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This is the web-page for PHYS 101, Introductory Physics 1 (sections 11-12, fall 2020). Materials on this webpage are meant to supplement information given to you in class itself. This course is an algebra-based introduction to the areas of Physics broadly known as Mechanics and Thermodynamics with the vast majority of the semester spent on the subject of Mechanics. That word doesn't always mean a lot to students who haven't had much Physics before, so to be clearer Mechanics includes things like kinematics (the study of particle motion without regard to the physical cause of the motion), forces/Newton's Laws/dynamics (the study of motions that result from forces), energy, momentum, rotation, fluids, oscillations, and waves. Thermodynamics will be treated much more briefly, but typically involves the study of ideas like temperature, work, and heat as well as some other ideas that may be less familiar to you like entropy.

The course, despite being 100-level, is not easy and will require you to work hard in order to be successful. I will do everything I can to assist you, but you should plan to devote significant time outside of class each week to reading, watching videos, and practicing your problem solving by doing the assigned homework. I wish I could magically make the content easier, but people all over the world are learning the same things and so far nobody has found a great short-cut to developing the knowledge and skills you will acquire in this class in a way that doesn't require you to work hard. I promise to not give you busy-work, to carefully consider what elements of the course are vital, to try to keep everything relevant, and do everything I can to help make you successful.

This course will be 100% on-line, both to give our students an online-only option and to help keep your instructor (who is in a high-risk group for COVID-19 complications) as safe as possible. Your labs, however, are currently planned to be delivered in a hybrid format, with anticipated in-person meetings except for the portion of the semester where ALL courses are delivered virtually.

The lecture portion of this course will be using 4 primary technological tools.

(1) This webpage will be regularly updated and include suggested readings/videos, links to pdfs of your homework assignments, and other assorted links that may be valuable to you.

(2) The course OAKS page (accessible through MyCharleston) will have some of the same information as this webpage, your syllabus, your gradebook, and a location to upload completed homework assignments. I'm not a big fan of OAKS, but our administration is requiring us to use it this semester. I will try to make as much of that material available in other environments as I can, but we are being forced to put some of our course materials there this semester.

(3) The other Physics 101 instructors and I have created a Slack for class discussions. It is not required for you to use this, but we think it might be helpful for you to communicate with your classmates, lab group-mates, and instructors in a way that may be more flexible than email or texting. If you aren't familiar with slack, there are similarities to discord and if a fossil like me can learn it, I don't expect you to have too much of a problem. Again, it is completely optional, but we are hopeful that it can help facilitate more discussion than some on-line classes typically have. (We are confident it is less awkward and more useful than the Oaks discussion pages). You should receive an invitation to this slack just before the semester starts; if you don't please email me! Here is a direct link to the slack:

(4) Our lectures will be presented LIVE, SYNCHRONOUSLY through Zoom. Recorded versions of the lectures will be made available to you (links to private YouTube videos will be uploaded either to a password-protected part of this page, and/or within the slack, and/or within OAKS.) Although we are making the recordings available to you to watch anytime (mostly to ensure that if any of you get sick you can get caught back up), I STRONGLY encourage you to sign into the live zoom sessions so that you can ask questions as we go if you have them, and so that there can be a level of interactivity to this class. Watching after the fact is just not the same. Links to each class's zoom session will be posted in the slack and on Oaks.

If you'd like to find out more about me or the research we do in my lab, check out my main webpage.


Your first homework assignment is due on the 2nd day of class! Unlike most homework assignments, it is in a form that I can't deliver on this webpage -- you'll have to log into OAKS to see it. It is a "quiz" (really a survey) to get extra contact information from you and ask about your mathematics and physics background. It is also a way to get your course grade started out on a positive note; please make sure to submit your assignment completed and on time; points on assignments will never be this easy in this class again.

- When you are struggling.... -

Part of maturing as a thinker is learning how and when to get help. When I was a student, I had an aversion to seeking extra help from my professors and classmates and ultimately I now know this was to my detriment. I encourage you to work with your classmates on the homework, form study groups, come to the open zoom office hours/help sessions, utilize the slack for discussion and/or classmate help, if necessary make appointments for additional help sessions, and make use of the tutoring opportunities available to you. I strongly encourage you to use these resources! You don't get bonus points for figuring it out totally on your own, and you'll be surprised how much you can gain out of the process of talking through this stuff with other people, whether they are your professors, your classmates, or your pets. If, at any time, you feel like things aren't going like they should in this class -- make an appointment with me immediately! I can help you get the assistance you need, or maybe even put you on the right path myself.

- Step by Step Guide in How to Succeed in PHYS 101 -

Like all classes, what you ultimately will get out of taking this class is directly related to how much effort you put into the course. This material is challenging -- especially for a 100 level course -- but it CAN be done, if you put in the necessary effort.
  1. Attend class daily, pay attention, and be an active participant. (Take notes, ask questions, etc.)
  2. Read your textbook and/or watch the linked videos before class! (It may be confusing on this first exposure, but this way when you hear it in lecture you'll be hearing it for the second time. If you hear it in lecture the first time, you will almost certainly be confused. If you are kind-of/sort-of familiar with the content in advance, then -- when hearing it in lecture -- you can identify what things are still confusing and ask effective questions). Reading a textbook -- especially before hearing the lecture on the topic -- is likely the most important thing you can do to succeed in this class.
  3. Complete all homework (including reading a text!).
  4. When confused or lost, seek help right away! (Via office hours -- normally scheduled or by appointment, sessions at the tutoring center, or through help from private tutors. There are many resources available for extra help if you need it, but you can't wait until the end of the semester to turn things around!)
  5. When preparing for tests, rework problems you've seen before -- the ones done in class, during problem solving sessions, or non-assigned questions in assorted texts (most introductory physics texts have at least some of the answers in the back of the book). Get help on any questions you do not understand. I'm happy to work any problems for you independently, except for assigned homework problems before they are due. (I will give you help/hints on these problems if you visit office hours, but I won't just do the homework for you.)
  6. Don't wait until the last minute to start your homework! Sometimes you'll struggle for a while with a problem, and need to come back to it several times to develop a plan of attack. You can't do that if you're starting it 6 hours before it is due. My homework is not easy! Sometimes, successfully solving a single problem is a productive evening's work. Budget your time accordingly! (If you have any doubts about this, ask around the Physics tutors who typically went through our curriculum and had me for some of their classes; they will vouch for the seriousness of my homework sets).

- Class Readings / Videos -

As mentioned above, you should be reading the appropriate parts of a text and/or watching the videos posted here BEFORE class. Success in class may depend on it, so don't take this lightly. Even though the graded homework is listed below the chart, that doesn't mean that these readings/movies/applets are less important.

All readings are described by basic topic, since I suspect you might use a variety of different texts to support your learning in this class. (The official text for this course is by Serway and Vuille, and I will try to follow their notational convention regarding what to call each variable, etc. However, if you are a bit more comfortable using different variable names than your textbook, there are many other fine introductory algebra-based physics texts available that cover pretty much the same topics. There is also a link to a free textbook that is mediocre (but the price is right) on the left portion of this webpage.)

Note that we will not be using any homework management systems like "Web-Assign" or "Mastering Physics". I believe the other PHYS 101 instructors are both using Web-Assign; I've used a similar system before and both myself and my students struggled with it, so I am running my class with more traditional instructor-written homework sets to give another option for people who decide that they prefer a different problem solving environment.

(The Chart below will be updated through the semester, and topics may move around as our schedule is modified.)
Class Date Suggested Reading Topics Suggested Video(s) Suggested Applet(s)
Aug 25th Even I think reading before 1st day unlikely -- but Units/Trig/Vectors Converting Units, Metric System/Prefixes Vector Addition PhET
Aug 27th Units/Trig/Vectors Cont'd. Khan Academy Vector Addition Vector Addition PhET
Sep 1st Linear Motion Basic Linear Motion, Khan Academy Examples Position/Displacement Physlet, Average Velocity Physlet, Average vs. Instantaneous Velocity Physlet, Free Fall Physlet, Moving Man PhET
Sep 3rd Linear Motion (Cont'd) Basic Linear Motion, Khan Academy Examples Position/Displacement Physlet, Average Velocity Physlet, Average vs. Instantaneous Velocity Physlet, Free Fall Physlet, Moving Man PhET
Sept 8th 2D Motion 2D Motion Basics, Projectile Motion Problems, Problem Solving Tips and Tricks, Independence of Vertical and Horizontal Motion (Shown in Class),Shoot the Monkey, Shoot a Different Monkey Motion on an Incline Physlet, Projectile Motion Physlet, 2D Motion PhET, Projectile Motion PhET, Shoot the Monkey Applet
Sept 10th Finish 2D motion and on to Newton's Laws See content for Sept. 8th and Intro to Newton's Laws, Newton's first law demos See content for Sept. 8th and Newton's First Law Physlet, Free Body Diagram Physlet
Sep 15th Newton's 2nd Law Intro to Newton's Second Law, Very Basics of Newton's Second Law, Drawing Free Body Diagrams, Newton's Second Law Demos Forces and Motion PhET, Forces and Motion on a Ramp PhET, Newton's Second Law Physlet
Sep 17th Newton's 2nd Law Cont'd. Intro to Newton's Second Law, Very Basics of Newton's Second Law, Drawing Free Body Diagrams, Newton's Second Law Demos Forces and Motion PhET, Forces and Motion on a Ramp PhET, Newton's Second Law Physlet
Sep 22nd Newton's 2nd Law Cont'd. Friction Physics Problems, Inclined Plane Problems, Breaking Down Free Body Diagrams Ramp PhET, Friction PhET, Basics of Forces and Motion PhET
Sep 24th Circular Motion (Kinematics) Circular Motion Basics, Rotational Kinematics Problem Solving, More Introduction to Rotational Kinematics PhET on Rotation, Physlet on Uniform Circular Motion, Another Physlet on Uniform Circular Motion
Sep 29th Circular Motion (Kinematics) Cont'd. Circular Motion Basics, Rotational Kinematics Problem Solving, More Introduction to Rotational Kinematics PhET on Rotation, Physlet on Uniform Circular Motion, Another Physlet on Uniform Circular Motion
Oct 1st Circular Motion (Kinematics) Cont'd / Link to Gravity Centripetal Force / Acceleration, Intro to Newton's Law of Gravitation PhET on Rotation, Physlet on Uniform Circular Motion, Another Physlet on Uniform Circular Motion
Oct 6th Work and Energy Definition of Work, Introduction to Work and Energy, Khan Academy Introduction to Work and Energy, Conservative and Non-Conservative Forces Energy Skate Park PhET
Oct 8th Test 1 Date N/A (Review Units, Conversions, Kinematics, and Dynamics) N/A
Oct 13th Energy Cont'd. Kinetic and Potential Energy, Khan Academy Conservation of Energy , Kinetic and Potential Energy, Khan Academy Intro to Springs, Hooke's Law and Springs Energy Skate Park PhET (full version), Masses and Springs PhET
Oct 15th Momentum Energy and Momentum Demonstrations, Khan Academy Momentum, Khan Academy Impacts, Khan Academy Collisions, Brief Introduction to Collisions, Examples of Elastic and Inelastic Collisions PhET Collision Lab, Physlet on Collisions, Another Physlet on Collisions
Oct 20th Momentum Cont'd. (2D Elastic and Inelastic Collisions) 2D Elastic and Inelastic Collisions, Khan Academy Problem Solving Example, Ballistic Pendulum Problem, Brief Video Showing Ballistic Pendulum PhET Collision Lab
Oct 22nd Center of Mass and Rotational Dynamics
Oct 27th Rotational Dynamics Cont'd.
Oct 29th Test 2 Date
Nov 3rd Election Day -- No Class -- --
Nov 5th Rotational Dynamics Cont'd.
Nov 10th Fluids
Nov 12th Vibration and Waves
Nov 17th Vibration and Waves Cont'd.
Nov 19th Vibration and Waves Cont'd. + Sound
Nov 24th Test 3 Date
Nov 26th No class -- Thanksgiving
Dec 1st Thermodynamics
Dec 3rd Thermodynamics Cont'd.
Dec 8th FINAL EXAM, 8-10 AM N/A N/A

- Homework Assignments -

Assignment 1(PDF) (due date: 8/27/20) [this is 2nd half only; first half only available through Oaks]

Assignment 2(PDF) (due date: 9/3/20)

Assignment 3(PDF) (due date: 9/10/20)

Assignment 4(PDF) (due date: 9/17/20)

Assignment 5 [Revised Version](PDF) (due date: 10/1/20)

Assignment 6(PDF) (due date: 10/15/20)

Assignment 7(PDF) (due date: 10/22/20)

Assignment 8(PDF) (anticipated due date: 11/5/20)

Assignment 9(PDF) (anticipated due date: 11/12/20)

Assignment 10(PDF) (anticipated due date: 11/19/20)

Assignment 11(PDF) (anticipated due date: 12/3/20)

- Test Information -

We plan to have 3 midterms as well as a final exam. My current plan is to offer you a window to complete the exam that will include our regularly scheduled class time, so we won't have lectures on those dates. However, I'll talk this over in the synchronous classes to see if this makes the most sense. At present, the planned dates for the exams for this class are the following:
Exam 1: Thursday, October 8th
Exam 2: Thursday, October 29th
Exam 3: Tuesday, November 24th

The (cumulative!) final exam is online and scheduled for Tuesday, December 8th, from 8-10 AM.

Last updated: 11 October 2020