Main Handout

Physics 121, Fall 2010

Prof. E. F. Redish

Title: Physics 121: Fundamentals of Physics I

The second semester of the two term sequence on introduction to classical physics. Satisfies the physics requirement of most medical and dental schools.


A good understanding of algebra and trig (at the level of Math 115).


This class will be different from some traditional science classes. Instead of focusing on a set of facts to be memorized, we are going to focus on learning to think rationally and coherently about the physical world. This means that instead of only paying attention to results, we are going to be paying a lot of attention to how you get results, how to evaluate results, when results are valid, and how to relate what we are learning to your intuitions. We're going to learn how to "think science" rather than just to collect someone else's results.

Class Participation:

You are expected to attend all classes -- lectures, discussions, and labs. Each will involve your participation, including lecture. Some of these activities will result in participation points, a small but non-trivial contribution to your overall grade.

This handout describes our class in detail. It includes links to information about the many parts of the class. Since this class has an unusual structure I very strongly recommend that you read all the parts (links) of this handout carefully at the start of the class! If you lose points because you "didn't know" something that is described in these handouts I will have no sympathy.






Office Hours



E. F. Redish



Th 12-2 (in the Course Center or by arrangement at other times in 1308)


Yuwei Cui

IPST 1102


TBA (0208)


Ben Dreyfus



TBA (0208)


Brad Gordon



TBA (0208)


Mike Hull



TBA (0208)


Vijay Kaul



TBA (0208)


Matthew Kretschmer



TBA (0208)

Slawsky Clinic

Ralph Vendemia



10-3 MWF (1214)

Class Times:

This gives the times and places of lectures, discussion sections, labs, plus times and places to get help with your homework.



Here is the schedule for what will happen in the class -- the topics of each lecture, when we have quizzes, exams, and ILDs, and when the HW is due, as well as suggested readings in the recommended text. This will get updated at things evolve through the semester.


Required and Recommended Purchases:

You are required to purchase three items for the class -- but not a textbook.



These days the web is an important part of any learning activity. Here are some ways that we will use it.


Lectures/ Quizzes / ILDs:

A lot happens in lecture in this class -- including some activities you get points for: clicker questions, quizzes, and ILDs.



Homework is where it's at in this class! A major part of what I expect you to learn in this class will come as a result of doing homework. Homework will not be a lot of trivial manipulative exercises. There will be fewer problems than are traditional and most will be reasonably challenging.



Although no participation points are assigned during tutorial sessions, they are the core activity for making sense out of the most fundamental and challenging concepts. Many students find them the most valuable element in the class for learning to do my exam questions and homework problems.


The laboratories in this class are different from the traditional "protocol" labs where you are told exactly what to do and expect to get a result that agrees with some theoretical prediction. These are design labs -- labs in which your job is to design a lab to answer a question. In these you will get the opportunity to explore how the design of the equipment effects what you measure and to consider how certain you are of your answer. An important part of the lab is the discussion at the end where you present and discuss your results to the other members of your class.



Although exams are important, they total only ~40% of your grade -- and there are ways to improve your result after the fact.



Grades in this class arise NOT solely from your performance on exams but from a mix of many different ways to judge your work. Be sure you understand the components so you don't get a nasty surprise at the end of the term!


Ramblings on Course Goals:

Go to this link for some additional thoughts about what I expect from you in this class, and why I do it this way.


If you have a valid excuse for missing an exam, quiz, or homework, send me an email to arrange what to do about it, beforehand if at all possible. Specify the date and day you will be (or were) absent and the reasons. Ex post facto (after the fact) excuses will require validation and may not be acceptable. (Wanting to leave early before a holiday is NOT a valid excuse, even if it's for a friend's wedding.) You must contact me. Your TA's do not have the authority to excuse you from any required class activity.

Honor code:

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


If you have any questions about policy or procedures, please feel free to ask. I am looking forward to working with you and hope that you will both enjoy and learn a lot from the class.

Prof. E. F. Redish


University of Maryland Physics Department Physics 121 Home

This page prepared by

Edward F. Redish
Department of Physics
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: (301) 405-6120

Last revision 12 September, 2010.