Course Web Site and Preliminary Syllabus

Conceptual Physics

University of Evansville (UE), 2011 Fall, 3 hours, 3 credit hours.

M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) and Moon

Instructor Information and Preliminary Schedule


  1. Course Mottos
  2. Preliminary Syllabus
  3. Lectures

  1. Course Mottos
  2. Don't Panic.
    This is so cool.
    Unchain your inner nerd.
    In science, we are slaves to the truth---only error can set us free.

    Very reassuring I think.

    Also my favorite Einstein quote:

        In my youth I despised all authority---and I have been punished for it by being
        turned into an authority myself.
                        --- my memory of this quote.  Like a lot of folks, the big E
                            may have said roughly the same thing several times.

  3. Preliminary Syllabus
    1. Jump in with QUESTIONS at any time, of course---this applies to the whole course.

      Wave your hand or just speak up as seems appropriate.

    2. Warning: The syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class as well as made on this page.

    3. No texting in class.

      Laptops can be used for in class-related activities only: taking notes, look-ups during group activities, etc.

    4. Course Web Site: The course web site URL is

      which is the site you are maybe viewing right now. This site contains the preliminary syllabus and the course lectures.

      The site is/will be/may be linked from the official physics department UE Physics.

    5. Place and Time: Koch Center for Engineering and Science, Rm 102, MWF 9:00--9:50 am per the 2011 fall physics courses.

    6. Prerequisites/Corequisites: One year of high school algebra (fall & spring) per the physics & astronomy courses page.

    7. Academic Integrity: See UE catalog, p. 48, Academic Honor Code.

      Copying on tests is absolutely out of line.

      Teaching a fellow student about a problem line by line is fine. Allowing them to directly copy is not.

    8. Textbook: Conceptual Physics, Paul G. Hewitt. Hereafter, usually referred to as Hewitt.

      It's a well known text and we'll be doing all/almost all of it.

    9. Nature of the Course: Well conceptual physics.

      We study the concepts and principles/laws of physics----mostly classical physics---which is physics known before 1900---but with a lot of forays into post-1900 physics too.

      Classical physics isn't out-of-date: it's still very useful and beautiful. Classical physics is, in fact, an emergent physics to use a jargon term we will discuss by and by.

      We will also see a bit about how physics manifests itself in everyday life, technology, and remote realms---atomic and cosmological.

      There is a MATH COMPONENT---but it's elementary.

      It's there because physics is very mathematical, and so getting some understanding of the mathematical aspect of physics is essential. It is also one of the gaols of this course to develop student math skills a bit.

        Caption: "Detail of a scene in the bowl of the letter 'P' with a woman with a set-square and dividers; using a compass to measure distances on a diagram. In her left hand she holds a square, an implement for testing or drawing right angles. She is watched by a group of students. In the Middle Ages, it is unusual to see women represented as teachers, in particular when the students appear to be monks. She may be the personification of Geometry. Illustration at the beginning of Euclid's Elementa, in the translation attributed to Adelard of Bath. Year: 1309--1316, France (Paris)."

        Credit: Unknown 14th century artist, posted by User: Leinad-Z:

        From Wikipedia.

        Public domain at least in USA.

      There is not a lot of math compared to Algebra Physics or Calculus Physics.

      But we cover more ground in one semester than those courses do in two.

      The breadth of topics is the hard part really---but as I always say, it's nothing like organic chemistry.

    10. Daily Routine:

      I will lecture---but I won't lecture on everything you have to know.

      I will cover harder bits of Hewitt and expand on it where it seems necessary---this is the value added part.

      We will break for group activities once or twice per day.

      These will be group work on problems or little experiments.

      Everyone must participate and I will circulate helping/annoying folks.

      So break into groups of 2 to 4 right now.

      Introduce yourselves while I circulate and get names.

      Say about 5 minutes.

    11. Evaluation: There are 5 marked items:

      1. Readings (15%): Almost all days, there will be an assigned reading.

        The readings are a necessary prep. It's almost impossible to learn things with one going over in a lecture. So Reading and lecture on the same material is essential. It takes brain exercise to develop those neural connections which constitute learning.

        As the instructor now plans it, by the end of the course nearly all Hewitt will have been read.

        At the start of every class, each student will give me a slip of paper testifying that they have done the reading for that day. You should say explicitly that you have done the reading and put your name down.

        If you miss a class, you can report the reading done by email.

        No late reading reports accepted.

        You should read searchingly, questioningly, going back and forth to see that it all coheres.

      2. Homeworks (15%): There will be homework for every part. If we do all 9 parts, then 9 homeworks. The parts run 0 to 8.

        Homeworks will usually be due the day after a chapter has been completed.

        The homeworks will be marked for completeness and some questions will be marked in detail.

        The is some penalty for being late.

        The homework problems are made up by the instructor and often based on problems in Hewitt.

          Homeworks, homework solutions, and test solutions are posted below in section Lectures.

          The homeworks will be posted when ready and solutions will be posted sometime after the homeworks are marked.

            Nota bene: some problems will not have posted solutions. These are typically problems in which some sort of argument has to be given and there is no well defined ``right answer''.

            It's much more useful for students to always think out their own argument and not just accept the instructor's argument (which may not be all that good or may be specious) and try to mimic it on tests.

          To access the posted homeworks, homework solutions, and test solutions you need the SUPERSECRET username and password---which you can get from the instructor right now.

          Actually, the password protection is just a little extra computer security.

      3. Book Review (10 %):

        Each student will read and then review a non-fiction book on a physics-related topic.

        The review is NOT a synopsis although some synopsis has to be included.

        The review is the student's judgment of the book: how authoritative is it, how readable, how recommendable.

        The review should be 5 to 10 pages of double-spaced 12-point font type---long enough to develop the reviewer's themes, but also concise.

        The review has got to enlighten and entertain me.

        The students must choose a book and come and discuss it with me by Friday, Sep23 (the end of the 4th week of the semester) for 1/5 of the book review mark. (Changed from 1/6 for the interview.)

        In preparation for this book review interview, the students should read 3 book reviews in the journals Nature or Science available in hardcopy in the library. Current issues are not available electronically to UE.

        Book review is due Friday Nov11 (end of the 12 week of the semester). It's good to get it done well before the end of the semester---you'll thank me.

        I can suggest some physics-related books.

        Absolutely, positively do NOT buy a book---unless you really want to. The library is full of books and other can be obtained by interlibrary loan.

        If you need some help on style, there's always The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White (1899--1985) (of Charlotte's Web) to chew on.

      4. In-class tests (30%): There will be two of these. Maybe three if that looks feasible.

        There will be some multipli-choice questions, some short answer questions, and maybe a longish essay-like question.

        The questions will be drawn from homeworks or like homework questions or not like homework questions.

        The final will be more heavily weighted on the material since the last in-class test.

      5. Final (30 %): It will be comprehensive and probably two hours.

        The questions will be similar to the in-class test questions.

    12. Exams Schedule: There will be 2 or 3 in-class exams and a 2-hour COMPREHENSIVE FINAL.

      The in-class exams cover the material up to some cut-off point that will be announced in class.

            Exam        Date     Solutions (posted post-exam)
            Exam 1      Sep23 F   Exam 1 solutions
            Exam 2      Nov21 M   Exam 2 solutions
            Final Exam  Dec13 T   Final Exam solutions
                                  The final is at 10:15 am, Dec 13 T as per
                                  final exam schedule.
      Make-up tests are possible, but students must ask for them promptly.

      All students must AVOID knowing about given tests if they are doing a make-up and must AVOID giving out information to other students who have not yet done a test.

    13. Evaluation and Grading: The 5 grading categories, their weightings, and their drops are:
            readings                15 %      3 drops
            homeworks               15 %      no drops
            book review             10 %      no drops
            2 in-class tests        30 %      no drop
            comprehensive final     30 %      no drop
      Good attendance is recommended and is encouraged by the daily readings, but not marked in itself.

        In any course, just showing for the lectures keeps the student at least partially up to date just in itself.

        It's hard to fall completely behind if you attend lectures.

        And there is lots of evidence that good attendance correlates with achievement---but don't ask me to produce this evidence---it's what deans tell me.

      There are absolutely NO extra credits.

      Letter grades will be assigned per the UE catalog, p. 52, Grades--which allow instructors some freedom of interpretation on how do determine ``average''.

      I use a curve to automatically assign letter grades during the semester---if there are enough students to make a curve meaningful---if there arn't, I just decide on letter grades.

      There is NO fixed scale.

      The curve is only used for current total grade: individual items (tests, etc. are NOT curved).

      For these curved grades, I use the UE 11-point scale: A,A-,B+,B,B-,C+,C,C-,D+,D,F. There is no plus with A, no minus with D, no plus or minus with F.

      The final grades are decided on by the instructor directly---the curve is NOT used, except as a guide.

      In this course, I expect that the class GPA will be in the B- range (i.e., about 2.7)---but I am rather parsimonious about A's---just being in the upper half of the class is not enough.

      There do NOT have to be any D's or F's---the curve is NOT used for final grades.

      I will submit MIDTERM GRADES (if there are any) and FINAL GRADES as scheduled somewhere.

      Remember that after an instructor has submitted FINAL GRADES, any adjustments (except for purely clerical errors) are NOT easy.

      This is true for any course.

      Students should make any queries about their final grades before the instructor submits them.

        About grades: they are important, but they are not everything.

        They are a measure of what you learn in a course: the learning itself is what counts ultimately.

        If you've worked hard in a course and learnt a lot, then that helps you will all the following courses and all the rest of your life.

        The best strategy is to work hard in a course subject to all other constraints in life.

        Of course, if you need a specific grade for some particular thing (e.g., a scholarship), don't undershoot.

        Don't imagine you can fine tune your effort just to get that specific grade.

      Aliens and Grades Beware of aliens bearing grades.

    14. Posting Grades:

      Often I post grades under anonymous aliases.

      But I havn't figured out whether I can do that at UE or not.

      Grades are confidential and the rules that apply vary from place to place.

      You can just ask me for your currrent grades.

    15. Questions about anything at all:


      Seems a good time to dig in.

  4. Lectures
    1. Lecture 0: What is this Thing Science?

      1. Homework 0
      2. Solution 0
      3. Reading for Aug26, Friday: the Preliminary Syllabus and Hewitt p. 1--10.
      4. Reading for Aug29, Monday: Hewitt p. 11--15

    2. Lecture 1: Classical Mechanics

      1. Homework 1a
      2. Solution 1a
      3. Homework 1b
      4. Solution 1b
      5. Reading for Aug31, Wednesday: Hewitt p. 18--30,35--46
      6. Reading for Sep02, Friday: Hewitt p. 51--61
      7. Reading for Sep05, Monday: Hewitt p. 66--77
      8. Reading for Sep07, Wednesday: Hewitt p. 83--95,101--117
      9. Reading for Sep09, Friday: Hewitt p. 171--178
      10. Reading for Sep14, Wednesday: Hewitt p. 101--117
      11. Reading for Sep16, Friday: Hewitt p. 150--160
      12. Reading for Sep19, Monday: Hewitt p. 161--166,178--184

            Exam 1 solutions Tentative Date: Sep23, Friday. Exam 1 covers parts 0,1 of the text. There will be 40 multiple-choice problems (total of 40 marks) and one essay-like question (10 marks). About 70 % of the multiple-choice problems will be drawn from homeworks 0,1. The test is out of 50 marks altogether. It is closed book.

    3. Lecture 2: Properties of Matter

      1. Homework 2a
      2. Solution 2a
      3. Homework 2b
      4. Solution 2b
      5. Homework 2c
      6. Solution 2c
      7. Homework 2d
      8. Solution 2d
      9. Gas Images
      10. Reading for Sep21, Wednesday Hewitt p. 196--206
      11. Reading for Oct03, Lecture 2 notes to date

    4. Lecture 5: Electromagnetism

      1. Homework 5a
      2. Solution 5a
      3. Homework 5b
      4. Solution 5b

    5. Lecture 6: Light

      1. Homework 6a
      2. Solution 6a