Winter 2010

PHYSICS 150: Principles of Classical Physics

INSTRUCTOR: Megan K. Pickett
OFFICE: Youngchild 105
OFFICE HOURS: MWF 1:00-2:00; R 10am-11am; & by appointment
PHONE: (920) 993-6269

LAB INSTRUCTORS: Megan Pickett and Adam Clausen LAB TIMES: M 1-4 OR T 8-11 OR T 1-4
LAB ROOM: YOU 115/118

Welcome to Physics 150, Principles of Classical Physics! During the term, we will explore the physical principles of mechanics, gravity, electricity and magnetism, wave phenomena, optics and thermal physics. While the subjects are diverse, together they solidify our foundational understanding of how the Universe operates (ignoring, for the time being, more modern concepts such as relativity and quantum physics). It is my hope that this course will provide you with the tools and understanding to appreciate the physical Universe in which we live, as well as laying the groundwork for future careers in the natural sciences.

The course is designed for natural science majors, particularly (though not exclusively) as preparation for physics and engineering students. As such, a certain level of mathematical sophistication and problem solving skills is expected. The mathematical requirements include a basic understanding of differential and integral calculus (specifically the material taught in Math 140). I will motivate much of the math that we encounter, either in lecture or in references to the text and handouts. Please see me during the first week if you are uncertain about your background preparation; I am more than happy to set aside time to help.

I will supply example problems throughout the term on the course website, and before each exam there will be a list of sample exam questions from a previous, similar course I taught at Purdue. There will also be weekly help/review sessions conducted by myself and staff from the CTL. These review sessions will be for an hour, some time in the evening. Details will be available in class.

My goals for the term are that:

  1. students will learn and appreciate the nature, behavior, and constituents of the Universe;
  2. students will learn how to use basic principles of physics to deduce the physical processes behind a variety of phenomena; and
  3. the course will foster open, honest, and critical inquiry inside and outside the lecture.

The first goal is a rather standard expectation for a physics class. The second goal requires that you develop a sense of intuition regarding the problems you will face in this course. While I will of course want you to gain a facility with the equations presented, I think understanding the physics behind the equation is even more important. I will stress problem-solving techniques and tips on how to recognize when the answer to a question "seems" right or wrong. Conceptual learning is therefore key.

The last of these goals is perhaps the most important. One of the key ingredients to scientific exploration is skepticism. Note that there is a fine line between healthy skepticism and cynicism (which is not useful in science). If something seems wrong or confusing, or there seems to be little justification for an assertion made in lecture, I encourage you to call me on it! Without open and critical inquiry, science simply could not progress.

"Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all."

-Hypatia of Alexandria


University Physics, TWELFTH Edition, Young and Freedman (2008)
The Theory of Experiment, David Cook
Laboratory Instructions for Physics 150, David Cook

The last two items on the list are to be used in lab, and will be handed out in class. Your accounts will be charged approximately $15 for both. You should also buy a laboratory notebook--National Bound Notebook No. 43-648 (or a similar book with numbered quadrilled ruled pages) and have a calculator with trigonmetric, logarithmic and exponential functions.

READINGS: I expect you to read through the assigned reading prior to class. This will enhance your learning and make our class time more useful.

READING QUIZZES: Expect a short reading quiz at the start of every class. Typically each quiz will consist of 2-3 short answer/multiple choice questions, based on the reading FOR THAT CLASS. You'll have 5 minutes to complete each quiz. These quizzes are NOT meant to be difficult; I assign them to reward you for reading the text and coming to class prepared and on time. Barring extraoridnary circumstances, these quizzes cannot be made up.

Your lowest quiz score will be dropped. I will drop your second lowest quiz score if you come to my office hours at least once during the term to ask a class- or physics-related question. This is my way to encourage you to use office hours sooner rather than later.

ASSIGNMENTS: Problem sets will be assigned about every week. I encourage cooperation between fellow students; however, you must turn in your own work. The problem sets are important drills for learning methods and concepts. They are also an extremely useful study aid for the exams. That was a hint. There will be more.

MY INCREDIBLY COOL DEAL FOR YOU: I will drop your lowest homework score if you turn in EVERY assignment AND make an honest attempt to answer EVERY question. Again, barring extraordinary circumstances I will not accept late work. If you something does happen that you think falls into the extraordinary circumstance category, you must contact me before the deadline and provide appropriate documentation. Please see the schedule for the problems and when they are due.

CONCEPTESTS: "ConcepTests" are conceptual exercises during the lecture. The goal is to encourage interaction between students as well as between lecturer and student. Your answers to these are not graded, but many of my past students have found these exercises invaluable to understanding course material. I will discuss these in more detail during the first lecture.

TESTS AND FINAL: There will be two tests and a final in this course. Much of the exam questions will be based on homework, reading quiz, and ConcepTest questions. The final examination will be cumulative, while emphasizing material covered since the third test. The cumulative section of the final will be based on the questions in the first two exams that gave the class the most difficulty. I design the final in such a way in order to reduce the amount you need to study at the end of the year as well as offer the class a chance at showing me that it has mastered problems that caused difficulties earlier.

All exams are closed book and closed notes. You will be allowed to bring a single 3 x 5 inch index card to the exam, upon which you may write anything you like on one (1) side only. Unless I say something along the lines of "you won't need to remember this," assume that you will, in fact, need to remember it. You may use a calculator on exams, but ONLY FOR COMPUTATION. You are NOT allowed to store information or connect to the internet with devices such as PDA's.

LABORATORY EXERCISES: Each week you will meet in one of three separate laboratory sections (see schedule). We will discuss the labs in more detail when we have our first meeting.








Two Exams


Final Exam


Total Grade


Grades will be curved. At a minimum, I will guarantee the usual curve, i.e. A = 100-90%, B = 89-80%, C = 79-70%, D = 69-60%, F = 59% and lower. The average score in the course usually determines the lowest B grade. For example, if the course average is 75%, then the C's will run from 65% to 74%; B's will run from 75% to 84%, and the lowest A would be an 85%. If, on the other hand, the class average is a 94%, I will use the standard curve (C's run from 70 to 79%, and so on). I set no quota for the number of grades I hand out; I would be absolutely ecstatic and pleased beyond all reasonable measure to give all A's to a class that earned it. Surprised, to be sure, but ecstatic all the same.

I will maintain a running estimated course grade for each student throughout the term, updated weekly. You should always have a fairly good idea of where you stand in class.

COMMUNICATION: An important asset in any field is the ability to communicate your ideas clearly. With this in mind, I expect all homework, quiz and exams to be written legibly and presented neatly. Plots and figures MUST be labelled accurately and captioned if necessary. Finally, your answer to any question MUST include the appropriate units, if applicable. This is crucial not only to conveying an answer intelligiby, but also to checking the validity of your answer; afterall, if you find that an electron has a speed of 25 kg/m, you know something must be wrong! You will hear this refrain constantly, among others, but also be careful to use the correct number of significant figures when presenting any numerical result in this class.

SO HOW DO I GET AN A? The best way that you can do well in the course is to come to lecture regularly and be actively engaged. This includes the usual note taking as well as keeping up with the reading and actively participating in the ConcepTests. I cannot stress enough how important the ConcepTests and problem sets will be in understanding the key principles of the course.

Finally, if you need help, please feel absolutely free to contact me in any way that is convenient. I have extensive office hours, and I am always willing to set aside separate times if those are inconvenient. Use whatever method you can to contact me: phone, email, smoke signals, semafore, morse code, whatever works. Do not wait until it is too late. I'm here to help.

ATTENDANCE & MAKE-UP POLICY: Attendance is extremely important in this and all classes, given the 10 week pace of the term, and the extensive ground we will cover in that time. Attendance will be measured informally by the quizzes, which, as I mentioned above, will happen just about every day, and ConcepTest participation.

All assignments and lab reports are due on the day given in the class schedule. Make-up midterms will be possible ONLY if I am notified prior to the exam AND I approve the excuse.

ACADEMIC DISHONESTY: Academic dishonesty of any sort will not be tolerated. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism, cheating on exams, falsifying experimental data, and providing unauthorized aid to another student. You must write and sign the honor code on everything you submit to me for grading. When working with others, or receiving help from CTL tutors, you must include in your honor pledge an acknowledgement of those with whom you worked. That includes me.

ADA AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION STATEMENT: In compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), all qualified students enrolled in this course are entitled to reasonable accommodations. It is your responsibility to inform me of any special needs you may need before the end of the second week of classes. I also believe firmly in the right for each student to be respected, both by a student's peers and his or her instructor. I am therefore strongly committed to ensuring that the antidiscrimination policy established at Lawrence will be honored in my class.

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