Physics 270 – General Physics: Electrodynamics, Light, Relativity and Modern Physics
Fall Semester 2006

Lecture: MW 4:00 PM in PHY 1410

Instructor: Prof. Michael Fuhrer (sections 0101-0104)

  Office: 2308 Physics Office Hours: drop-in, or by appt. – phone or email
  Phone: 301-405-6143 Email:

Teaching Assistants:

Yi Cai Office: 4103 Physics Office Hours: 3-4PM Friday
  Phone: x5-6010 Email:


Hao Li Office: 4223 Physics Office Hours: 12:45-1:45 Thursday
  Phone: x5-6192 Email:

Prerequisites: PHYS 260, PHYS 261 and MATH 241
Textbook: Serway and Jewett, Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 6ed.
        This course will cover chaps. 29-41: Magnetism, AC Circuits, Electromagnetic Waves, Geometric Optics, Wave Optics, Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics.

        We will us the Audience Response System in class - commonly known as "clickers" or "transmitters".  These devices will allow you to answer questions posed by the professor, and see the class responses on a screen.  Everything you need to know about clickers (where to buy them, ho to register them online, etc.) is found at
        You will receive a grade for participation in class, which means bringing your clicker to class with you, and using it to respond to questions.  The professor will NOT be interested in whether you are getting the question right or wrong in class!  This is supposed to be a learning exercise.

        PHYS271, the laboratory component of this course, is required. You must complete and pass PHYS271 (do all the labs) in order to pass PHYS 270. If you believe that you have completed the lab in a previous semester, go to Student Services (PHY 1120) during the second week of this semester to have your grade verified. The lab is run separately and is organized by Prof. Kelly this semester. All question specific to the lab should be addressed to your lab TA or Prof. Kelly. Please click here for more information regarding the lab.

CORE Lab Science Requirement:
        PHYS270 and PHYS271 must be taken in the same semester to count for CORE Lab Science. PHYS270 taken alone will NOT count as a non-lab science for CORE.

Mandatory Discussion Sections:

  Section Time Classroom
  0101 Th 2-3 HJP 2242
  0102 Th 4-5 PHY 1402
  0103 W 9-10 PHY 1219
  0104 F 1-2 PHY 1402

Optional Discussion Section:

  Section Time Classroom
  1 F 4:00-5:15 PHY 2202

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 Section:  You are not required to attend this discussion.  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.

Important dates:

  First day of class Wednesday, August 30, 2006
  Midterm #1 (Ch. 29-32) Monday, October 9, 2006
  Midterm #2 (Ch. 29-36) Monday, November 6, 2006
  Thanksgiving Holiday Thursday-Friday, November 23-24, 2006
  Midterm #3 (Ch. 29-39) Monday, December 11, 2005
  Last Day of Classes Tuesday, December 12, 2005
  Final Exam Wednesday, December 20, 1:30-3:30 PM

        Homework will be assigned and completed online.  There are TWO systems that will be used to assign the homework problems:

        Mastering Physics - Information on how to login to Mastering Physics is here.

        WebAssign - Information on how to login to WebAssign is here.
Homework assignments will be available at least one week in advance. Homework due dates will be shown online on each system; typically homework will be due Sunday at Midnight. There will be approximately 13 homework assignments of each type, 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: the online homework systems 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.
You will be allowed several opportunities to enter the correct answer on your homework, and the homework system 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.  I strongly suggest that you try the Mastering Physics problems before your weekly discussion section.  This is to prompt you to try to learn the material on your own, and see what you do and don't understand.  Bring questions about the assignment to your discussion section.
WebAssign problems are end-of-chapter problems.  These problems are similar to, or the same as, problems found at the end of each chapter in Serway.  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, so take notes while you do the online homework. You will be able to drop the lowest three quiz grades you receive.

        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.  The makeup exam will consist of a one-hour oral exam in the Professor's office.

  Homework (may drop 3) 30%
  Discussion Quizzes (may drop 3) 10%
  Participation (may drop 3) 10%
  Midterms (3) 30% (10% each)
  Final 20%
  Total 100%

        The scheme above is used to determine the score for 270.  Note that 75% of your 270 score will be added to 25% of the laboratory portion of the course (Physics 271) to make up your final combined score. You must complete and pass PHYS271 (do all the labs) in order to pass PHYS 270.  A letter grade will be assigned to you according to your combined 270/271 score.  You will receive the same grade for 270 and 271.  There are no predetermined score values for the grades "A", "B", etc.  Typically A's are given to the top 15% of the class, B's to the next 35%, C's to the next 35% and D's and F's to the lowest 15%. 

Early Warning Grades:
        The professor will assign early warning grades twice during the semester (after Midterm 1 and Midterm 2).  The first early warning grade will be posted to UMEG and you will receive a grade report.  The second early warning grade will be posted on Blackboard.

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 section - this is 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 Office Hours - if you can't make these, phone or email the TA and ask to make an appointment.
4) Instructor Office Hours  - don't be shy, come by the office (or call or email the instructor for an appoitnment) if you are having trouble.
5) The Learning Assistance Service (2201 Schoemaker Bldg., 301-314-7693) can help students having difficulty with the academic demands of University courses. Their counselors can help with time management, reading, note taking, and exam preparation skills.