Fall 2017                                                                        Physics 200 Syllabus

                        Physics 200                

Class:         11:00-11:50 am, MWF, Science Center G041

Lab:         1:00-4:00 pm, T,W,or R, Science Center G032. You must be enrolled.

Instructor:                 Prof. Viva R. Horowitz, Science Center G054, x4366, vhorowit@hamilton.edu

Lab instructors: Prof. Jon Gaffney (T), Prof. Viva R. Horowitz (W), and Dr. Adam Lark (R)

Exam schedule:        Midterm 1:         Monday, Sept 18, 7-9 pm        [VRH may be traveling that morning.]

Midterm 2:         Monday, Oct 9, 7-9 pm

Midterm 3:         Wednesday, Nov 15, 7-9 pm

Final exam:         Tuesday, December 12, 7-10 pm in G041

Help session:         Thursdays 3pm to 6pm in SCCT G050, except Sept 21.

You are also welcome to email me to schedule an appointment or to ask a question.

Text:                 Physics for Scientists and Engineers, by Knight, 4th ed. Required.

Volume I is fine for this semester. (Volume II will likely be used next semester.)

Electronic textbook:         FlipItPhysics.com (required).

Communication:         Assignments and quiz announcements will appear on Blackboard.

Course grades will be calculated as follows:

Participation and class work          5%

Quizzes                        10%        Your lowest score will be dropped.

Lab                                20%

Problem sets                        15%        See policy in syllabus.

Midterms   3 × 10% =         30%

Final exam                        20%

Letter grades will be assigned according to: >93 A / 90-93 A- / 87-90 B+ / 83-87 B / 80-83 B- / 77-80 C+ / 73-77 C / 70-73 C- / 67-70 D+ / 63-67 D / 60-63 D- / <60 F

This survey course covers many topics quickly, so you will need to do your reading assignment to be prepared for the class discussion and activities. I will coach you through this material, but the responsibility to learn the material ultimately lies with you. In general, I expect you to put in 3 hours of effort outside of class for every hour in class (not counting lab).


Physics I is the first semester of a year-long calculus-based sequence (200-205) for scientists and pre-med students who require a year of physics. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, conservation laws, fluids, kinetic theory and thermodynamics. Three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory. (Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.) Prerequisite, Mathematics 116 or equivalent. Not open to students who have taken 100 or 190.

Tips for success

  1. Give yourself plenty of time. Start your work early. Read about the topic before class. Watch Flipitphysics lecture videos and take notes.
  2. When you read the textbook, pretend it is lying to you. Fight back. Struggle. Figure out why it is really true (or let me know where the textbook has a mistake).
  3. Be ready to THINK during class, not just take notes. Analytical Thinking Activities in class will help you on problem sets and exams.
  4. Try problems on a whiteboard first. It’s easier to be creative when you know it’s eraseable.
  5. Help your classmates learn the material. (This will really help you!)
  6. Ask your classmates to help you learn the material.
  7. Use the QSR and my help sessions. Come early and often. Don’t wait for the work to become challenging.
  8. Do practice problems on Flipitphysics.


Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning

Mathematical modeling is a key part of physics. You will build on your ability to work with mathematical quantities with physical units and algebraic symbols, as well as learning physics visualization tools, such as motion diagrams, free body diagrams, laboratory schematics, and other drawings.

Preparation for your future.

Almost all of you are taking this course because you are preparing for a future course, such as Physical Chemistry, or for a future career goal, such as medical school. That is why this course covers so many topics. In addition, you want to be prepared for electricity and magnetism in the spring, so it’s good to see vectors now and you’ll be better prepared to see vector fields then.

Physical understanding.

By the end of this course, you will be able to see a bicycle gear and predict which size gear is better suited for biking up or down hill, or explain why driving an unbanked curve too quickly is dangerous, with a mathematical underpinning to these predictions. You will have begun to learn the art of approximation, which is so essential to physical intuition and computation.

Technical communication.

We will be emphasizing the ability to communicate about technical ideas in written and spoken contexts. Understanding a tricky concept does not mean you will be able to communicate it to others. You will practice technical communication on homework assignments and in course discussions.

Problem sets

There will be weekly problem sets posted on Blackboard or handed out in class. Late problem sets will have 15% of the points deducted. After one week, late homework will not be accepted.

We cannot grade what we can't read and we can't give grades to unidentifiable work. You are responsible for presenting your work clearly, for marking it clearly on the first page with your name and the assignment due date, and for making sure that you work stays together. [SM]

Physics homeworks are graded on the presentation of principles, the logical argument, and the calculations, NOT on final answers. This doesn't mean that we don't want the correct answer, but it does mean that the answers by themselves are not worth anything, even if they are correct. You are being graded on the work that leads to those answers and all such work must be presented clearly and legibly, with all assumptions made clear, all non-trivial steps explained, and any non-standard notations clearly defined. Except in rare cases, a clear, well labeled, diagram is an essential part of all valid answers. Such diagrams should be large enough that all information can be presented without crowding. You may lose points even if you have shown all the calculations! [SM]

For example, a 5-point problem might be divided as follows: 2 points for a good diagram, 2 points for a well-presented solution, and 1 point for style. The full style point can be lost if you do not include correct units.


You are graded on participation and so being in class and taking an active role are essential for a high participation grade. I may take attendance on days with Analytical Thinking Activities. If you know that you must miss a class then please let me know in advance (this is especially true of scheduled absences such as sports travel, group performances, or field trips for another course). If you do miss a class then it up to you to find out from your classmates what you have missed and to make up any missed work. [SM]

Attendance at laboratories is mandatory. If you must miss a laboratory then a) you must inform your lab instructor ahead of time except in the most exceptional cases (such as acute illness) and b) you must arrange ahead to time to make the lab up. In the exceptional case that you miss a lab without prior arrangement then you must contact me as soon as possible to discuss your reasons and to make arrangements to make up the work. [SM]


Ethics, participation, and punctuality are essential in this class and in your professional life in general. I trust you all to adhere to the Honor Code.


Respect, honesty, fairness, and equality are essential to learning and teamwork. Everyone in this class —you, your peers, and the teaching staff —should therefore adhere to the highest ethical standards. For every action/decision you take, subject yourself the “headline test”: if your action were printed as the front-page headline in the newspaper and all those you care about —your friends, family, your team members, peers, the teaching staff —would read it, how would you feel? If the answer is anything but “good”, you are probably not adhering to the highest ethical standards. [EM]


To fully learn the material, you need to fully participate in all scheduled class activities (graded or not). For example, you are not: completing work in class that you should have done at home; doing non-class related work; engaged in non-class related activities on your computer (such as chatting, texting, surfing the internet, emailing, etc.). Not being fully engaged is unfair to you and your classmates. [EM]



We know you’re busy, but please respect your classmates and me by being punctual.This means arriving on time to class, not leaving before class is over, and handing in all assignments by their deadlines. [EM]

How to get help and how to acknowledge it

I expect most students to feel that they are struggling at some point during this course. Physics is not obvious! But struggling with the material can be a good sign of progress. It might mean taking the time to review what you have learned. It might mean acknowledging when you are wrong. I respect your struggle, and my aim is to coach you through it, not avoid it. [VRH]

Most students find that it is extremely helpful to work together in various ways to study physics, especially to write solutions. This is normal and we encourage it. Similarly, the college provides a number of important resources to help you learn the material and apply it in the homeworks. You should get used to talking about physics among yourselves, with your friends from other classes, and with your professors, QSR tutors, and with students in other physics classes. All of these have something to teach you and you have something to teach them. Similarly, in lab you will be working in groups (usually of two) and will be expected to work very closely together, sharing ideas, checking answers, discussing the meaning of what you are doing. All this collaboration is a good and vital part of the normal workings of physics. However, you have to exercise some good and ethical sense. In all circumstances acknowledge someone when they help you. In academic life it is not just good manners, it is a fundamental duty. When you get help, from whatever source, you must acknowledge that help. What does this mean to you? Well, if you do some problems as part of a group working session then indicate that fact on the homework and acknowledge your collaborators by name. If you work with a tutor on some problems, then note that on your work. If you get a particularly good idea from your lab partner mention that specifically in your submissions. (You should always list the lab partner's name at the beginning anyway, this an extra courtesy.) Collaboration is a good thing in physics.

Copying, however, is as strictly forbidden here as in all academic work. A common effort that results in a set of answers with clear indication that you worked with others is great for homeworks and labs, though obviously not for exams. However, work that you claim for your own but which is actually taken from another or done with another without proper acknowledgement is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious offence. Make sure you understand the Honor Code and its supporting materials. [SM] A good rule of thumb is to be at least five feet away from anyone else’s work when you write up your problem set solutions [JG], even if you worked collaboratively to work out the solution.

The work you submit for grading should be your own in the sense that you have written out a solution in your own words and that you have done your own calculations.

There are a number of resources that you will probably need.

If you use any of these resources, or others, to complete a written assignment, you should reference the resource. You do not need a formal bibliography for resources that you frequently use, such as your textbook or notes, but you should indicate in writing what resource(s) you use. You are allowed to cite Wikipedia (and other tertiary sources) in your homework. For example, to cite your textbook, you might note “Knight p. 120” or “text (5.4)” if you looked up Newton’s second law in the textbook. If you have already memorized Newton’s second law, then you do not need to cite it in this course because the graders and I are familiar with Newton’s laws and the course material. This helps us see what resources you find valuable. By the way, in a professional scientific publication, an author would refer to “Newton’s second law” and that would be sufficient to give credit to Isaac Newton. On the other hand, we wouldn’t cite Wikipedia in a publication! [VRH]

Accommodation statement

Hamilton College will make reasonable accommodations for students with properly documented disabilities. If you are eligible to receive an accommodation(s) and would like to make a formal request for this course, please discuss it with me during the first two weeks of class. You will need to provide Allen Harrison, Associate Dean of Students (Elihu Root House; ext. 4021) with appropriate documentation of your disability. [statement from Allen Harrison]

Emergency Preparedness

In the event of an extended disruption of normal classroom activities the format for this course may be modified to enable its completion within its programmed time. In the event of an evacuation order during class, we will evacuate to the main quad in front of Taylor Science Center and await further directions. In the event of a shelter-in-place order during class, we will stay in class until the order is called off. In the event that a shelter-in-place order is in effect when class starts, class will be canceled for the day. [statement from Cynthia Downs]


It is appropriate to give credit where credit is due. I aim to model this to my students.

I have used a large number of sources for this course.

I am grateful to

for personally providing me with course materials, especially for those materials that are based on the latest physics education research. In addition I will be using a variety of published materials.

In this course, I will sometimes indicate my source with the following notation: [SM] for Seth Major, [EM] for Eric Mazur, [LM] for Logan McCarty, and [JG] for Jon Gaffney. They offered me their documents with the understanding that most teaching materials are informally passed along, paraphrased, and copied from instructor to instructor without citation. The benefit of skipping the citation is that it streamlines the information for the benefit of the students. However, I believe in acknowledging sources, so I will aim to use these short notations in square brackets, as long as they do not impede the communication of the material.

I may edit the electronic version of this acknowledgement over the course of the semester to add additional acknowledgments. [VRH]

Physics 200