Newtonian mechanics learned in introductory physics courses but with added mathematical sophistication. A major part of the course will be spent understanding an alternate description to that of the Newtonian picture: the Lagrange-Hamilton formulation. The course will also cover the topics of motion in a central field, classical scattering theory, motion in non-inertial reference frames and dynamics of rigid body rotations. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 245 and MATH 213. Offered every other year.
From particle accelerators to galaxies and stars to the big bang, high-energy particle physics and astrophysics address the sciences' most fundamental questions. This course will cover topics of contemporary relevance from the combined fields of cosmology, astrophysics, phenomenological particle physics, relativity and field theory. Topics may include the big bang, cosmic inflation, the standard model of particle physics, an introduction to general relativity, and the structure and evolution of stars and galaxies’ stellar structure and galactic evolution. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 350 or permission of instructor. Offered every other year.
This course extends the formalism of quantum mechanics and applies it to a variety of physical systems. Topics covered may include atomic and molecular spectra, nuclear structure and reactions, NMR, scattering, perturbation theory, quantum optics, open system dynamics and quantum entanglement. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 360
This introduction to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics focuses on how microscopic physical processes give rise to macroscopic phenomena; that is, how, when averaged, the dynamics of atoms and molecules can explain the large-scale behavior of solids, liquids and gases. We extend the concept of conservation of energy to include thermal energy, or heat and develop the concept of entropy for use in determining equilibrium states. We then apply these concepts to a wide variety of physical systems, from steam engines to superfluids. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 245 and MATH 213. Offered every other year.
Section 01 (0.25 units): In this course students will conduct research, synthesize and share experiences, attend professional presentations in the department, and present their research with oral and written presentations. Students will complete a minimum of three hours of independent research under the supervision of a faculty member as well as participate in discussion sections and other commitments as designed by the instructor. This course does not count toward any major requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every semester.\n\nSection 02 (0.5 units): This section carries the same requirements as Section 01, except that the time commitment is six to eight hours of individual research under the supervision of a faculty member. This section represents a significant commitment to a research project. Enrollment in this section requires consultation with the department chair. This course does not count toward any major requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every semester.