Physics 231
General Physics I
Fall 2015


Lecture: MWF, 11 – 12:20, Appleton 116

Instructor: Tyler Nordgren

Lab: T, W, OR Th 1:00-3:50 pm, Appleton 101

Dr. Hill or Professor Labbate are the lab professors:,


Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:00pm and by appointment

Office: Appleton 126

Text: Matter & Interactions I 4th Ed, Chabay & Sherwood.

Phone: ext. 8660


Physics 231 is the first course in a three-semester, calculus-based, introductory-physics sequence.  This sequence explores the nature of matter and its interactions:  Mechanics (Phys. 231), Electricity and Magnetism (Phys. 232), and Wave Phenomena, Thermodynamics, and Quantum Mechanics (Phys. 233).  Throughout this sequence, you will engage in the physics program – applying just a hand-full of fundamental principles to model the behavior of diverse systems. 


Policies and Expectations


Reading: To get the most out of our class-time together, read the appropriate sections of the text first.  As you read, jot down things you’d like us to address when together. When you come to a red-Question in the text, stop and think about the question (that’s actually what the authors call them, “stop and think” questions.)  They’re generally quite simple, but they help you to keep alert. In addition, you’ll be required to do some short exercises and experiments as homework.

Homework 25% of your grade. There are two types of homework: Reading Exercises and Homework Problems. Both take place on WebAssign.

Reading Exercises: (10%) In the syllabus you’ll see daily RE (for “Reading Exercise”) assignments.  They pertain to the day’s reading and are due at 10:00am before the class in which that reading is discussed.  While reading the text, you’ll encounter exercises scattered throughout.  These are generally trivial applications of ideas just presented; doing them helps you remember the ideas and avoid silly errors later when it counts -in real ‘problems.’  You’ll do almost identical problems online.  The beauty of these is that you can get instant feedback on whether or not you’ve gotten them right, and you can redo them until they are right.  Here’s how to access the RE assignments.  Log in at Make your login the same as your Redlands login (firstname_lastname), your institution is “redlands”, and use whatever password you like. The class key is: redlands 7300 2167


Homework: (15%) Weekly homework assignments are due at 1 pm on Tuesdays. They are also found on WebAssign. Unlike for the Reading Exercises, though, you will need to turn in a paper copy of your solutions, showing exactly how you arrived at the answers that you enter into WebAssign.


Unlike the Reading Exercises, your work (not just the final answers) must be turned in and will be graded; thus the work must be legible and easy to follow (if your original work is not, you should copy it over.) Because good problem solving style and communication are crucial to success on more challenging problems, you will be graded not just on the quality of your solution, but also on the quality of your communication.  For one thing, this means explaining your reasoning in words as well as doing the math. Here are some key things that I’ll be looking for:

·         Visual representation of the given and desired information which communicates how they’re related. Explicitly define the “system.”  (1pt)

·         Meaningful and distinct symbols for the given and desired quantities, ex. might be a ball’s position at time 1. (1pt)

·         Clear & Correct algebra (1pt)

·         Units accompanying all numbers. (1pt)

·         Solving the problem symbolically BEFORE plugging in numbers at the end. (1pt)

If you do all of the above correctly you get 5 pts no matter if the final answer is correct.

·         Correct Answer submitted in WebAssign (Varies by Assignment)

You MUST include units anywhere you use numbers (not just at the end) and use proper vector notation when appropriate. You may find the problem solving technique / template (found on the website) helpful in organizing your work on these problems. Feel free to consult with each other or with me, but the work turned in must be your own.

Once you successfully work out the homework on paper, you will enter the final answer into WebAssign. In addition to the point values in WebAssign, you will receive 5pts on your paper homework for getting all answers correct (no matter how many attempts it takes).

Each weekly homework will also include a computational problem that is submitted directly through WebAssign.  In these, you use programs that you and your lab partners had developed in the preceding lab period (more about that below) to answer follow-up questions.  These exercises should help you deepen your understanding of your programs and so strengthen our computational skills.

Laboratory Experiences: 20% of your grade. Non-exam weeks, there will be laboratory experiences. These are of two types: experiments and simulations.  In the experiments you observe and analyze the behavior of physical systems; in the computer simulations you employ the theory to model physical systems.  The modeling will be done in VPython in the classroom.  You can (but are not required to) install VPython on your personal machine; it is available for free at  You may wish to (but are not required to) bring a thumb drive to class to take your programs home; many of the simulation instructions include suggestions on how you might adapt and extend your programs.  No previous programming experience is necessary; you will learn what you need along the way.  Dr. Hill and Professor Labbate are your lab professors.

Exploring Physics:  (5% of your grade.)  Whether this course is the first in a long series of physics classes or your only science course at Redlands, you deserve a peak deeper into the field than the study of modern mechanics (the primary focus of this course) can afford.  Along with your weekly homework, I ask for a written discussion (300 to 500 words) of a physics article you have read or for you to attend a presentation (some opportunities are listed in the syllabus, others will likely arise.)  The discussion should include a concise summary of the article and your own musings/reactions to it. Use WebAssign to turn in your EP assignments; they are due by 10pm on the dates indicated in the syllabus.

Quizzes: 10% of your grade.  There will be a short quiz over each chapter.  As with the Homework Problems, you will be judged not only on the correctness of your solution, but also on the quality of your communication (of course, in a nod to time constraints, the standard will not be as high as for homework).  The quizzes are intended to encourage you to look over the homework solutions and review anything that you didn’t understand.  Equation sheets will be provided (and are posted online) – familiarize yourself with them so you know how to use them and what material you’re responsible for knowing.


Exams: 40% of your grade. There will be two mid-term exams (12% each) and a final with a section on the last third of the class as well as a cumulative section (16%). All exams will be closed book, closed notes.  As with the quizzes, quality of communication, as well as solution, counts.  Some equations will be provided; the most fundamental principles must be committed to memory.  Sample exams will be available in class and on the website.  The final is 9:00am on Saturday, December 19th.



Grade: If at anytime you are interested in reviewing your standing in the course feel free to give me a call, send me an e-mail, or drop by my office.


Weekly Homework                    15%

Reading Exercises                      10%

Laboratory Experiences             20%

Quizzes                                      10%

Exploring Physics                        5%
Exams                                        40%


Final Grade Assignments:  Final grades will be assigned according to the following: 


                     93           A   (4.0)       100%                                  

90               A- (3.7)     <  93                        

86            B+ (3.3)     <  90                           

83            B   (3.0)     <  86                        

80               B- (2.7)     <  83                        

76           C+ (2.3)     <  80                           

73           C   (2.0)     <  76                        

70               C- (1.7)     <  73                        

66           D+ (1.3)     <  70                          

63           D   (1.0)     <  66                        

60               D- (0.7)     <  63                        

0                 F    (0.0)     <  60                           


Note: to participate in the Engineering 3+2 program, you must earn at least a 3.0 in this class (and all other “pre-engineering” classes, such as Calc.)


NOTE: In order to go on to PHYS 232 you must have earned at least a 1.7 (70%) in the Lecture and Lab Portions INDEPENDENTLY.




2015 Calendar of Lectures and Assignments




Readings and Activities

Assignments Due

Week 1



Tues 9/8



Wed 9/9

1.1-1.5 Matter, Interactions, Vectors


Fri 9/11

1.6-1.10, 1.12 Velocity & Momentum


Lab T,W,Th

L0: VPython – Intro to programming

Bring Laptop and headphones if you have them.




Week 2



Mon 9/14

2.1-2.3, 2.9 Momentum Principles


Tues 9/15

Extra Reading (ER) 1

EP1, HW1: Ch 1 P18, P50

Wed 9/16

2.4-2.6 Momentum Changing Force, Quiz 1


Fri 9/18

2.7-2.9 Constant Force


Lab T,W,Th

L1: Measuring and Modeling in 1D

Bring laptops




Week 3



Mon 9/21

3.1-3.5,3.16-3.17 Fundamental Forces, Gravitation


Tues 9/22


HW2: Ch2 Q3, P13, P16, P20, P22, CP

Wed 9/23

3.7-3.9 Electric and Strong Forces, Quiz 2


Fri 9/24

3.10-3.14 Conservation of Momentum and Multiple Particles


Lab T,W,Th

L2: Motion under Non-Constant Forces (Read 3.6)





Week 4



Mon 9/28

4.1-4.5 Atomic Nature of Matter, springs


Tues 9/29


EP2, HW3: Ch3 Q9, P13, P18, P53, P55, CP

Wed 9/30

4.6-4.7, 4.9 Stress, Strain and Young’s Modulus


Fri 10/2

4.10-4.13, 4.15 Sound in Solids, Quiz 3


Lab T,W,Th

L3: Young’s Modulus and Speed of Sound (Read 4.10-4.13)





Week 5



Mon 10/5

4.8, 4.14 Friction and Buoyancy


Tues 10/6


EP3, HW4: Ch4 Q1, P31, P37, P43, XP10, CP

Wed 10/7

5.1-5.5 Rate of Change, Quiz 4


Fri 10/8

Exam 1 (Ch 1-4)


Lab T,W,Th

L4: Buoyancy, Review for Exam 1 (Ch 1-4)








Week 13



Mon 12/13

Review for Final Exam

HW11: Ch11 P39, P57, P64, P74, P78

Final Exam is 9:00am SATURDAY December 19


This schedule is subject to change.