PHYSICS 405 Course Description
 Lecture Room 3112 Physics, Lab 3210


SCHEDULE: Wednesday 12:00-4:00 PM, Class meeting at 12: in  Room Physics 3112 , Labs 3210 and across hall.

OFFICE HOURS: To be determined by class, and by appointment

TEXT: Physics 405 Laboratory Manual—Department of Physics

AND Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences - Phillip R. Bevington and D. K. Robinson (McGraw Hill, Inc., 1992);
OR An Introduction to Error Analysis – John R. Taylor (Oxford University Press, 1982).


Prof. Robert W. Gammon, Rm. 1100 IPST Building,  x54791,

Teaching Assistant William Ray,

A.R. Monroe, Rm. 3311 Phys., x56002, (8 am-4 pm M-F)

T. Baldwin, Rm. 3202 Phys., x56004, (9:30 am–6 pm M-F)

In addition it is recommended that you visit the Physics 405 Web page for helpful hints on analysis and hints on useful techniques for many of the experiments. This syllabus is also posted along with a class list. ( ) and click on courses and then physics 405 fall 2000)


For approximately the first half of the course there will be a class meeting for announcements, questions, and demo lectures in room 3112  (Error Analysis and Laboratory Measurement Techniques). You will be responsible for understanding the material presented in lecture and, when appropriate, expected to include some of this material in your notebook reports and in your final formal report. If you miss a lecture you are responsible for finding out from a classmate what we did in class.


In order to pass the course, 7 units of work must be completed,  which will typically consist of five to seven experiments. Failure to complete all 7 units will result in failing the class. Each student is required to work on the experiments entirely by her/himself. At the completion of each experiment, you are expected to hand in the laboratory notebook for grading. This means that it will be necessary to have at least 2 laboratory notebooks in order to have one available while the other is being graded. Every attempt will be made to grade your experiments promptly so that you will be able to improve your next report before handing it in. The notebook "reports" are meant to be your notes and documentation of your work in the lab, and are not meant to be a formal writeup. Refer to the laboratory manual for more information.


There will be a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board in Room 3210 on which you should, each week, designate the experiment that you will work on during the following week. Prior to carrying out an experiment, you are required to complete the preparatory questions at the start of the experiment. The prep questions should be written up in your lab notebook.  The purpose of the prep questions is to be sure that you have read through the laboratory manual sufficiently to make wise use of your time in the lab. You MUST have the prep questions examined and initialed by the instructor or TA before attempting the experiment.


Notebook reports are due according to the schedule shown in the syllabus.  There will be a 5-point penalty per week for late reports.  Reports that are more than 2 weeks late will not be accepted, resulting in failure of the class.   Turning in the notebook early and moving on to the next experiment is encouraged.


One of the 5 to 7 notebook reports is to be rewritten as a formal report and is to be turned in by 9 AM Monday, May 19, 2003. Please refer to the laboratory manual for the format for the formal report.


Each student will be expected to give one 15-minute talk on an experiment of his or her choice. The talks will be followed by questions from the instructor, the TA, and the other students.


Several times during the semester a short set of homework problems will be assigned. The purpose of these assignments is to review and strengthen your understanding of the type of error analysis you will be performing in your laboratories.  These assignments will be graded on an "all or nothing" scale, however, you may attempt
the assignment more than once.

            Notebook reports (10 per unit)        60
            Homework                                         10
            Formal report                                    15
            15-minute talk                                   15
            TOTAL                                            100 pts.

VALID EXCUSES: If you have a valid excuse for missing a due date for a notebook report or a 15 minute talk (e.g., you will be having an operation) see me to arrange what to do about it, beforehand if at all possible. Ex post facto (after the fact) excuses will require validation and may not be acceptable. You must speak to me. Your TA does not have the authority to excuse you from any required class activity.


Academic dishonesty is a serious offense that may result in suspension or expulsion from the university. In addition to any other action taken, the normal sanction is a grade of "XF", denoting "failure due to academic dishonesty," and will normally be recorded on the transcript of the offending student. Remember, you are required to perform all experiments, analysis, and write-up by yourself. It is ok to discuss the experiments with other students but you must do the work.


  1. Read the lab manual carefully before attempting an experiment.
  2. Answer the preparatory questions in your notebook and have them checked by the professor or TA before you begin the experiment.
  3. Keep a complete log for the experiment while you are carrying it out. This should  include experimental diagrams, of what you actually used to obtain data, experimental results, estimates of various errors and limitations to the measurements, analysis used to obtain final results and a proper estimate of all errors including systematic errors as well as statistical errors.
  4. Show clearly the reasoning that you used to arrive at various conclusions.  If your experimental result does not agree with the values, your reasoning may be the only clue to the TA or the instructor as to where you, or the experimental apparatus, went wrong.

IMPORTANT DATES:     Feb 10        Last day for Schedule Adjustment
                                             Apr  14     Last day to Drop and Receive a W
                                             May 19     Formal report due, 9 AM
                                             May   20    Last report due, 6 PM