Electrodynamics I (2020)

Classical electrodynamics is one of the crown jewels of human achievement. What Newton's laws did for the understanding of motion, Maxwell's equations did for a far more mysterious set of phenomena - it unified apparently disconnected phenomena related to electricity, magnetism, and light, and contributed to the discovery of special relativity. Electrodynamics is the simplest gauge field theory - a mathematical structure with beautiful and useful features that is now used to understand essentially all physical phenomena. An area that remains relevant to research owing to its myriad applications, it serves as a starting point for more fancy theory.

Target Audience

This is the core course ED-1 or P-106 in the TIFR graduate school. If you already had a good course in electrodynamics before coming to TIFR, you should try to drop this course (email me before 10 Jan; Drop test is on 25 Jan) and directly take ED-2.

This page will be updated regularly with course-related information. Please check frequently.

I am available over email (PLEASE include the tag "ED2020" in the subject line to ensure my spam filter doesn't reject it). You can send anonymous emails if you like. Comments, criticism, cat-gifs, all are welcome.


Time: 9:45 AM, Wednesdays and Fridays

Venue: AG 69

First lecture: 17 Jan 2020

Credit policy: 20% mid-term + 20% assignments + 30% term paper report and presentation + 30% from best of (end-term, mid-term, or term paper)

Instructor: Basudeb Dasgupta (A320)

Tutor: Sindhu (C338)

Course Contents

1. Preliminaries and Maxwell's equations (4 lectures)

2. Electrostatics in vacuum and materials (8 lectures)

3. Magnetostatics in vacuum and materials (6 lectures)

4. Time-varying E and B fields, and their properties (4 lectures)

5. Waves (5 lectures)

Suggested term paper topics: Fundamentals of ED, Optics, Acceleration, Trapping, Radiative Transfer, Waveguides, Membranes, Super/Sub-luminal Light, etc.


1. Modern Electrodynamics, Zangwill (Main Text - On Reserve in the Library; Beware of typos!)

2. Landau and Lifshitz Vol.2, Landau and Lifshitz

3. Landau and Lifshitz Vol.8, Landau, Lifshitz, and Pitaevskii

4. Classical Electrodynamics, Jackson

5. Feynman Lectures Vol.2, Feynman, Leighton, Sands

Problem Sets

PS1: Mathematical Background and Maxwell Equations (assigned 1 Feb; due on 14 Feb)

PS2: Electrostatics (assigned 14 Feb; due on 28 Feb)

PS3: Magnetostatics (assigned 10 April; due on 1 May)

PS4: Time varying E and B fields and Waves (assigned 29 April; due on 25 May)


Midterm: 29 March, 2-5 PM

Term Paper Presentation: 15, 20, 27, 29 May (in-class)

Endterm: 29 May (all day, at-home, optional)

Lecture Summaries

Day Zero (17 Jan): Calibration and Course Overview

Lecture 1 (21 Jan): Mathematical preliminaries

  • Overview of electrodynamics

  • Vectors, tensors, gradient, divergence, curl, and Laplacian in Cartesian coordinates

Lecture 2 (24 Jan): Mathematical preliminaries

  • Vector identities and theorems

Drop Test: 25 Jan at 2 PM in A304

Lecture 3 (29 Jan): Intro to Classical ED

  • The 4+1 equations

  • Charge, charge density, current, and current density

  • When can we treat EM as classical

Lecture 4 (31 Jan): Intro to Classical ED

  • Is the photon massless? Is the force law really 1/r^2

  • Linear superposition

  • Lorentz averaging

  • Idealizations (what is a ground? boundaries)

  • Matching conditions

  • Maxwells equations and units

Problem Sheet 1 assigned (due on 14 Feb)

Lecture 5 (5 Feb): Setting up electrostatics

  • Electric field

  • Potential

  • Work

  • Potential Energy

  • Total Electrostatic Energy

Lecture 6 (7 Feb): Multipole expansion

  • Multipole expansion

  • Dipoles, potential, charge density of a point dipole, field, force and torque on dipole, energy

  • Quadrupoles

  • Dipole layer

Lecture 7 (12 Feb): More about multipoles

  • Traceless and spherical multipoles

  • Expansion of 1/|r-r'| in spherical harmonics or Legendre polynomials

Lecture 8 (14 Feb): Response of materials to electric fields

  • Conductors

  • Dielectrics

Lecture 9 (19 Feb): Solving Boundary Value Problems

  • Laplace and Poisson equations

  • Fundamental solution via Green's function: Basic Idea

Lecture 10 (21 Feb): Solving Boundary Value Problems

  • Images

  • Field near a conical point, corner etc.

Lecture 11 (26 Feb): Green's functions

  • Constructing the Green's function between two concentric spheres

  • Variations of the above approach, and relation to 1/|r-r'| expansion when region is free space

  • Note the relation between the Green's function and the solution via image method.

No class on 28 Feb

Midterm: 29 Feb at 2 PM to 5 PM

    • The test is closed book/notes

    • The test will cover material taught until end of Lecture 11

No class on 4 and 6 March due to TIFR Graduate Admission Interviews

Lecture 12 (11 Mar): Review

  • Review

Lecture 13 (13 Mar): Steady currents

  • Steady Currents and Summation Problems in Magnetostatics

CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 Update (16 March): We will halt classroom lectures and move classes online. Check email for details.

Lecture 14 (25 March, on zoom): Potential problems in Magnetostatics

  • Magnetic potentials

  • Solving for potentials

  • Multipoles

Lecture 15 (27 March, on zoom): Understanding Magnetostatic fields

  • Magnetic Fields and their peculiar topologies

  • Quadrupoles

  • Uses of B fields in lensing / focussing

  • "Paradoxes" about work done on moving current loops by inhomogeneous B fields

Lecture 16 (3 April, on zoom): Material response to static B fields

    • Magnetic materials have a B_self in response to B_ext

  • B_self is related to J_self = J_spin + J_orbital

  • J_spin is specified as curl of M_spin ~ curl of sum over point dipoles

  • J_orb is specified using probability currents; and its M_orb is not uniquely defined

  • The I=0, i.e., no current condition, and its implementation using J and K

  • Definition of potential and field A_M and B_M as sum over dipoles

Lecture 17 (8 April, on zoom): Simple linear magnetostatics and energy-momentum conservation

  • B and H fields

  • Constitutive relations

  • Force, Energy, Work

  • Using Maxwell's equations for magnetostatics in matter

Lecture 18 (10 April, on zoom): Review

    • Revision

    • Discussion of Term Paper Topics

Lecture 19 (15 April, on zoom): Time dependent E and B fields

    • Time dependent E and B fields

    • Notion of J_pol and M_pol

    • Flux Theorem

    • Displacement current, Induction, Lenz law, ..

Lecture 20 (17 April, on zoom): Linearity and Hierarchy of Scales in electromagnetism

    • Dispersion relations for linear PDEs

    • Quasistatic solutions of Maxwell's eqns.

    • Quasistatics in matter: Charge relaxation, Skin depth, Eddy currents

Lecture 21 (22 April, on zoom): Potential formulation of EM

    • Symmetries of electromagnetism

    • Gauge invariance

    • Potentials and how to choose a gauge

    • Equations for potentials

Lecture 22 (24 April, on zoom): Energy-Momentum of EM fields

    • Energy density, energy flux, Poynting theorem, Poynting vector

    • Linear momentum of EM fields, dyadic T, local conservation laws

    • Angular momentum of EM fields, dyadic M, local conservation laws

    • Feynman's paradox (FLP Vol.II Sec.17.4)

    • Hidden mechanical momentum of EM fields (if using NR mechanics)

Lecture 23 (29 April, on zoom): Waves

    • Wave equation

    • The scalar potential route to wave-like solutions

    • EM waves in vacuum (General, Plane, Transverse, Beam-like, Spherical)

Lecture 24 (1 May, on zoom): Waves

    • EM Waves in simple media

Lecture 25 (6 May, on zoom): Waves

    • Potential formulation

    • Transversality

    • Polarizations

    • Complex vectors

    • Spin and Orbital Angular Momentum of Transverse EM waves

    • Spherical waves and OAM

Lecture 26 (8 May, on zoom): Waves

    • Coherence

    • TE and TM waves

Lecture 27 (13 May, on zoom): Waves (Dispersion)

    • Linear response and time delay as the cause of dispersion

    • Lorentz model of dispersion

Term Paper Presentations (15 May)

  • Koshvendra (Ponderomotive force due to sunlight on a satellite)

  • Ritik (Magnetic lens)

  • Pruthvi (Birefringence)

Term Paper Presentations (20 May)

  • Rakeeb (Neutron radiation)

  • Avijit (Magnetic mirror and charge in E,B fields; see proton trajectory in Earth's B field below)

  • Himadri (BVP with realistic shapes; see a modelling of the Burj Khalifa below)

Amphan Update (22 May): No class today (network problem for many)

Term Paper Presentations (27 May)

  • Himanshu (Synchrotron radiation; see a snapshot from a simulation of a moving charge below)

  • Rounak (EM tethered satellite; see thrust and drag of satellite below)

  • Ranjan (Dispersion)

Term Paper and End of Course (29 May)

  • Krishnendu (Physics of MRI; see simulation of T1 relaxation below)

  • Please submit all assignments to Sindhu

  • End of course feedback.


    • Congratulations, everyone! Let there be light!