PHY 111 Physical Science

Semester II, 2004-2005, 16 weeks
2:30 pm, Tu, Th, F2 (even Fridays)
Core - Natural Sciences

Donald F. Collins.  Office Hours, Spring 2005
Click here for daily activities schedule

Goals and Objectives

  1. Students will gain a conceptual understanding of physical phenomena using various instruments: rulers, timers, computer images, voltmeters, and computer systems.
  2. Learn about phenomena from physics, electricity, chemistry, astronomy, earth science through experience and directed inquiry - not just as "facts" read from  books.
  3. Communicate scientific findings through verbal descriptions, data plots and graphical techniques. This includes both manual plotting and computer plotting.
  4. Keep an electronic journal which will be submitted weekly with the instructor using e-mail.  Make use of information technology to investigate and explore phenomena.
  5. The specific topics from the subject matter to attain these goals are somewhat independent to the achievement of these goals.  Therefore students’ preferences will be sought to determine some of the topics studied.  All of these topics are discussed in the textbook: Conceptual Physical Science, 3nd Edition by Hewitt, Suchocki, and Hewitt.

About all of  the classes will be spent doing activities and performing experiments related to the chosen topics.  Time in class will be divided between activities and discussion of the material.  

Required Supplies

In addition to the textbook by Hewitt, et. al., Conceptual Physical Science, Third Ed., each student must posses a quadrille-ruled laboratory notebook for recording measurements and summaries.  These notebooks must be in hand for every class.  The activities will follow instructions provided by the instructor.


  1. Journals: 10%
  2. Lab activities and experiments: 30%
  3. Research Project: 10 %
  4. Exams: 40%
  5. Attendance: 10%

Weekly Journals (10%)
Part of the evaluation of the course will be based on weekly journals submitted to the instructor.  These journals may be hand-written, word processed, or e-mailed.  (e-mail is preferable, because it is receptive to comments and feedback from the instructor).  Journal entries are due every Tuesday.  Students will be asked to address a particular issue.  Examples are: comments on a particular reading assignment; if the moon rises at 6:30 tonight, what time will it rise tomorrow night and why?;  explain why the occupants in the weightlessness of the International Space Station are not free from the influence of gravity.  The topic for journal discussion will be announced at the previous class and on the activities schedule:  Students are encouraged to work together to complete the journals.  Sometimes, the explanation will require considerable thought, and working together will help in the thought process.

The journals will not be graded, but 15 weekly journals are expected.  Each journal entry will be accepted as "all or nothing".  If the journal does not say anything substantial, or it is obviously written in a hurried, un-thought-out style, it will be rejected and a better journal may be submitted late.  No more than  two late journals for the semester will be accepted.

The purpose of journals are several:

Lab Activities and Experiments (30%) The activities will be conducted using instructions provided by the instructor. There will be about one activity for each class meeting.  15 activities will require a written lab report - about one each week due every Thursday at class time.  All reports will require a discussion of the scientific significance of the experiment.  Some weeks two activitiies will be required depending on the schedule.  The summaries are expected to be grammatically correct and spell-checked.  It is also advised that students proof-read each others’ papers.  There will be more activities in class than reports to be turned in.  The non-reported activities will be discussed in the journals.

Written summaries are due every Thursday at class time.  Late papers will be accepted up to one week late, but with a 10% penalty for lateness.  No papers will be accepted that are more than one week overdue.  Please consult the on-line grading rubric.

Research project (10%)

Each student is required to prepare a research paper based on research using books, journals, and the Internet.  Citations from all three areas must be included.  The research project may be on any subject of physical science or technology of the student's interest.  Examples include: motion, forensics, rocket propulsion, radio, weather, violent weather, global weather patterns, geophysics, plate tectonics, astronomy, planetary and lunar phenomena, electromagnetism, nuclear reactors, ....

It is important that the students' research include all three information sources: books, journals, and the Internet.  A further requirement on the use of Internet resources is to evaluate each Internet resource for its accuracy, authenticity, and acceptability by the scientific community.  These can be evaluated by means of qualifications of the author(s), the ownership of the resource (accepted scientific organization or government agency), and the agreement/non-agreement with other published media.  The research project is an especially valuable part of the course because it is open-ended and should stimulate students to ask questions as well as to give the students practice in finding answers.  

The research project will be conducted over the whole semester.  Each stage is due about 1 week after each hour exam.

Thu. Feb. 17: Title, complete bibliography (books, periodicals, and Internet), and brief (one paragraph) summary of the nature of the paper.
Thu. Mar. 24: Draft of the research paper, include references and criticism of Internet resources.
Thu. Apr. 21:  Final draft due.
Exams.  (40 %)  Four hour exams will be given as follows:
 Fri., Feb. 11, 2005
 Fri., Mar. 11, 2005
 Fri., Apr. 15, 2005
 Thu.,. May 12, 2005

Attendance.  (10%) Class time will be spent with a minimum of lecturing.  Brief explanations of material will be followed by experimental activities, demonstrations, and tutorials in which the students collaborate in class to answer tutorial questions pertinent to the discussion, experiments, and readings.  These tutorial answers will not be turned-in, but will serve as personal notes and review for exams.

Three absences are allowed with no penalty.  There are no excused absences.  Three absences should take care of occasional sickness, field trips, athletic events, etc.  The students should save their absences for when they are truly needed.  Each student earns 10% for attendance if less than three absences.  Beyond 3 absences each additional absence decreases the course score by 2.points.  There are 34 non-exam class meetings, and one class represents 3 % of the course.  Extended illness (more than one week out of service for a single illness) will be considered an extenuating circumstance provided documentation from appropriate medical personnel or the DSA office.  A family emergency will be treated similarly - documentation required.  If a student misses a test, a documented legitimate excuse must be presented to qualify for a make-up.  The lack of a documented legitimate absence from an exam will permit the student to make-up the exam for only half the credit.

The students are expected to arrive on time (before 2:30 pm) or the late student(s) will receive a lateness which counts as half an absence.  If the instructor is late, then the students who are present before the instructor will receive an "early" credit which is equivalent to half an absence removed (or a lateness removed).

Astronomy requires two sessions of  evening observing activities.  These will occur in weeks 4 and 6.  For these evening sessions, we will take two Fridays off.   During the observing weeks (3, and 6) we will meet on the first clear nights (beginning Sunday) and the instructor will be available each night until two successful viewing nights are obtained.  Students should plan their evening schedules for week 4 (Feb. 8-13) and week 6 (Feb. 22-27).

There will also be research sessions in at various times throughout the semester students may attend.  Attendance at any research astronomy session (Jupiter satellite eclipse, astro-photography, etc) will earn an extra class attendance credit to make-up a missed class or to earn extra credit.  These research sessions will be announced in class.

Donald F. Collins  January, 2005 Office: Spidel 205; e-mail:

Physical Science Topics
The textbooks contain much more material than is addressed in the list of topics below.  We will not cover all the topics in Physical Science.  The important outcomes are for the students to learn to ask questions and learn how to synthesize and find answers to questions they ask. 

The activities listed below are activities that the professor has developed over the years to address the inquisitive learner.  The activities printed in bold are those which will require a written report.  The others will be discussed in journals.  All items will be tested on exams.

<>Motion (6 days):
Pitching Speed and Spreadsheet

Bowling Ball Motion with video camera
Echolocator, Cart Motion, and air tracks
Elevators and forces
Newton III, collision, and LN2 rocket
Video of falling balls and jumping people

Astronomy I  (9 days):
Planisphere and celestial sphere
Star observing and identification
Planet tracking
Lunar phase applet
Sun tracking hemisphere
Lunar photography
Solar System Scale Model

Electricity (7 days)
Electrostatics, ligntning rod
Cranking I.  Circuits
Cranking II.  Behavior of electric currents and voltage
Ohm's Law, electrical problem solving, electrical power

Light and color (5 days)
Reflection and refraction of light
Simple Telescope.  Supplement with commercial lenses
Light and color
Human eye sensitivity, energy flux of stars
Rainbow - measurement

Meteorology and weather (3 days)
Relative Humidity and Barometric Pressure
Global Air Circulation I

Global Air Circulation II

The remaining 3-4 classes will choose activities based on a survey of students.


In the space below, please indicate your preferences for the remaining topics (1 = first choice, 2 = 2nd choice, etc.)

_____Astronomy II - Deep-sky photography, planetary photography, binary stars, clusters, stellar magnitudes, Computer imaging

_____Sound and Vibrations - Musical instruments, waves, oscilloscope, voice

_____Radioactivity Geiger counter, radioactive half-life.

_____Thermal phenomena - Heat vs. temperature, calorimetry, Liquid Nitrogen and High Tc superconductors