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Physics 1 for Physical Science Majors

This is a 12 week course, currently scheduled to start on Monday, April 14, 2014 and finishing on Friday, July 11. This introductory physics course is intended for physical science majors and others desiring a rigorous introduction to physics. It closely parallels the brick-and-mortar course given to the freshmen at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The course covers classical mechanics, including kinematics, dynamics, conservation laws, and applications.


Course at a Glance


About the Course

This course is a rigorous introduction to classical mechanics, which is the study of forces and motion.  How does gravity control the motion of the planets around the sun or the motion of a projectile fired from a cannon?  Why does a spinning skater spin faster when she pulls her arms in?  Why is a perpetual motion machine impossible? These are the kinds of questions which can be answered with classical mechanics, which was first formulated by Isaac Newton around 1666. Classical, or Newtonian Mechanics is the oldest branch of physics, but it will never go out of style.  It remains the foundation of our understanding of the physical world and is constantly used by engineers and scientists. There is a space probe, called New Horizons, that is on its way to Pluto right now, and it will arrive on July 14, 2015, exactly on time and on target, because its path has been computed using classical mechanics, and nothing more.

Course Syllabus

Week 1:               1D motion: speed, velocity and acceleration

Week 2:               1D motion continued.   Vector Math.

Week 3:               Motion in 2D.

Week 4:               Newton’s Laws.

Week 5:               Applications of Newton’s Laws.  Friction.

Week 6:               Work and Energy.

Week 7:               Conservation of Energy.

Week 8:               Gravity and orbits.

Week 9:               Conservation of Momentum and Collisions.

Week 10:             Rotational Motion.

Week 11:             Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Static Equilibrium.

Week 12:             Simple Harmonic Motion.

Recommended Background

This course is aimed at freshmen engineering students and other physical science majors at the University-level.  Students will need a good command of algebra and trigonometry before they start this course, and some acquaintance with calculus.  Calculus is not used much in this course, and we will review that calculus that we do use.  For the student taking this course for credit at the University of Colorado, Calculus 1 is the co-requisite for the course; that is, they are required to take calc1 concurrently, if they have not already taken it.  No previous knowledge of physics is assumed, but this course is fast-paced and we cover a lot of material, so any previous high-school physics course will be very useful. 

Suggested Readings

Weekly reading assignments for this course will be from a free, online textbook, that will be posted on this site.

Course Format

This 12-week class will consist of assigned readings, plus video lectures, 3 times a week, which are video captures of the actual lectures given to freshmen engineers  at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) in the fall semester of 2013.  During each lecture, there are several pauses for in-class “Concept Test” questions.  There are weekly homework assignments, 2 midterm exams, and a final exam.   This online course will resemble the actual course at CU as closely as possible, with very similar homeworks and exams.