Physics 106 Spring 2008

Light, Perception, Photography, and Visual Phenomena (3 cr)

Professor William Dorland


Office: 4117 CSIC       Phone: 301-405-1647

Course Description: The goal of this course is to learn about light and associated phenomena. We will cover a broad range of topics including light, lenses, photography, vision, and color. This is a physics course, so we will approach these subjects with a rationalist perspective, but it is intended for non-scientists and will use a minimum of mathematics.

Blackboard software: Our course will utilize Blackboard software for homework assignments, notes, discussion and announcements. The link to our class is found through

Office Hours: Wednesday 3-5 (and anytime you drop by and I am there...)

CORE Info:   Phys107 must be taken concurrently with Phys106 in order to meet the CORE Physical Science Lab (PL) requirement.   Phys106 taken alone will not satisfy the CORE non-lab science (PS) requirement!

Text:                 Seeing the Light by Falk, Brill, and Stork (Wiley, 1986).     

Clickers: We will be using personal response devices. Purchase at the book store - ask for a ResponseCard RF keypad.  These will be an important part of your grade so get one and bring to class.   

Classes:             PHY 1410, MWF 2:00 - 2:50 PM

Homework: Homework will be assigned and collected frequently. The assignments will be posted on our Blackboard website as well as in lecture.   Late homework will not be accepted except in the case of illness verified by a doctor's signature.

Exams:       There will be three hour exams (I will drop the lowest score after normalization) and a final exam.

     Hour exams:    February 29, April 4, May 9

     Final exam:     Monday May 19, 1:30-3:30 pm

     All exams are closed book, but necessary (and unnecessary!) formulae will be provided.

     Make-up exams will be not given for the hour exams since one exam will be dropped.

Paper:   A 2-3 page (single spaced) paper will be due on April 18, 2008.   Every day late will result in a 25% reduction in the grade. This assignment will be an explanation of a visual phenomenon, optical technology, or optical property written at the level of a New York Times “Science Times” article. It must be properly referenced, and submitted on paper as well as electronically (more details will be provided in class). Plagiarism will not be tolerated.

Extra Help:   I will be available at the end of each lecture to answer questions, or come to my office hours.   Please seek help at the first sign of difficulties.

Grading: Your grade will be based on the following:

Best two out of three hour exams






Class Participation*


Final Exam


*Clickers are required and will be used in part to assign Participation grades.

Academic Integrity:        The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit

Disabilities:    If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible.

Helpful tips:                  

1) Read the book before the lecture and refresh yourself after.

2) Do the homework.   Collaboration to understand the homework is encouraged, but you must do and turn in the work yourself.

3) Attend the lectures.   The lectures, demonstrations, and discussions are how you will learn.   Material covered in lecture but not in the book may appear on exams. Clickers will be used to count class participation.

4) Talk to your classmates. Trying to explain something to someone else is often the best way for you to fully understand the concept. Use the Blackboard discussion forum.

5) Ask questions in lecture.   There are no stupid questions.  You don’t have to raise your hand  first – just ask.