PHYS 101

Introductory Physics - Mechanics

McGill University

An introductory course in physics without calculus, covering mechanics (kinematics, dynamics, energy, and rotational motion), oscillations and waves, sound, light, and wave optics.

24HR Notes for PHYS 101

Available 24 hours after each lecture

Kenneth Ragan

PHYS 101 Syllabus for Kenneth Ragan — Fall 2018

McGill University Physics 101
(“Mechanics for the Life Sciences)
Fall 2018 Session General Course Information
Welcome to PHYS 101, a course of study in mechanics and waves (including wave optics) primarily
for students intending to pursue the life sciences.
Your course instructor is:
Prof. Ken Ragan
Rutherford Physics Building, room 344
email: (please indicate PHYS 101 in the subject line of any emails,
and indicate your name and ID in the body of the message!)
The course components are:
26 lectures:
o Tuesday September 4 through Thursday November 29
o Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:05 PM 2:25 PM
o in Leacock 132
10 problem assignments, using the CAPA system available through myCourses
5 laboratory sessions, which are compulsory. Labs start the week of Sept. 24
Four-times weekly tutorial sessions (optional)
a mid-term exam on Wednesday October 17, in the evening (6 PM to 8 PM)
a final exam covering all material in the course (written under the invigilation of the
University during the formal fall examination period in December)
A course calendar with all important dates, including the midterm, CAPA due dates, and labs, can
be found on the myCourses website for the course.
The evaluation scheme for the course is:
Assignments: 10 %
Laboratory reports: 20 % (mandatory)
Mid-term exam 25 %
Final exam: 45 %
Bonus points 5 %
Once your final percentage grade in the course is determined according to the scheme above, the
standard McGill scale of letter grades is used (see
); only the letter grade will be reported to you (and to Minerva).
The 5% bonus points are awarded under TWO conditions:
a. You receive at least 60% (cumulative score over the entire term) in a series of quizzes
that will precede each lecture; AND
b. You are present in class for at least 75% of the time (as measured by ‘clicker’
participation, see below in particular, you will need to register your clicker).
You must satisfy BOTH criteria to receive the 5% bonus points.
The textbook is “Physics” by D. Giancoli, 7th edition, publisher Pearson/Prentice Hall (the same
textbook will be used in the winter course PHYS 102 as well). It is available in the McGill bookstore,
for ~$200 (new). They also have many used copies (at $150). Prior to 2012, this course used the
6th edition of the same textbook (very similar content) which you may be able to find on the used
(A note on textbooks for this course: I have chosen Giancoli for several reasons, and have used it
for several years so there are numerous used copies around. I’m familiar with it and will often refer
to its approach. However, this course is about Newtonian physics, which was developed largely in
the 1600’s and 1700’s. So older versions of this textbook will have very largely the same content,
and there are literally dozens of other textbooks with the same content too, including open-sources
such as OpenStax (search for `OpenStax College Physics’ to find one).
The course material will include large parts of Chapters 1 8, 11, 12, 24, and 25 of Giancoli,
approximately in the order that the text covers it (a document of the material covered in the
course and the desired learning outcomes is posted on mycourses). In a nutshell, this is: 1-D and
2-D kinematics, dynamics, energy, momentum, rotational motion, oscillations, waves, sound, and
wave optics.
The lectures will not cover the material in the same depth as the text, but instead will very briefly
cover the material and then concentrate on conceptual issues and problem-solving. Reading the
appropriate material from the text in advance of the lecture is highly recommended!
You will need to access course material through the myCourses system (
or through myMcGill). The site will contain this information, a link to the course schedule
mentioned above, PDF files of the lecture notes, lecture recordings, the laboratory manual, a link to
the CAPA system that will be used for assignments, and other useful course material.
Lectures will be held in Leacock 132 from 1:05 to 2:25 each Tuesday and Thursday. Our lectures
will not follow a traditional “sit and listen” format. They will be interactive using the clickers and
involve group problem-solving and peer instruction, aided by undergrad mentors (who have
already taken the course and excelled in it). Only a small amount of time will be spent actually
presenting the material and so you will need to read ahead.
Let me say that again, because you might have missed it: you will need to read ahead to get
the most (or indeed, maybe anything!) out of the lectures.
The lecture notes will be available in PDF format on myCourses, in two different “versions”: a pre-
lecture version without annotations or solutions to the in-class examples, and a post-lecture
version with annotations and solutions (in my sometimes-messy handwriting). In addition, the
lectures will be recorded with a package that includes audio, PowerPoint transparencies, overhead
projector feed (for problem solving) and possibly video; the resulting files are posted to myCourses
(typically within 48 hours after the lecture) and available in multiple formats.
Given that the lecture notes are online, and the lectures are recorded, you might be asking “Why
would I bother to come to lectures?”. So it’s time for a little homily (hom·i·ly: noun : a lecture or
discourse on or of a moral theme):
<homily> I can’t tell you how to study, nor force you to attend class. You’re all
consenting adults. But evidence shows there’s a strong correlation between course
attendance and final course grade. Lecture time the 40 hours that we will spend
together in Leacock 132 over the next 13 weeks is valuable time where you get
to ask questions, discuss the issues, answer quiz questions, watch
demonstrations, and see physics happen. Lecture attendance is probably the
single best way to understand the material and do well in this course.
Because of the importance that I attach to attendance, and the clarity of the data that shows this
strong correlation between attendance and performance in the course, I have structured the
bonus participation points in an attempt to do two things: encourage your attendance, AND
encourage your preparation for the lectures.
Specifically, the participation points will be awarded based on two factors, as explained above. The
quizzes that are mentioned there will be short (typically a half-dozen questions or fewer) multiple
choice or short-answer quizzes, done through myCourses, and will be time-restricted: they will
open the night before a specific lecture, and will close shortly before the lecture starts. In principle,
they will be based on material that will be discussed in that lecture. That is, it will be material
we have not yet seen in class. And that’s exactly the point: to fully understand the quiz material
you will need to read ahead. The attendance will be based on clicker information. Specifically,
the attendance percentage will be the number of responses from your device divided by the total
number of clicker questions asked during the term. It doesn’t matter if your clicker response was
“correct” or not – just that you responded.
In the lectures, we will be using a personal response system (“clickers”). Use of the clickers
will be monitored (that is, I record the answers), but will not be graded. For details on the clicker
app, and to register, go to . The clicker app (called “ResponseWare”) can be
downloaded from the Apple Store or iTunes© (for iOS) or the Google PlayStore© (for android), or
you can respond through a weblink, again by going to the McGill “polling” URL above. In all cases,
you will eventually need a Session ID, which I will provide in class (you cannot provide a Session
ID until I ‘open’ the polling in class).
In order for you to receive bonus points, I must be able to identify your data in my clicker records
which means you must register your clicker. At the time I’m writing this, the exact procedure
is unclear, but the link “Polling @McGill” (or similar) in the upper navigation bar on your mycourses
entry page (NOT the page for PHYS 101) will walk you through the process. If you want to be
eligible for the bonus points, I must know what your clicker ID is and so you must register
your clicker! Again, more information on clickers is available at
The assignments, done on the web through the CAPA system (link available through
myCourses), will be available for one week each, with the first assignment starting by
approximately Thursday September 13. After the one-week time period for each assignment,
results will be posted and there will be no further credit granted. The one-week period will close
(ie, assignments will be due) at noon Montreal time on Fridays, starting Friday, September 21.
There will be a gap in October for the week of your midterm. The final (10th) assignment will be
due in the last week of classes.
The CAPA system allows us to create individual assignments for each student, generally by
randomizing the numbers in the problems. It also allows you to respond multiple times (usually 6
for problems requiring computation) until the correct response is given. You will not be docked
points for using the multiple chances (that is, you get full marks if you finally get the question
right, even if it takes you 6 tries to do so). The heart of doing physics is problem-solving; used
correctly, the assignments allow you to hone your problem-solving skills. CAPA does have some
idiosyncracies that take some getting used to, though there is a CAPA Help and Hints” file
posted on myCourses that you should refer to before you start.
Laboratory sessions are in room 0070 in the basement of the Wong Building (across from the
Rutherford Physics Building), and reports are to be uploaded at the end of the lab session (more
details on the labs will be posted on myCourses). Labs start during the week of September 24
for other lab weeks, see the course calendar I referred to above, or the schedule posted in
myCourses. Please do not attend other lab sections than the one for which you are
registered. If you must miss a lab for a valid reason, contact the instructor or the head lab TA (an
announcement will be posted on myCourses about this). For those having valid excuses (such as
illness) for missing labs, there may be a period of make-up labs at the end of the course; contact
the instructor or the head lab TA for details.
The labs are mandatory and you must pass the lab component (ie, achieve 55% or better) in
order to pass the class. The labs are meant to provide an exploratory, hands-on experience with
some of the phenomena introduced in the course, as well as a general introduction to the issues of
measurement and uncertainty.
Tutorials (in collaboration with other freshman science courses our name for this is FRezCa) will
be offered several times per week for those who would like to have more help. Tutorial attendance
(like class attendance!) is not compulsory. Tutorials are run in ‘study-hall’ mode (ie. individual or
small-group work) to give you the chance to meet with teaching assistants and undergraduate
mentors to discuss particular ideas, concepts, or problems that you may be having trouble with.
FRezCa will be held every Monday to Thursday, from September 12 to November 29
(except for Monday, October 8, which is Thanksgiving Day), from 2:30 to 4:30 on the 5th
floor of the Schulich Physical Sciences and Engineering Library.
The exam format has not yet been finalized, but past exams have been a mix of conceptual
questions (either multiple-choice questions, or questions requiring short written answers) and
problems requiring numerical solutions, with 2-hour midterms having 5 to 8 conceptual questions
and 4 to 5 problems (each perhaps with several parts) and 3-hour final exams having about 10
conceptual questions and 6 to 8 problems. The final will be cumulative.
A scientific calculator with trig functions, square roots, and logs is essential for the course and
for the examination. Graphing calculators are fine but this feature is not necessary (nor, in my
opinion, very useful!). Good and inexpensive calculators are available at the bookstore.
My office hours are on Tuesdays from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (however, there will be times when
I won’t be able to make those times due to meetings). If you can’t make that time but would like
to talk to me, feel free to email and we can set up an appointment, or simply drop-in: in general,
if I'm in my office and my door is open, you're welcome to knock and I will usually be available to
help you. Please do NOT be shy about coming to see me if you are having difficulties.
I hope you’ve all seen the standard McGill legal warning about academic integrity:
McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must
understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other
academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures
(see for more information).”
Here’s two other bits of legalese that I’m supposed to bring to your attention:
In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this
course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to
be graded.
Since polling records may be used to compute a portion of course grades,
responding as someone other than yourself is considered an academic offense.
During class, possession of more than one response device or using the credentials
of another student will be interpreted as intent to commit an academic offense.
Please refer to McGill’s policy on Academic Integrity and Code of Conduct.
Welcome to McGill, and I hope you enjoy the course!
Phys 101 – Concepts and Skills
Upon completing this course, you should be familiar with the following
concepts and have mastered the skills listed:
Module 0: Models, Measurement, Units, Orders of magnitude
Concepts: simplification of ‘real-world’ problems; appropriate units;
uncertainty associated with measurements.
Skills: building conceptual models of simple physical systems; understanding
uncertainties; choosing appropriate units for physical quantities; unit
conversions; estimation of orders of magnitude; ability to use dimensional
analysis in simple situations.
Module 1: 1-D kinematics
Concepts: position, displacement; speed, velocity; acceleration; motion at
constant acceleration; graphical analysis of motion.
Skills: analyse one-dimensional (linear) motion; construct x-vs-t, v-vs-t, and
a-vs-t graphs from descriptions of motion (and vice-versa); solve constant-
acceleration motion problems (such as inclined-plane problems or free-fall
Modules 2 & 3: Vectors and 2-D motion
Concepts: vectors and vector manipulation (addition, subtraction,
multiplication of vector by scalar); separation of 2-D motion problems into
independent axes.
Skills: analysis of 2-D motion (specifically projectile motion).
Module 4: Dynamics
Concepts: mass; inertia; forces; Newton’s three laws of motion; reaction
forces; contact forces and forces acting at a distance; inertial reference
frames; friction.
Skills: draw and analyse free-body diagrams; identify reaction forces; solve
dynamics problems involving multiple forces and multiple bodies (such as
weights-and-pulleys problems) moving rectilinearly.
Module 5: Applications of Newton’s Laws
Concepts: uniform circular motion; centripetal acceleration; Newton’s law of
gravitation; Newton’s synthesis of Kepler’s laws; “weightlessness”.
Skills: analysis of uniform circular motion; including simple orbital motion;
identification and analysis of forces providing centripetal acceleration (such
as analysis of banked curves).
Module 6: Work, Energy and Energy Conservation
Concepts: work by a constant force; kinetic energy; work-energy principle;
conservative and non-conservative forces; potential energy; conservation of
Skills: analysis of simple mechanical systems through application of energy
Module 7: Momentum & Collisions
Concepts: momentum; impulse; conserved quantities (momentum and/or
energy); collisions in one and two dimensions; elastic vs. inelastic collisions;
center of mass.
Skills: recognize which quantities are conserved in collisions; analyze
collisions using conservation laws; describe center-of-mass motion;
recognize when to use impulse in collisions.
Module 8: Rotational Motion
Concepts: variables used for description of angular motion: angular
displacement, angular velocity, angular acceleration; parallel between linear
quantities and angular quantities; kinematics of rotation at constant angular
acceleration; rotational dynamics: torque, moment of inertia; rotational
kinetic energy; angular momentum.
Skills: relate linear motion to angular motion; analyze rotational motion in
situations of constant angular acceleration; analyze simple mechanical
systems: torques, net torque, and angular acceleration; understand when to
apply conservation of angular momentum.
Module 9: Vibrations, Waves, and Simple Harmonic Motion
Concepts: Description of kinematic variables (x, v, a) in SHM; energy in an
oscillator; period and frequency of oscillation; two classical oscillators (mass
on a spring, pendulum); resonance; waves; types of waves and their speeds;
wave phenomena: reflection, refraction, and superposition.
Skills: analysis of simple mechanical oscillators; description of waves, wave
motion, and wave behaviour.
Module 10: Sound
Concepts: sound as a pressure wave; characteristics of human-perceived
sound; loudness, intensity, bels, and decibels; the human ear and human
perception of loudness; vibrating strings; vibrating air columns; interference;
beats; the Doppler effect.
Skills: relate decibels to intensity; describe and analyse vibrating strings and
air columns in terms of frequency and wavelength; recognize and calculate
Doppler effect.
Module 11: Light and wave optics
Concepts: Light: particle or wave; Huygen’s principle; diffraction; resolution
and Rayleigh’s criterion; Young’s experiment; interference.
Skills: apply Huygen’s principle to predict wavefront evolution; calculate
resolution limits of optical or radio instruments; analyse interference in multi-
slit experiments or thin films.

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