Course Information

Course Times

  • Lectures: MWF 10-10:50 in Merrill 1
  • Labs: Monday or Tuesday 2-5 in Merrill 200
  • Problem Sessions: most Wednesday evenings 8-10 or beyond in Merrill 211

Required Items

Textbook and MasteringPhysics

We will use the first volume of Young & Freedman's University Physics (12th edition) and the accompanying MasteringPhysics online software.  The text + software access is available at the Jeffery Amherst College Store.  If you procure a used or graymarket copy of the textbook, you will need to separately purchase access to the MasteringPhysics software, either from the publisher or from the MasteringPhysics website.  In addition to your personal PIN / ID, you will need the Course ID for Physics 16, Darnton2008F, in order to register yourself at the MasteringPhysics site.   Note that you cannot reuse someone else's PIN or share a PIN. 

The 11th edition of the textbook is essentially identical to the 12th except for the end-of-chapter problems and, I presume, price.  I will provide a look-up table to translate from 12th edition problems to 11th edition problems. Copies of the textbook will be on reserve in the Science Library and Q Center.

Personal Response System (PRS)

PRS clickers for in-class quizzes can be obtained from the IT department.  They can be checked out (like a library book and with similar responsibilities) from Seeley Mudd 110.

Lab Notebook

Quadrille notebooks will be provided at the first laboratory session and charged to your student account.


This course makes moderately heavy use of pocket calculators, though you probably won't need anything beyond trigonometric functions.  A graphing calculator is more than adequate.


Announcements, problem sets, solutions, and other course-related materials will be distributed via the course's web pageIt is your responsibility to check the site regularly for updates and changes.


Regular attendance at lectures is expected.  Persistent unexplained absences will be noted and reflected in your final grade.  In addition, all laboratory assignments must be completed to obtain a passing grade.  Since the experimental apparatus is normally set up only during the particular week of the lab, do not miss your lab section.


Your final grade will depend equally on midterm exams, final exam, laboratory work, and homework.    In addition, I reserve the right to make a modest final adjustment based on in-class quizzes, class and lab participation, extra credit assignments, attendance, effort and overall attitude. 


There will be two mid-term exams and one 3-hour final exam.  Exams will consist of problems similar to the weekly homework problem sets.  Although I will not provide formula sheets, memorization of formulas is not required.  You may bring two handwritten pages of formulas, hints, pre-worked problems, etc. per exam (cumulative) provided you prepare the sheets yourself.  I consider selecting and compiling the formulas for your crib sheet to be a valuable review exercise, so you may not simply copy someone else's work.


Lab sections will meet almost every week.   When labs require formal writeups, these will be due at 5:00 on the following Tuesday.  Late writeups will incur a 20% penalty per day past due.  For informal labs, the TF, TA or I will perform exit interviews to determine whether you understood the physics behind that day's exercise. 

All your lab work should be recorded in a quadrille notebook.  This includes sketches of experimental apparatus, experimental procedures, raw data, as well as plots, fits, equations, etc.  Data obtained in the lab should be considered sacrosanct: all raw data should be recorded in your lab book and under no circumstances should it be 'adjusted' after the fact.  Any data that is unusable can be crossed out (with a note as to why it was rejected) but should not be erased.  You will not be penalized for crossing out whole pages if you have a concrete reason to do so.  In my own lab, I often end up striking days' worth of data when I discover a flaw in my experimental protocol; this is normal practice in a physics lab, though you may notice that I am surly and unresponsive after such an incident.  Your notebook will be collected and graded periodically.  The lab portion grade will depend in equal parts on your three formal writeups, your notebook grade, and your engagement in the lab and exit interviews. 


Weekly problem sets will be due at the beginning of class on Fridays.  They will be taken primarily from the textbook, with supplements and/or extra credit from MasteringPhysics (to be submitted online).  Physics is learned by working problems: you will not succeed on the exams if you skip the problem sets.  Late homework will suffer a 20% penalty per day.
Collaboration on problem sets is strongly encouraged.  You may confer with or consult any student, TA, tutor, professor or textbook to help you understand the problem, but the written solution must be your own.  You may not copy someone else's answer - neither from a fellow student nor from a prepared 'solutions' site or manual.  If you do significantly use another resource (other than your textbook or professor), you should include a note to this effect.   To encourage collaboration we will have informal problem sessions, laxly overseen by me and/or a grader, in Merrill 211 on Wednesday nights before homework is due.  Problem sessions usually include coffee and/or cookies of some kind.

Resources outside of lecture and lab:

I strongly encourage you to use my office hours.  This will not only help you master the material, but – more importantly, from my point of view – will also help me adjust the level of the lectures.  We will have informal problem sessions before problem sets are due.  The Q Center (Merrill 202) offers drop-in help with math and problem-solving skills as well as more targeted help with physics per se.  The office of the Dean of Students runs a peer tutoring program that can provide additional one-to-one instruction. 


Math 11 (the first semester of calculus) or its equivalent is required.  If you are not sure whether you meet this threshold, please see me immediately.

Statement of Intellectual Responsibility:

Homework and Lab work:

While collaboration in thinking about problem sets and labs is encouraged, the final written work you hand in must be exclusively your own.  In the case of formal lab reports, it is strongly advised that students do not communicate with each other, in person or electronically, once the writing process has begun. You may not copy someone else's solution or have someone else read through and correct your work.  This means, for instance, that you will be able to explain and defend your own work yourself.  You may collaborate on the physics and on the method of analysis when writing up labs, but your own notebook must be the original source of data.  Your notebook should contain all the information you use in the writeup: data keeping should not be delegated to one member of a lab group.  As with problem sets, the particular words, plots, and equations in the final written lab report should be your own.


Exams are individual efforts.  No collaboration is permitted during the exam.  On the nth exam you may use n double-sided pages containing equations and any other information you deem helpful, provided you collect and write out this crib sheet yourself.  Calculators will be allowed.  No consultation with friends, books, or sources other than your own personal crib sheet is allowed.  Violation of these rules is extremely serious and will result in disciplinary action; moreover, it is unethical.