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PHYS 121: General Physics I

Vinod Menon

(Submission #75)

Course Description

This course deals with fundamental principles underlying our understanding of the physical world around us. More specifically it is concerned with several areas of “classical physics,” which were developed between 16th and 20th centuries and which deal with objects that are not too small, and that are not moving too fast. In this class students will learn the basic concepts (motion, gravity, energy, temperature, etc.) and methods used by physicists in explaining properties of the natural world. They will find out how discoveries in physics not only provided civilization with knowledge, but also shaped and changed it. Interaction between students and teaching staff is organized in the form of three components: lectures, recitations and labs. Students learn material, however, not only during scheduled class times, but also during their preparation for classes. The preparation includes: reading a textbook and additional reading materials, solving homework problems, and performing other assignments deemed necessary by an instructor. Main goal of lectures is to deliver main conceptual content of the studied material. Organization of lectures depends on individual styles of professors teaching the course, but active involvement of students in discussion of the subject matter will always be one of the main means of achieving this goal. Recitations play a more technical role: during recitations students sharpen their practical skill in applying new concepts to typical situations occurring in real life or during scientific inquiry. The emphasis will be to hone problem solving skills and to logically break down a complicated problem. During labs, students are introduced to and obtain hands-on experience of empirical methods of scientific inquiry. They learn to design meaningful scientific experiments, use basic measuring devices and instruments, collect and analyze experimental data to make reasonable scientific inferences and finally discuss their results and reasons for errors. Topics in this class include: Mechanics: Kinematics (description of motion); projectile motion in everyday phenomena and in the history of physics, Newton’s laws as the foundation of a mechanical world view; Newton’s law of universal gravity and its implications for astronomy, and space exploration; momentum and its conservation, kinematics of collisions; mechanical energy and its conservation, general concept of energy and its application in physics and beyond; rotational motion, torque, energy of rotation; oscillatory motion and simple harmonic motion; fluids motion. Heat and thermodynamics: Thermal expansion; phases of matter and conversions; temperature scales; thermodynamic processes (isothermal, isobaric, isochoric, adiabatic); internal energy and the 1st law of thermodynamics; 2nd law of thermodynamics and heat engines; thermodynamics and industrial revolution; entropy.


Area of Knowledge and Inquiry: Natural Science Lab (NS-L)
Context of Experience: Not Applicable
Extended Requirement: Abstract or Quantitative Reasoning (QR)

Additional Course information

Credits: 4
Prerequisites: Trigonometry and Algebra, High School Math
Existing Course: Existing
Existing Course Number: Phys 121
Course Anticipated to be offered: Every Semester
Other (if specified): 
Number of Sections: 5
Number of Seats: 24


[Justification, Materials, Assessment, Administration (PDF)]   [Syllabus/Syllabi (DOC)]  

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