Physics 190 / Fall 2014
MWF 10am; Lab TWR 1-4
Professor Ann Silversmith
Office G054, x4704
Research Lab G072 x4739

Course Instructions – Please read carefully

Welcome to Physics 190. I’m excited to be here and I hope you are too. We have a lot of great physics to learn this semester.

Course Description and Goals

This course covers basic mechanics of single particles and of extended objects. Our goal is to cover introductory ideas about Special Relativity, and also material in chapters 1-14 in your textbook. In all of our work we will concentrate on understanding the physics in a conceptual way and on translating physical situations to mathematical equations. This translation process (from the language of English to the language of Mathematics) is often the most challenging and rewarding part of our enterprise.

This class meets MWF at 10 am, and class attendance is quite important. In other words, you and I have appointments to work together every MWF from 10 to 10:50am. During these appointments it is my job to present physics in an interesting and understandable way. It is your job to listen, think, take notes, and ask questions. No laptops in lecture! In addition to these three weekly appointments, I will schedule office hours and I encourage you to come and work with me when you have questions about lectures, assigned work, or exams.


Our text is Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday, Resnick, and Walker - a standard calculus-based physics text that you will get to know very well this year. I think you will find it readable and I hope that you will be able to learn from it. We do not have time in three 50min lectures to cover all the good stuff that is part of this course; you will rely heavily on your textbook. The book has many worked-out examples that will help you master problem-solving techniques. Take a few minutes tonight and explore the text.

The college store will stock the 10th edition of this text. It is rather expensive. If you prefer, you are free to use an older version (and perhaps save considerable $$). We will use the text only a little during the first 2 weeks but very heavily after that, so you do have some time to look for a less pricey alternative. Be warned that I will use the currentedition for problems; if you use an older edition, it is your responsibility to borrow the current version in order to access the assigned problems.

For our study of the Special Theory of Relativity and we will rely on an additional text, Basic Concepts in Relativity also by Resnick and Halliday. It is unfortunately out of print. I will post assigned reading as pdf documents on BlackBoard. You will find other reading assignments on BlackBoard as well.


This course will make use of basic mathematics that you know well: algebra, trigonometry, vector analysis, and geometry. Many of you have already taken calculus and you will be pleased to be able to apply it in this class. Others of you are taking it now for the first time. You will simultaneously be learning the elegant side of the math (in your calculus class) and the more practical “what’s it good for?” approach in this class. We will use the spreadsheet program Excel extensively to do data analysis for lab work and to perform a few numerical calculations.


The grade for the course will be based on homework, labs, and exams as follows:

Special considerations during exams:

Students with properly documented disabilities may need extended time on exams or other accomodations. If you are eligible to receive an accommodation and would like to request it for this course, please discuss it with me and allow two weeks notice. You must provide Allen Harrison, Associate Dean of Students (office in Elihu Root House; ext. 4021) with appropriate documentation of your disability.

Special considerations for religious observances:

Students who have conflicts because of religious holidays this fall should talk to the instructor early in the semester so that we can make accommodations.

Homework Problem Sets


Lab begins next week and you can find a separate handout with lab policies in the Labs folder in Course Documents (BBoard). Every week the lab handout will be posted by Monday morning. You should always read the handout before coming to lab. Sometimes there will be assigned “Pre-lab exercises” that you will hand in at the beginning of lab.

Working as part of a group

Once upon a time scientists worked on great problems all by themselves. Newton, for example, sat under the apple tree all alone, thinking about the mysteries of gravity. Well, that is the story, anyway. In general, though, that is not the way science is done these days. Scientists work together in research groups and it is often more productive and usually more fun to work on physics with a group of people. It is important to find classmates who work at a pace similar to yours. Share ideas and help each other. Physics is not a competitive sport; it is a collaborative enterprise. My goal is that every student in the class does well, learns a lot, and embraces the challenge.

Besides doing problem sets, you have the important jobs of keeping on top of the reading and participating fully during classes by asking and answering questions. The success of the course depends on all of us!

Physics 190