Physics 270 – General Physics: Electrodynamics, Light, Relativity and Modern Physics

Spring Semester 2005


Lecture: MWF 1:00 PM in PHY 1412

Mandatory Discussion Sections:


Wednesday 2-3

PHY 4208


Wednesday 3-4

PHY 3301


Thursday 8-9

PHY 1219


Optional Discussion Sections:

1 Thursday 10-11 2202 Physics
2 Friday 10-11 2202 Physics


Note on Discussion Sections:  

            Mandatory Discussion Sections:  You must attend the discussion section to which you are assigned.  If you have a conflict, see the instructor.  The TA will cover material relevant to the homework and exams which may not be covered elsewhere.  There will be quizzes during the discussion sections - see below.  For your benefit and the benefit of the TA, please come prepared to discussion sections, i.e. read the chapters, review your lecture notes, and attempt the homework problems, so you will be prepared to ask questions in the discussion section.  Remember, the TA is there to give you help when you are stuck, not to dole out answers to the homework.


            Optional Discussion Sections:  You are not required to attend these discussions.  If you are having problems with the homework, the lectures, or anything else, this is a good place to go for help.  Also see below for Where To Go When You Need Help.


Instructor: Prof. Michael Fuhrer (sections 0301-0304) 


Office: 2308 Physics

Office Hours: drop-in, or by appt. – phone or email


Phone: 405-6143






Note on Office Hours:  This advice applies to every course you take: Office hours are there for you - show up occasionally to office hours.  It makes your instructor happy, and it shows you care about the course.


TA: Stephen Ho


Office: 4223 Physics

Office Hours: Thursday 1-2, Friday 2-3








Prerequisites: PHYS 260, PHYS 261 and MATH 241


Textbook: Knight, Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 1ed.

You do not need to buy this book!  If you have the textbook by Serway and Jewett, you may find it useful as a reference.  To get your copy of the book, go to Rm. 1120 Physics. If you go directly before or after class, there may be a long line!  Try to go at another time so the office is not mobbed with people.   You will be responsible for returning the book at the end of the semester.   

        This course will cover chaps. 22-23, 32-40


Important dates:



First day of class

Wednesday, January 27


Midterm #1

Monday, February 28

  Spring Break March 21-25


Midterm #2

Monday, April 4


Midterm #3

Monday, May 2


Last 270 class

Wednesday, May 11


Final Exam

To be announced




Homework will be assigned and completed online, using the Mastering Physics system.  Instructions for logging in and using the system are here.


Homework assignments will be available at least one week in advance.  Homework due dates will be shown on Mastering Physics.  Typically, homework will be due before class on Monday.  There will be approximately 13 homework assignments, and the lowest three homework grades will be dropped.  Because the solution key is available immediately after the homework due date, no late homework will be accepted.  If you miss an assignment for a medical reason, you will need a signed medical excuse to have that grade dropped from your total.


Doing the homework is an essential part of learning physics.  For this reason, homework is a significant portion of your grade.  You are encouraged to work together with other students in small groups to complete the homework.  However, you must make sure you are learning the exercises, and not simply copying the answers or formulas.  Cheating will ultimately lead to your downfall on the exams – just do the homework, so you’ll learn to do the problems on the exams.  Also note: Mastering Physics will randomize some of the numerical problems, so be careful!  The best way to do physics problems is to work out a formula for the answer, and plug in the numbers at the end.  You can work together this way; even if you and your study partners have different numbers in your homework problems, you can work together to derive the correct formula for the answer.


Mastering Physics will allow you several opportunities to enter the correct answer on your homework, and will tell you instantly when you are wrong.  This is supposed to be a learning opportunity, not a guessing game.  Attempt the homework early by yourself – then you’ll know what you do and don’t understand.  Then discuss the problems with the TA or your study group, and try the problems again.


Some Mastering Physics problems are tutorial problems.  These problems are meant to guide you step-by-step to a solution.  They have hints which you may open when you are stuck.  These problems are graded slightly differently than the end-of-chapter problems (see below): There is a 3% penalty for getting an answer wrong, but a 2% bonus for not opening a hint.  You should be reasonably sure of your answer before submitting (so you are not penalized 3%), but 3% isn't much, so don't stress!  A hint will "cost" you 2%, but that is less than the cost of a wrong answer, so use the hints when you can't figure out what to do next.


Some Mastering Physics problems are end-of-chapter problems.  These problems are similar to, or the same as, problems found at the end of each chapter in Knight.  Sometimes these problems will have randomized numerical inputs.  If you work with other people on your homework, work out the formula for the answer together, then input your own numbers.  On these problems there is no penalty for a wrong answer, but you will have only eight tries on each problem to get the right answer (so don't just guess).


Take-home quizzes will be assigned online each week (see the course homepage).  Quizzes will be due each week in discussion section.  These quizzes will typically involve working one or two problems that are identical or similar to the week’s homework assignment.  You will be able to drop the lowest three quiz grades you receive. 


Quizzes will also occasionally be given at the beginning of lecture, or sometimes before the lecture on Mastering Physics.  This serves both as a tool to check your current state of knowledge as well as an encouragement for your attendance.  Some quizzes will test material that hasn’t been covered in class yet – for this reason, you will get full credit for each question attempted on the lecture quizzes, even if your answer is wrong.  You will be able to drop your lowest lecture quiz score (i.e. if you miss a lecture).


Exams will be closed book, with no crib sheets allowed.  If you have a reason why you cannot attend an exam, see the instructor before the exam!  Only medical emergencies will be considered as excuses after the exams.  You must take all the exams, if you miss an exam with a valid excuse, a makeup exam will be given.



          Laboratory: The laboratory part of this course is Physics 271. Complete information on this course can be found here.





(may drop 3)



Discussion Quizzes

(may drop 3)



Lecture Quizzes

(may drop 1)



Midterms (3)


10% each





The scheme above is used to determine the score for the lecture portion of the course, which will make up 75% of your total grade.  The laboratory portion of the course will make up the other 25% of your grade.

General Comments:

Physics is naturally a cumulative subject; the knowledge learned at each stage builds upon previous knowledge.  Do not fall behind!  If you find yourself in trouble, seek help.  Contact the instructor or one of the TAs.  Attend the discussion sections and ask questions, or go to office hours.  Don’t wait until just before the exam.


 Where To Go When You Need Help

1) Optional discussion sections - these are for you to ask questions about lecture, homework, etc. that you didn't get answered in class or discussion.

2) Slawsky Clinic (1208 Physics) - offers free tutoring in Physics 270 and other subjects.  Physics 270 times are MTWThF 11-12 and 1-2. 

3) TA or Instructor Office Hours - if you can't make these, phone or email the TA or instructor and ask to make an appointment.

4) The Learning Assistance Service (2201 Schoemaker Bldg., 301-314-7693) can help student having difficulty with the academic demands of University courses.  Their counselors can help with time management, reading, note taking, and exam preparation skills.