Physics 23:General Physics                   

Goals, Policies and Expectations


Course Goals

As the first course for a Physics Major or Minor, this course shares some of those program’s broader goals: developing your skills in Quantitative Problem Solving, Experimentation, Computation, and Communication, while developing your knowledge of Classical and Modern Mechanics.  I also hope to help you explore the broader field of Physics, so you understand what lies beyond this single, introductory course.   

These goals are commiserate with those of the MS1 Liberal Arts Foundation Requirement: developing the knowledge of the most fundamental concepts and principles of Physics, knowledge of how physics research advances our understanding of the physical world, and the ability conduct scientific experiments.


Policies and Expectations

Reading: Some students get the most out of reading before lecture, other get the most out of reading after lecture; try both and see which works best for you.  In any case, do read the text carefully.  Lectures will not cover all of the assigned material.  Note that at the end of each chapter, just after the summary page, one or more large problems are worked out in detail.

Assignments: 30% of your grade. There are three types of assignment: Classwork, Reading Worksheets, and Homework.

Classwork: (2%)  You learn best by doing, so periodically during lecture I’ll ask you to try your hand at doing bite-sized bits of the day’s material.  Answers should be boxed.  Bonus:  I sometimes make mistakes in lecture; the first person to catch a mistake on a derivation or example gets bonus class-work points.

Reading Exercises: (8%) While reading the text, you’ll encounter exercises scattered throughout.  These are generally trivial applications of ideas just presented; doing them would help you remember the ideas and avoid silly errors later when it counts -in real ‘problems.’  I would require you to do these exercises, but there’s something logistically better.  Instead, you’ll do almost identical problems online.  The beauty of these online reading exercise, or RE’s (as denoted in the schedule), is that you can get instant feedback on whether or not you’ve gotten them right, and you can redo them until they are right.  You should feel free to consult each other and me about these exercises.  They are due 15 minutes before the class in which that reading is discussed.  Here’s how to access the RE assignments.  Log in at Your login has the format lastname.firstname, your institution is “redlands”, and your initial password is “phys232” (I’d suggest personalizing it.)


Homework: (15%) Weekly homework assignments consist of more involved problems than are found in the Reading Exercises.  Unlike the Reading Exercises, your work (not just the final answers) must be turned in and will be graded; thus the work must be legible and easy to follow (if your original work is not, you should copy it over.) Because good problem solving style and communication are crucial to success on more challenging problems, you will be graded not just on the quality of your solution, but also on the quality of your communication.  For one thing, this means explaining your reasoning in words as well as doing the math. You must also include units anywhere you use numbers (not just at the end) and use proper vector notation when appropriate. You may find the problem solving technique / template (found on the website) helpful in organizing your work on these problems. Feel free to consult with each other or with me, but the work turned in must be your own.  Homework Problems will be due at 4pm Tuesdays unless otherwise noted in the schedule.  No late work will be accepted, so pace yourself accordingly. Some problems will be more difficult than others, so don’t wait until the last minute to start and discover which you’ve got. If you have worked seriously on a problem without success, stop and get help from the instructor or another student before continuing.  Although you are encouraged to discuss problems with your classmates, copying someone else’s work or allowing your work to be copied is cheating and will not be tolerated.

Exploring Physics: (5%)  Whether this course is the first in a long series of physics classes or your only science course at Redlands, you deserve a peak deeper into the field than the study of modern mechanics (the primary focus of this course) can afford.  Along with your weekly homework, I ask for a full-page discussion of a physics article you have read or a presentation you have attended.  The discussion should include a concise summary of the article/presentation and your own musings/reactions to it. While you’re free to find your own articles, I will forward to you the “APS Weekly News Brief” emails which have links to a handful of accessible articles.  While other presentations may arise during the semester, there are two required ones listed in the class schedule (if you will be unable to attend one of these, let me know well in advance and we’ll devise an alternative assignment for  you).

Laboratory Experiences: 20% of your grade. Thanks to the rapid growth of computational power, computer simulations have become an invaluable theoretical counterpart to hands-on experimental research.  Accordiongly, you’ll have two types of Laboratory Experiences (often in the same day), performing experiments and writing simulations.  In the experiments you observe and analyze the behavior of physical systems; in the computer simulations you employ the theory to model physical systems.  The modeling will be done in VPython, which is freely available at; while you don’t need to install this on your own computer, doing so would allow you to work on the programs outside of lab. No previous programming experience is necessary; you will learn what you need along the way.  Cumulatively, the simulations share the goals that you understand

  1. the nature of modeling.
  2. how to use simulations to solve problems: to (a) test theory and make predictions and (b) model experiments and thereby test assumptions.
  3. the basic practical skills of simulation development: how to (a) modify previous simulations to build new ones, (b) determine appropriate initial conditions, (c) define constants, (d) determine reasonable time step or piece-size, (d) translate logical procedures and mathematical statements into code.
  4.  that in mechanics applying  and  can help explore a wide range of phenomena.
  5. why incrementally approximating and as constant over small time intervals, dt, is both useful and imperfect, why the approximations can be used, and how they can be improved.


Quizzes: 10% of your grade.  There will be a short quiz over each chapter’s reading and lecture material.  To help you to learn from returned homework, there will always be something taken directly from it. 


Exams: 40% of your grade. There will be two mid-term exams (12%) and a final (16%). All exams will be closed book, closed notes.  Some equations will be provided; the most fundamental principles must be committed to memory.  Sample exams will be available in class and on the website.  Reschedules:  Tragedies do sometimes happen, and you may not be able to take an exam at its regularly scheduled time.  If you let me know well in advance, we can reschedule your exam.  If you do not notify my until the day before the exam, you must provide documentation of your conflict (doctor’s note, plane ticket stub, etc.) before your make up exam score will be recorded.

Cheating: Dishonesty seriously undermines academic pursuit; therefore, it is my philosophy that the punishment for cheating should not simply erase its 'beneficial' effects, but be enough of a deterrent that the 'benefit' of cheating not be worth the risk.  For example, if I identify cheating on an exam, the offender is more likely to be failed from the course than invited to take a make‑up test.


Grade: If at anytime you are interested in reviewing your standing in the course feel free to give me a call, send me an e-mail, or drop by my office.


Classwork                                  2%

Homework                                 15%

Reading Exercises                       8%

Exploring Physics                        5%
Laboratory Experiences              20%

Quizzes                                      10%
Exams                                        40% (12%, 12%, 16%)


Final Grade Assignments:  Final grades will be assigned according to the following: 


                     93        ≤   A   (4.0)     ≤  100%                                  

90            ≤   A- (3.7)     <  93 ⅓                       

86 ⅔        ≤   B+ (3.3)     <  90                           

83         ≤   B   (3.0)     <  86 ⅔                       

80            ≤   B- (2.7)     <  83 ⅓                       

76 ⅔       ≤   C+ (2.3)     <  80                           

73        ≤   C   (2.0)     <  76 ⅔                       

70            ≤   C- (1.7)     <  73 ⅓                       

66        ≤   D+ (1.3)     <  70                          

63        ≤   D   (1.0)     <  66 ⅔                       

60            ≤   D- (0.7)     <  63 ⅓                       

0              ≤   F    (0.0)     <  60