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Course Description

Physics is a foundational science on which many of the concepts of chemistry, geology, biology, and otheratural sciences rely. Because physics is a math-intensive subject, it is sometimes intimidating to those who wish to study it.
This course focuses on some of the critical mathematical tools required for studying physics and is geared toward students with a basic knowledge of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Starting with an introduction to vectors, the course then begins to develop a set of mathematical tools for studying classical Newtonian mechanics as well as some basic topics in classical electromagnetism. Although the course does not cover calculus, the math that is presented is more than sufficient for analyzing and solving a wide range of problems involving the motion of objects and forces such as gravity, the electric force, and magnetism.
The first half of the course deals with objects in motion, including how to quantify and relate characteristics such as force, velocity, momentum, energy, and power. The second half of the course focuses on waves and electromagnetism, starting with a look at the electric and magnetic forces and their sources, then moving to acoustic and electromagnetic waves, and ending with an overview of geometrical optics. By the end of the course, students should be armed with many of the tools they need to study physics in depth.

Course Requirements


All materials are presented within the course lessons. This course focuses on some of the critical mathematical tools required for studying physics and is geared toward students with a basic knowledge of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.


Course Outline - Goals and Objectives


1. Introduction and Mathematical Foundations

o         Be able to define a set of coordinate axes and an origin for the purpose of locating objects and events

o         Understand the difference between a scalar and a vector

o         Know how to calculate the magnitude of a vector

o         Recognize unit vectors


2. Forces and Newton’s Laws I

o         Know how to add and subtract vectors

o         Recognize the relationship between a net force and the sum of vectors

o         Apply vectors and their sums to understanding Newton's first law of motion


3. Forces and Newton’s Laws II

o         Express vectors algebraically as the sum of two component vectors

o         Recognize the importance of carefully using units when solving physics problems

o         Use Newton's second and third laws of motion to find the acceleration of an object when various forces are applied to it


4. Uniform Circular Motion

o         Derive a formula for centripetal acceleration of objects in uniform circular motion

o         Use centripetal acceleration to solve problems involving objects in uniform circular motion


5. Momentum

o         Understand the physical definition of momentum

o         Derive the law of conservation of linear momentum

o         Apply this conservation law to solving problems involving linear motion


6. Work

o         Recognize and use the scalar product of two vectors

o         Understand the concept of work in the context of physics

o         Calculate the work involved in moving objects from one location to another


7. Work and Kinetic Energy

o         Derive an expression for kinetic energy from the physics concept of work

o         Understand the relationship of work and kinetic energy

o         Calculate the kinetic energy of various objects


8. Mechanical Energy and Power

o         Understand the concept of potential energy and its relationship with kinetic energy

o         Know why mechanical energy is conserved (in a frictionless environment)

o         Define the power supplied when doing work on an object


9. Electrostatics

o         Recognize and be able to use Coulomb's law to calculate the magnitude and direction of the force of one charged particle on another

o         Calculate the magnitude and direction of the net force on a charged particle resulting from multiple additional charged particles


10. Currents and Magnetism

o         Define the vector product of two vectors

o         Define the concept of a field

o         Recognize the magnetic field, force, and their relationship

o         Calculate the force on a moving charged particle in a given magnetic field


11. Waves

o         Recognize that an arbitrary waveform can be broken into a set of sinusoidal waves

o         Learn how to calculate the parameters (such as frequency and amplitude) of sine waves

o         Recognize some simple manifestations of frequency spectra, such as in graphic equalizers and prisms


12. Acoustic Waves

o         Develop a mathematical expression for traveling waves

o         Determine the relationship between wave speed, frequency, and wavelength

o         Relate sound waves to pressure variation in a medium

o         Be able to calculate wave speed from the bulk modulus and density of a medium (and vice versa)


13. Electromagnetic Waves

o         Show conceptually how accelerated charge produces electromagnetic waves

o         Determine the speed of light in a vacuum using material parameters

o         Describe an electromagnetic wave using a sine function

o         Calculate the frequency and wavelength of different electromagnetic waves


14. Rays: Geometrical Optics I

o         Describe the relationship between a wave and a ray

o         Use the law of reflection to calculate the direction of reflected rays

o         Define the index of refraction and its relationship with material parameters

o         Use the law of refraction to describe the "bending" of rays as the pass from one material to another


15. Rays: Geometrical Optics II

o         Learn how to find the image of an object created by a mirror or lens using geometrical optics

o         Explain how light can be "trapped" in the confines of a fiber

Grading Policy

Complete the course with 70% or higher and you'll receive a Certificate of Course Completion.

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Know mathematical foundations of physics.
  • Describe force and Newton's Laws.
  • Define uniform circular motion.
  • Solve problems involving Momentum.
  • Solve problems involving Work.
  • Solve problems involving Work and Kinetic Energy.
  • Solve problems involving Mechanical Energy and Power
  • Know electrostatics.
  • Solve problems involving Currents and Magnetism
  • Know waves.
  • Know acoustic waves.
  • Know electromagnetic waves.
  • Describe Geometrical Optics, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Assessment Guide

Assessment Points
Lesson 1 Assignment10
Lesson 1 – Introduction and Mathematical Foundations9
Lesson 2 Assignment10
Lesson 2 - Force and Newton's Laws I8
Lesson 3 Exercises6
Lesson 3 – Force and Newton's Laws II8
Lesson 4 Uniform Circular Motion9
Lesson 4 Exercises4
Lesson 5 Assignment10
Lesson 5 Momentum8
Lesson 6 Exercises4
Lesson 6 Work7
Lesson 7 Exercises4
Lesson 7 Work and Kinetic Energy8
Lesson 8 Mechanical Energy and Power10
Lesson 9 Electrostatics9
Lesson 10 Exercises8
Lesson 10 Currents and Magnetism10
Lesson 11 Waves9
Lesson 12 Exercises4
Lesson 12 Acoustic Waves10
Lesson 13 Exercises2
Lesson 13 Electromagnetic Waves10
Lesson 14 Rays: Geometrical Optics I10
Lesson 15 Rays: Geometrical Optics II10
The Final Exam47
Total Points:244

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