Course: PHY104
Instructor: Visjnic
S 2015

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This calculus-based course is primarily geared to students majoring in engineering and physics, but is also well suited to majors in other sciences. The goal of the course is to develop an understanding of the fundamental laws of physics, in particular, electricity and magnetism, with applications to electronics, optics, and new challenges in renewable energy sources.

The goal of this course is to introduce electricity and magnetism to science and engineering majors in an applied and calculus-based way.  There is also an emphasis on rigorous utilization of the scientific method in labs.

Thematic in this course are the various interactions between the gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields. The course begins slowly, acclimating students to the concepts of charge and how they relate to electricity and magnetism.  It progresses in a logical way, moving onto charge distributions and how they generate electric fields (Gauss’ Law). This translates well to the later focus on circuits, induction, and complex impedance.  The course concludes with units on interference and diffraction and properties of light.

This course assumes knowledge of mechanics and draws heavily from calculus courses.  It is important to be able apply concepts from calculus such as integrals and derivatives.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Lectures present the material in a general and conceptual way. Students are presented with proofs and explanations for the principles that are taught, as well as fun demonstrations of these concepts.  Additionally, students will use iClickers to answer multiple-choice questions given during lecture.

In precept, students are exposed to the same concepts in more depth, and then will be expected to apply them.  It is important to ask questions during these sessions, and to be as specific as possible.

The textbook should be used to supplement lectures and precepts: students should refer to the textbook if a concept is unfamiliar or unclear.  The textbook is also a useful resource for practice problems and examples. Although problems from the textbook will rarely be assigned, thoroughly understanding textbook examples are helpful for tests and quizzes.

In lab, there is an emphasis on considering the limitations and assumptions inherent to the procedure, and determining their influence on the data.

The writer found it helpful to approach challenging problems with the following strategy:

  1. What is the question asking for?  Both magnitude and direction, or just one?  Is there a special situation you recall that this case applies to?  Look out for key words and hints that are evident when a problem suddenly gets specific.
  2. Use (a little) intuition.  When were you previously asked a question like this, and how did you approach it then?
  3. Write down several helpful equations, and recognize which variables are known and unknown.
  4. Derive the unknowns you need.
  5. Solve.

This class follows a helpful logical progression, but it moves quickly and new material often builds off of old ones. It is important for students to be able to answer these questions before moving on to a new concept: When is this concept most useful?  For example, when would I use the Biot-Savart Law as opposed to Gauss’s Law? How would I apply this? What information do I need in order to be able to use this method/principle to solve this?

Learning For and From Assignments

There are many weekly assignments, though not as many as in PHY103.  It is important to stay on top of these assignments while not overstressing them. If stuck, the student should make their best attempt and then ask for help or look for hints in the textbook.

The quizzes, which are given approximately every other week, will test each concept more or less in isolation.  It is critical to be able to understand the examples given in the textbook for each principle covered.  For example, you will be expected to calculate the electric field within a charge distribution, which is something you will learn how to do by reading the example in the book.

The best material to use in preparation for the final exam are the practice finals and problem sets. Problems are often at the same level of difficulty as the weekly problem sets, and going through the practice exams will give a clear picture of which concepts the professor considers important.

External Resources

The most helpful resource is the Sunday problem set session, where there are many professors and graduate students, as well as peers, with whom to collaborate and ask questions.

Online resources such as Hyperphysics are helpful when concepts are new. Use of these are recommended when completing the weekly assignments.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This course is excellent for preparing engineers and math-intensive science majors.  It opens up knowledge of circuits and the interplay of types of fields, which are very new to many students.  For many science majors, it is important to understand how the fundamental fields influence the behavior of particles. It is also empowering to learn how to apply calculus to these principles.  The precepts are small, and this class is well supported by the physics department as well as McGraw.

Do not feel daunted by it—if you like physics, you can do it!  With that said, it is a large time commitment, inside and outside of class. It is helpful to keep in mind that this class meets often. In a given week, there are three precepts, one lab, one lecture, and problem-set sessions.

General Physics II

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