PHYS 3344 Overview

Fall 2001

Last edit: 3 Aug 2001

Prof. Thomas Coan (x8-2497)
Office: 4B Fondren Science


Welcome to PHYS 3344, traditionally considered the first "real" physics course in a physics major's career. Our first goal is for you to learn a substantial subset of classical mechanics: the Newtonian mechanics of single and multiple discrete particles, Newtonian gravity, central force motion, Hamilton's principle, motion in a non-inertial reference frame, the dynamics of rigid body motion, and oscillations of a point particle. My choice of topics for PHYS 3344 is based on the assumption that you will take PHYS 3345 afterwards. You will need to work diligently in PHYS 3344 if you wish to learn the material.

The second goal of PHYS 3344 is for you to learn some practical mathematical techniques useful for solving physics problems, including those you are likely to see in other courses and in a technical career after graduation. These will include elements of vector calculus, matrix manipulation and elementary linear algebra, techniques for solving differential equations and an introduction to Fourier analysis.

Understanding the physical universe requires that you be able to estimate the order of magnitude of all kinds of physical quantities, often in novel circumstances. See the page Fermi problems for a list of these "Fermi" problems. Since being able to efficiently solve these problems requires that you know some spectrum of physical constants, I will regularly quiz you on your knowledge of physical constants. (I will provide guidance on what constants you should know.)

To improve your writing ability, you will be required to write 2 technical papers explaining some topic related to classical mechanics. I will issue suggestions, although you are free to propose any that interest you. Only topics sanctioned by me will be acceptable. Each paper should be 5 or so typed pages in length and include figures that aid the exposition. The style should be similar to that found in any of your SMU physics textbooks. I will issue more details when the time comes.

Tests, Papers, Exams and Grades

Homework will be issued weekly and is graded. I encourage you to work together on the problems. However, the final write-up must be your own work. Submitted homework assignments that are suspiciously similar will annoy me. There will be 3 regular tests as well as a comprehensive final exam. See the PHYS 3344 syllabus for details. I will issue short, unannounced quizzes to test your diligence in reading the course material on a random basis. You will be required to write 2 term papers.

Your final grade will be based on a weighted sum of your performance on homework, tests, quizzes, the papers and the final exam. Individual assignments do not receive a letter grade. The assignments weights are:

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