PHYsics 3050

Excursions in Physics

Spring 2005

PHYsics 3050, Excursions in Physics, is a one-semester survey course in Physics; it is one of the GenEd courses. In the past Physics was known as "Natural Philosophy". I like the implication of that name; Physics is understanding the natural world around us. Physics involves understanding, not memorizing. The nature of this course will be to concentrate on the ideas and concepts, not on equations. Anyone desiring a more rigorous course may also enjoy PHYsics 1150, 1160 or PHYsics 1350, 1360, 1370.


Physics is . . .

Physics includes everything. That means we must pick and choose the topics that we will cover in this course. Physics might be divided or grouped something like the following:



Electricity and Magnetism

Heat and Thermodynamics



Quantum Physics

Physics includes everything! That means we must pick and choose the topics that we will cover in this one-semester course. We will start with a study of Mechanics, the part of Physics that describes and explains Motion. Position, velocity, acceleration, force, momentum, and energy will be important. What happens if you drop a feather and a hammer on the moon? What keeps a roller coaster going? Does an understanding of Physics really improve your game of billiards? We will also study an extension of Mechanics, Wave Motion and Sound. What is sound? Why does a "C" note on a saxophone sound different than the same "C" note on a piano? We will finish the course by looking at Light and Optics. Why do some of us wear glasses? What happens when you focus a camera? How does a magnifying glass work?



You should receive Paul Hewitt's fine textbook, Conceptual Physics by mail before the "offical" start of this course in mid-March. Please read the material before it is discussed in class and before you start to answer the homework. Saving a textbook as a last resort before an exam or before looking at internet notes makes the course more difficult than it needs to be. Make life easy for yourself; read the textbook! Take a few class notes over this familiar material. Work all the assigned problems -- and a few more. Then relax for the exams will be easy.

In addition to Conceptual Physics, and for the second half of this course, you will need Adventures in Physics which is available online. Adventures in Physics has material for Wave Motion and Sound and for Light and Optics. It will serve as the text for these topics. It is available over the internet.



Homework is vital in Physics!!!! I can not stress that too much. Physics is like SCUBA diving -- it requires participation and practice and learning from your own errors. You may be able to understand the Civil War by listening to lectures. But you can not successfully learn to SCUBA dive only by listening to lectures -- you have to get wet! Physics, too, requires that you "get wet", that you get your hands messy in the mire of homework problems. There simply is no other way to learn Physics. Most of the exams will not be strikingly different from the homework (The hour exams and the final exam will all be multiple guess). Diligence with the homework will make the exams easy but ignoring the homework will make the exams impossible!

You must do the homework -- just to survive. Solutions will be posted on the world wide web or the internet. Homework will not be turned in and graded; this requires great maturity and responsibility on your part!

A common and reasonable "rule of thumb" for any three-semester-hour course is that you must put in six to nine hours a week reading the material and thinking about and working on and answering the homework. It is probably not possible to survive (or pass) this course with a smaller time committment. And that's for a regular fifteen-week semester.

Online Quizzes: At the end of the homework solutions for each chapter, there are "typical multiple choice questions". These same questions also appear as WebCT quizzes. They are open book, open answer quizzes! They may be taken or retaken a maximum of five times if you like. For credit, they must be taken before the date the homework will be discussed in class as given on the calendar. There is no reason that anyone should not receive 100 points for these Online Quizzes!

You can link to the Online Quizzes from here or from the Course Calendar page.



Your grade for this course will be determined by the following:

Excursions - OnLine

Midterm exam                           200 pts
Online quizzes                         100 
Final exam   (comprehensive)           200         
Total                                  500 pts

In my opinion, there are two objective methods of grading.

One can always determine grades strictly "on a curve". (e g.,

15% will get A's;

20%, B's;

30%, C's;

20%, D's; and

15%, F's).

One can also determine grades strictly by a predetermined number (e. g.,

100 - 91, A

90 - 81, B

80 - 71, C

70 - 61, D

Think of these as "guaranteed minima"

100 - 91, A

90 - 81, B

80 - 71, C

70 - 61, D



I have always made extensive use of The Mechanical Universe in my on-campus sections of ExcursionsLive! While I have strongly encouraged my cyber students in ExcursionsOnLine to track down The Mechanical Universe tapes at a high school or community college nearby, the reality has been that it was/is enough hassle that very few students did that. Now, however, there is good news! The Mechanical Universe videos are available online at The calendar page shows the particular tapes that I would show to my ExcursionLive! students. Go to the web site and WATCH those videos! They are outstanding! But let me warn you once more that they do make extensive reference to calculus. Just tune out that part. Hit the fast fwd button for those portions. This is great news! Now go use this very valuable resource!

These videos are available online at

Homework solutions, class lecture notes, and course descriptions are posted on the Internet or the World Wide Web.

Copying someone else's ideas or creative talents is called plagiarism. Presidential candidates have had careers ruined because of plagiarism. Pulitzer prizes have been taken back because of plagiarism. Students have been expelled because of plagiarism. Unauthorized copying of computer programs is also called theft. We have licenses for all the software you will encounter in this course. University policy is that you should not illegally copy computer software. I expect you to abide by that.

I am in the process of adding some QuickTime movies to my web site. These will be indicated with this QuickTime logo in the corner of a still image. When you click on that image a QuickTime movie will be downloaded and will play. For this to work, your computer must have the QuickTime plug-in installed in your web browser. If you use a computer on campus the connections are fast enough that the QuickTime download should not take very long. If you do this from home, the download time may be long. Please give me feedback concerning this. I need to know if you are using a computer on campus which does not yet have the QT plug-in. I need to know what you think of the QT movies.

You can get your QT plug-in by clicking here.

Dr D's own QuickTime Gallery


Physics 3050, Excursions in Physics, is a general education survey course of introductory Physics. While Physics includes nearly everything around us, this course will concentrate on Mechanics, Waves, and Optics.

Homework is vital in understanding Physics! You need to think about the questions, think about answers, ask other students about them, discuss them in class, and look at the posted solutions.



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