Introductory Newtonian Mechanics
Instructor: Professor Yongsheng Gao
Office: Room 4A, Fondren Science Hall
Office Hours: Tuesday 2:00pm -- 4:00pm, and by appointment. Additionally, graduate student is available to answer your questions on Monday evening 6:00pm -- 8:00pm (to be confirmed) .
Review: There will be an evening review session scheduled every Wednesday Evening 6:30pm -- 8:00pm (to be confirmed) .
Textbook: "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" Vol. 1
by Serway/Beichner 5th edition.
An optional study guide is also available.
A copy of the homework solutions will be made available for library reserve use, as well as in the campus copy center. .
Calculators: A scientific calculator is a must. Necessary functions are sin, cos, tan, exp, log, and roots, as well as the inverse operations. (Note, you need not spend more than about $15 for this.)
Prerequisites: We shall assume a working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry. A limited amount of calculus will be used.
Quizzes: There will be a 10 minute quiz at the beginning of class each THURSDAY (except when there is an exam scheduled). There are 10 quizzes. The lowest 2 grades will be dropped. (Note, this includes all missed quizzes, doctors appointments, and other emergencies.) No make up quizzes will be given after the class quiz.
Grading: The final course grade will be determined as follows. Quizzes 25%, Exams 40%, Final 30%, Homework 5%.
Homework: Physics is not a spectator sport! Homework is assigned for each chapter. The homework will be due every THURSDAY. It will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis to verify that you are keeping up the the material. I encourage you to work in a study group and to use my office hours if you have difficulty. (Note, I do not need to grade the homework rigorously since it will be obvious from the quiz grades who is doing the work.)
Solutions: A copy of the homework solutions will be made available for library reserve use, as well as in the campus copy center.
I remind you that many of the quiz and exam problems are directly from the homework. The solutions to the homework is provided as a convenience to help you when you get stuck. You will find that it is not sufficient to simply read through homework solution to understand the material. It is essential to struggle with the idea, and learn for yourself how to solve the different types of problems. Consider the following analogy: If I ask you to drive to my house, you would have significant difficulty because you would not know the proper direction to travel, or the proper turns to make. But, if I told you to follow me home, it would be trivial. The same applies to the homework. It is trivial to follow me as I take you through the problems and the examples. But when you are on your own and I am not telling you what direction to go and you can not peek at the homework solutions, it is far from trivial. I encourage you to use the homework solutions as a tool; but, it is not a substitute for you working out the solutions on your own. It takes me 2-3 hours to do a chapter of homework. I expect it should take you 2-3 times as long. (Maybe less, if you work in a group.) If you are willing to put in the time, I can assure you of a good grade. If not, I can assure you of what you earn. If you think you are close to understanding the material, but need just a little more work, then come and see me during my office hours.
The goal of this course, beyond physics, is to give you the ability to approach complex problems, identify the important parts, ignore the irrelevant parts, and obtain a solution. It provide an opportunity for you to sharpen your analytical thinking skills. Whether you become a physicist, engineer, doctor, scientist, lawyer, architect, business executive, or whatever, your ability to deal with complex abstract problems will always be an asset.
While there will be many topics in physics I will not have time to cover, I hope to give you the skill that will enable you to understand these topics as you encounter them in your future studies. I hope that the knowledge and skills we cover in this course to be useful to you beyond the exam. I want you to become good critical and analytical thinkers. Not only to plug numbers into equations but able to develop new models and theories, to make qualified assumptions, and then use those models and assumptions to break new ground in science and technology.