Why do the homework?
Since you're sophomores and juniors, you've all figured this out by now.
But, I'll say it anyway...
I can't emphasize enough the importance of working the problems. In some of your classes homework is primarily evaluative; the point is for you to demonstrate what you've learned from the readings and lectures. In physics the homeworks are primarily instructional; you learn physics primarily by doing working problems. You must work the problems, think about the results, and understand any mistakes you've made if you wish to attain the type of understanding of the subject required of a working physicist. In at nutshell: If you can't work problems you don't know physics. I (or a grader) will grade the problems, and I'll hand out solutions. I encourage you to read the solutions and understand any mistakes immediately. If something doesn't make sense, ask me about it right awaydon't wait until right before an exam.
Homework extensions
If you've got a good reason why you need an extension,
come talk to me in advance. I'll usually grant the extension
for some additional reasonable amount of time that we agree upon.
However,
I will not grant a homework extension without penalty if you ask for
it on the day the homework is due, so don't ask for one.
In general,
life will be easier for both of us if you do
your best to finish the problem set on time and hand
in as much as you've been able to complete by the deadline.
[If you need such a lastminute or postfacto extension due
to extenuating circumstances (e.g. death in the family, sudden
illness, travel problem), consult the Dean of Students
or your Class Dean formally make such a request to me and suggest
a rescheduled due date. You should also take this route if you
need an extension but you don't want to tell me why (say, it's for
personal or legal reasons). If you explain your reason to a Dean
and the Dean tells me it's OK, that's good enough for me.]
The College requires that all written work for a course except for a final be submitted by 5 pm on the last day of classes. The physics department takes this deadline seriously. After that day/time, no homework will be accepted.
The roles of lectures and textbooks
Lecture will not be a regurgitation of the text, a summary of all
you need to know for the course, or a howto guide for the homework.
Rather, I'll try delve deeper into selected points.
In lecture I'll cover material and do demonstrations
related to the readings, but I won't feel obliged to
be comprehensive in those places where I feel the text is adequate
and I may focus only on a few points that I feel are particularly
interesting or subtle. You shouldn't expect to understand what's
going on without close study of the readings, and you
should come to class with questions you have
on the readings. Further, after we settle into the semester
a bit, I expect the classes will become less lectureoriented
and more participatory; it will be difficult to reap
the maximum benefit from that format if you're not
sufficiently prepared to fully participate.
For the problems you can't solve, talk to classmates, attend the problem sessions, or ask me. When you ask me, either try to give you just enough of a hint to get you through, or I'll guide you through the problem with a series of leading questions. I'll never just tell you how to do it. If you run out of time and don't finish the set, start earlier next week. When the solutions come out, look over them right away, before you've forgotten all of the points you were confused about. You think you'll just get clear on it before the next exam, but there's never as much time as you think.
On the other hand, if you find the class too slow for your liking, if you have questions that you aren't getting answers to, if you'd like more detail, if you are frustrated that we aren't digging deeply enough, if you crave more applications, come talk to me. I'm very happy to provide you with additional materials or explanations that will will stimulate you and challenge you at whatever level you can handle.
One word of warning: Amherst College students tend to have lots of extracurriculars of all types. I support this, and I am occasionally willing to be flexible to facilitate your participation in range of activities, but don't let your extracurriculars overshadow your academics. If you become concerned that your courses are getting in the way of your extracurriculars, you've got the wrong mindset. Remember why you're here.
Mathematica Tutorials
We may use Mathematica in the homework,
to obtain numerical solutions to problems that are not
analytically solvable and to simplify plotting of results.
If you've never used Mathematica before, or haven't used it much,
the tutorials will help you get started.
They were written by Professor Emeritus Bob Hilborn and revised by
Rebecca Erwin '02. If you download the file and save it to the
desktop with a .nb suffix in the name, your computer will recognize it
as a Mathematica notebook and will start up Mathematica automatically
when you doubleclick on the icon,
provided you have Mathematica installed. Mathematica is installed on
lots of the college's public machines, including
on the computers in the Physics
Department computer lab. Alternately, you can pay the $140 or so
to buy the student version.
Week  Notes  Hmwk  Other 
1. January 23  Jan 23: Course Organization / Overview Course organization. Overview of the subject. Relation between statistical mechanics and thermodynamics. Jan 25: title topics Jan 27: title topics 
Read: G&T, Chap. 1 
The text of this book is available for free on the web. See the compadre website, http://www.compadre.org/STP/filingcabinet/share.cfm?UID=10986 
2. January 30  Jan 30: title Feb 1: title topics Feb 3: title topics 
Read: G&T, Chap. 2, sections 2.12.5 PS 1: G&T: 1.1 (you may omit parts (d) and (e)), 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.8, 1.10, 1.25 [due Friday February 3, 2012, 10:00 pm] 

3. February 6  Feb 6: title topics Feb 8: title topics Feb 10: title topics 
Read: G&T, Chap. 2, sections 2.62.18 PS 2: G&T, Problems 2.13, 2.17, 2.47, 2.51, 2.53, 2.56, 2.57 [due Friday February 10, 2012, 10:00 pm] 

4. February 13  Feb 13: title topics Feb 15: title topics Feb 17: title topics 
Read: G&T, Chap. 2, up through sec. 2.20, and also sec. 2.24 PS 3: G&T, Problems 2.19, 2.20, 2.21, 2.23, 2.24, 2.54, 2.55, 2.63 [due Friday February 17, 2012, 10:00 pm] 

5. February 20  Feb 20: title topics Feb 22: title topics Feb 24: title topics 
Read: G&T, Chap. 2, up through sec. 2.20, and also sec. 2.24 PS 4: G&T, Problems 2.25, 2.26, 2.27, 2.66, 2.68 [due Friday February 24, 2012, 10:00 pm] 

6. February 27  Feb 27: title topics Feb 29: title topics Mar 2: title topics 
Read: Start Chap. 3: 3.13.3
Last week's problem set extended. Now due Saturday March 3, 2012, noon. 

7. March 5  Mar 5: title topics Mar 7: title topics Mar 9: title topics Mar 7: Exam 1 710 pm Merrill 211 
Read: G&T, 3.13.3, 3.4.1, 3.53.7, 3.11 (i.e. all of the sections that
are not starred) PS 5: G&T: 3.15, 3.17, 3.18, 3.29, 3.30, 3.31, 3.34, 3.59, 3.60 [due Saturday March 10, 2012, noon] 

8. March 12  Mar 12: title topics: Mar 14: title topics: Mar 16: title topics: title 
Read: Finish reading the unstarred sections of G&T, Chap. 3, and read Chap. 4, sections 4.14.3. PS 6: G&T: 3.36, 3.38, 3.39, 3.43, 3.45, 3.64 [due Saturday March 17, 2012, noon] 

March 19  Mar 19: break topics Mar 21: break topics Mar 23: break topics 
Read: Read Chap. 4 of G&T through the end of sec. 4.5 PS 7: G&T: 4.2, 4.7, 4.11, 4.14, 4.16, 4.20 [due Saturday March 31, 2012, noon] 

9. March 26  Mar 26: title topics Mar 28: title topics Mar 30: title topics 
Read: Finish reading Chap. 4 of G&T PS 8: G&T: 4.24, 4.28, 4.29, 4.33, 4.41, 4.47, 4.50, 4.53 [due Saturday April 7, 2012, noon] 

10. April 2  Apr 2: title topics Apr 4: title topics Apr 6: title topics 
Read: Chap. 5, sec. 5.15.5 of G&T PS 9: G&T: 4.45, 4.54, 5.2, 5.3, 5.6, 5.32, 5.33 [due Saturday April 12, 2012, noon] 

11. April 9  Apr 9: title topics Apr 11: title topics Apr 13: title topics 
Read: same as last week PS 10: G&T: 5.9, 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 6.13, 6.16, 6.17, 6.55, 6.56 [due Saturday April 28, 2012, noon] 

12. April 16  Apr 16: title topics Apr 18: Exam 2 710 pm Merrill 211 Apr 18: title topics Apr 20: title topics 
Read: PS 11 

13. April 23  Apr 23: title topics Apr 25: title topics Apr 27: title topics 
Read: PS 12 

14. April 30  Apr 30: title topics May 2: title topics May 4: title topics 
Read: chap 6 some suggested problems from chap. 6: 6.28, 6.33, 6.40, 6.59, 6.60, 6.61 [not graded] 