L A B O R A T O R I E S
Physics labs are quite different from, say, chemistry labs. While care must be taken in making measurements, finding the value of an unknown to a tenth of a percent is not the main reason for doing a intro Physics lab. The labs are designed to go along with the lecture and the textbook and to demonstrate principles discussed there. Understanding is the key idea. Think of why you are doing various steps in the lab. Never just blindly follow the procedure. Understand why you are doing this or that and what it will tell you.
Some of our laboratory experiments for this semester will be "conventional" in that they do not have a computer interface. Most of those labs will meet in Room 213. Some of the labs will have a computer interface and those will meet in Room 113, the Microcomputer-Based Laboratory (MBL). Some of the lab "reports" will be simply "fill-in-the-blanks"; for those, each individual will turn in a separate lab report at the end of the lab. Some of the labs will require a real report which may be hand-written or typed on the computer; for those reports, a single lab report from the entire lab team is sufficient. If you type your reports on a computer, you must obtain your own 3.5" floppy disk to store things on. Items stored on the computer's internal hard disk may be deleted or modified before you return the next week. Floppy disks are available from the University Bookstore, Wal-Mart, and, perhaps, the Physics students in Room 130.
We are "experimenting" with our lab presentations this year in PHY 1162. You can find each lab description on the internet! You can then print them out yourself. Or you can get them on a CD-ROM. Or you can get a printed hard-copy version from the University Print Center. If you would like a CD-ROM or a printed packet, please see Ms Nichols in the Physics Department Office, Room 223.
Some of the lab reports will simply be "fill in the blank". Some will require a "real lab report". Each "real lab report" should include the following:
Title: Always! (and not LAB #6)
Purpose: Why are you doing this lab? What do you expect to show, use, or demonstrate?
Procedure: What equipment did you use? What did you do? Illustrations or drawings may be appropriate here.
Data: Probably a data table and a graph.
Data Analysis: If there is a straight line on a graph, find its slope! What did you expect the slope to be? Why? How close was it? That is, find the per cent difference. Is there an equation that describes the graph? (There almost surely will be! What is that equation? How does it describe the line?)
Conclusion: What does it all mean? What ideas did you show, use, or demonstrate? Unacceptable conclusions include "this lab helped my understanding", "we got very good results", "this lab worked out very well". What did the lab mean? There should be some strong connection between your Purpose and your Conclusion.
Check with your lab instructor for details!
Lab reports are due at the end of the lab period. I will return them to you promptly and may ask you to RESUBMIT them. Resubmissions are due the following class/lab period. Be sure to keep a copy of your lab report on your disk. You may use computers elsewhere on campus to complete your resubmission if you like. Lab reports are graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory/resubmit. Lab reports will not be accepted late. If you are run over by a Mack truck and are in the Emergency Room during the scheduled lab period, please have the ER physician give me a call immediately. If the equipment has not been put away, the lab can be made up the following day under such dire and unusual circumstance. Ordinarily, however, labs may not be made up later.
(c) Doug Davis, 2002; all rights reserved