Welcome to General Physics I, Fall 2008
Text: Understanding Physics (Part 1) by Cummings et al
Course Overview: This is the first half of the year-long introductory physics sequence. It covers the crucial discoveries of Galileo and Newton, including kinematics in 1-D and 2/3-D, Newton's laws of dynamics, momentum, and energy (the first 10 chapters of UP). But the course will not look or feel very much like a traditional lecture-based science course. Class time will be spent on a variety of hands- (and brain-) on activities intended to help students form basic concepts, develop skills that are central to doing empirical science, discover important physical principles directly from nature, and apply this knowledge to solving problems. In short, most class time will be spent actually doing physics (rather than listening to someone talk about physics). The course is designed to fulfill the needs both of students intending to continue on in physics or one of the other sciences (and this includes, in all but rare circumstances, students who have already taken a bit of physics in high school) and of students who will do (or intend to do) Plan work outside the natural sciences, but who want to "study broadly" and get a sense of what science is all about.
One of the principles behind the course is that you should be learning physics primarily by doing physics -- by discovering things for yourself from nature -- and not simply memorizing dogma. We will thus typically start each week with some kind of experimental activity, designed to help you grasp firsthand some important physics concept. But I am by no means anti-textbook. The text will play an important role in helping you organize and systematize your knowledge, so you really will need to use it. My hope is that the weekly schedule and weekly assignments will reflect these goals and priorities, and that you'll come away from the course with a much clearer, firsthand, intuitive understanding of the material we've covered. Another major goal for the course is to help you develop specific skills used in doing science. These skills will of course be bound up with the experiments you do in class, but they will also have value beyond the purview of the course: being a skilled and confident empirical scientist will make you a better user/consumer/producer/critic of quantitative information out in the real world.
Assignments and Grading: Weekly homework assignments will ask students to analyze and report the results of in-class experiments, relate material from class with concepts from the text, and solve problems. Since the course centers around the in-class activities, attendance, class-participation, diligence, preparation, and seriousness will be worth 20% of final grade. The weekly homework assignments will be worth 50%. A final exam will be worth 30%.
- Attendance is expected. Remember that 20% of your grade depends on your in class performance!
- Late work will not be accepted without prior arrangement.
- In addition to being fully present in class and handing in all of the assignments, to really succeed in this class you should expect to spend several hours each week (outside of class) interacting with the textbook.
- Students are encouraged to work together on the homework assignments (and to get help from me or the tutor.) However, your final write-up of the solutions must represent your own understanding; copying another person's work is plagiarism and will result in no credit. If there is any question about a specific case, simply cite your sources as you would in any kind of research paper (e.g.," I worked with Joe Schmoe on this problem.").
See 'syllabus' on left navigation bar.