1. What is this course all about?

Brock calendar entry: Kinematics, Newton's laws and their applications to equilibrium and dynamics; special relativity.

Mechanics is about motion, which is fundamental in physics, and this course provides an introduction to understanding motion. Mechanics can be separated into two aspects, kinematics (the mathematical description of motion) and dynamics (which explains the detailed causes of motion, and quantifies their effects). Newtonian mechanics is an extremely successful theory for describing and explaining many phenomena in our every-day experience. Using Newtonian mechanics, we have been able to construct bridges, towers, homes, tall buildings, machines, and so on, and they work beautifully as expected. Airplanes, trains, cars, and even spacecraft all work well, and arrive at planned destinations, in accord with Newtonian mechanics.

However, understanding the inner workings of electronic devices (such as computers, smart phones, etc.), lasers, solar cells, the interiors of molecules, atoms, and atomic nuclei, energy production in the sun and stars, and all manner of other exotic phenomena, requires a deeper understanding of mechanics that only became known in the 20th century: quantum mechanics. Broadly speaking, Newtonian mechanics is an excellent theory for the macroscopic world, and quantum mechanics is essential for understanding the microscopic world. (However, this is an oversimplification, because lasers and smart phones are macroscopic, but I hope you get the idea.)

For objects that travel relatively slowly, such as baseballs, humans, and rocketships, Newtonian mechanics provides an excellent description. For objects that travel extremely fast, at a significant fraction of the speed of light, another theory of mechanics is necessary for an adequate description and explanation: relativistic mechanics (the special theory of relativity).

We'll provide a very brief introduction to relativity in this course, but for a proper introduction to relativity, and for quantum mechanics and its applications, you'll have to stick around for second-year physics and beyond.

If you wish to go further in physics, or in any of the sciences that depend on physics (and which don't?), work hard now to provide yourself with a solid foundation, and you'll be able to take your studies as far as you wish.

What do I need to bring into the course?

This course is suitable for students with a high school science background. High school calculus or physics are not required, but good skills in elementary algebra, geometry, and trigonometry at the high-school level are necessary; this course is quantitative in nature. A good scientific calculator is essential.


The textbook is College Physics, second edition, by Urone, Hinrichs, Dirks, and Sharma, published by OpenStax (Rice University), and available to download for free at http://cnx.org. A solution manual and other student resources are available at https://openstax.org/details/college-physics.

Some people like to have secondary sources to read in case they have difficulty understanding the primary textbook in some places. This is NOT required, but if you would like a secondary source, borrow one from a library, or buy an inexpensive used algebra-based textbook from your favourite used bookstore or internet source. Look for titles such as Physics or College Physics. If your major subject is Physics or a related field, and you would like a more advanced (say, calculus-based) textbook for reference, look for titles that include "for Scientists and Engineers." If you are considering buying a secondary textbook, and are not sure if it will be appropriate for you, send me an email message and I'll advise.


Homework is done using Brock's WeBWorK system, which can be accessed at WeBWorK. Scroll down the displayed list of courses, click on the course that you are enrolled in (either PHYS1P21D02SP2017 or PHYS1P91D02SP2017) and log on using your Brock username and password.

Experience shows that coming to each lecture well-prepared accelerates your learning tremendously. Coming to class well-prepared allows us to make lectures much more interactive, which will also accelerate your learning, and we do this with the help of REEF software. If you don't already have access to REEF (from a physics course you took recently), you can have a free trial and then purchase access by clicking here: REEF.

Doing homework regularly, and in the right way, is essential for understanding physics. Daily work is our mantra. For more information on how to do homework effectively, and why it's important, see ***.

Some students do their homework dishonestly, by simply "googling" the answers. Typically they end up with very high homework scores, but end up failing the final exam, and therefore they fail the course. There are no shortcuts, and no magic formulas for success. It's very simple: Daily, consistent, honest work leads you to success.

Academic Integrity

Academic misconduct is a serious offence. The principle of academic integrity, particularly of doing one’s own work, documenting properly (including use of quotation marks, appropriate paraphrasing and referencing/citation), collaborating appropriately, and avoiding misrepresentation, is a core principle in university study. Students should consult Section VII, “Academic Misconduct”, in the “Academic Regulations and University Policies” entry in the Undergraduate Calendar, available here, to view a fuller description of prohibited actions, and the procedures and penalties.

A helpful web site describes Brock's academic integrity policy. Please read it carefully, as all students are expected to understand it and abide by its provisions.

2. Lectures, Labs, and Tests

Instructor: S. D'Agostino

Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1–1:50 pm in Room TH 325, and Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2–4:50 pm in Room AS 202.


Tests are written most Tuesdays and Thursday from 1–1:50 pm in Room TH 325. Check the schedule further down this page for details.

PHYS 1P91 Laboratories

If you have not already completed all laboratory experiments and reports, then please make arrangements with Mr. Frank Benko to complete the experiments and reports this Fall. Completing all experiments and reports is required to obtain a credit in PHYS 1P91.

Please see Frank Benko (ideally in person at his office in room MC B210A, although an email message to fbenko@brocku.ca is OK if you are not on campus) to schedule your Fall laboratory experiments as soon as possible once your Fall schedule has been determined, and before 31 July at the latest. Fall laboratories fill up fast, and places are scheduled on a first-come-first-served basis; if you don't book your spot in time, you may be out of luck.

3. Sources of help

Office hours: S. D'Agostino MC E219, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 10–11:30 am, or by appointment.

PHYSICS HELP DESK: Run by physics graduate students, in MC H200, hours to be announced soon.

Falling behind in a mathematics or science course leads to extreme difficulties, particularly in a compressed course such as this one. Don't allow yourself to fall behind. Consistent, daily work will help you to succeed in the course.

I encourage you to visit my office whenever you would like to discuss physics. Don't wait until the last moment; make sure you clear up anything that is unclear as soon as possible, as this will make your studies more effective and you will go further in less time.

If you can't come by during my office hours, send me an email message at sdagostino@brocku.ca and we shall set up a suitable time to meet. My telephone number, for emergencies only, is 905-688-5550 extension 5785. The best way to reach me is either in person or by email.

Online electronic documentation

This course description, some lecture notes, and some study aids are available online via the Web server of the Physics Department, http://www.physics.brocku.ca/ (follow the links to Courses ---> 1P21/1P91).

4. Topics to be studied

As time permits, some topics not listed below may be added, while some other topics may not be discussed during lectures. The outline below is only an approximation.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction: The Nature of Science and Physics
    • significant figures
    • scientific notation
    • physical quantities and units; converting from one unit to another unit
  • Chapter 2: Kinematics in One Dimension
    • kinematics vocabulary; position and displacement, speed and velocity, acceleration
    • position-time graphs; velocity
    • position-time graphs and velocity-time graphs
    • uniform motion
    • instantaneous velocity and average velocity
    • acceleration; acceleration-time graphs
    • acceleration due to gravity
    • kinematics equations for motion with constant acceleration
    • free fall
  • Chapter 3: Kinematics in Two Dimensions
    • coördinate systems
    • kinematics in two dimensions
    • vectors and their components
    • graphical and analytical methods for adding and subtracting vectors
    • projectile motion
    • relative motion; addition of velocities
  • Chapter 4: Forces and Newton's Laws of Motion
    • dynamics; the concept of a force
    • Newton's first law of motion
    • Newton's second law of motion
    • free-body diagrams
    • Newton's third law of motion
    • types of forces
    • gravitational forces
    • normal forces
    • static and kinetic frictional forces
    • tension forces
    • equilibrium applications of Newton's laws of motion
    • non-equilibrium applications of Newton's laws of motion
    • an introduction to the four fundamental forces
  • Chapter 5: Further Applications of Newton's Laws
    • friction
    • drag
    • OMIT: elasticity: stress and strain
  • Chapter 6: Uniform Circular Motion and Gravitation
    • rotation angle and angular velocity
    • uniform circular motion
    • centripetal acceleration
    • centripetal force
    • fictitious forces and non-inertial frames: Coriolis forces
    • Newton's law of gravity
    • satellite orbits
    • Kepler's laws of orbital motion
  • Chapter 7: Work, Energy, and Energy Resources
    • work done by a constant force
    • the work-energy theorem and kinetic energy
    • gravitational potential energy
    • conservative and nonconservative forces
    • the principle of conservation of mechanical energy
    • nonconservative forces and the work-energy theorem
    • the principle of conservation of energy
    • power
    • work, energy, and power in humans
    • world energy use
  • Chapter 8: Linear Momentum and Collisions
    • linear momentum and force
    • the impulse-momentum theorem
    • the principle of conservation of linear momentum
    • collisions in one dimension
    • collisions in two dimensions
    • OMIT: rocket propulsion
  • Chapter 9: Statics and Torque
    • conditions for equilibrium
    • stability
    • applications of statics
    • simple machines
    • forces and torques in muscles and joints
  • Chapter 10: Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
    • angular acceleration
    • kinematics of rotational motion
    • dynamics of rotational motion; moment of inertia
    • rotational kinetic energy
    • angular momentum
    • the principle of conservation of angular momentum
    • collisions of extended bodies in two dimensions
    • gyroscopic effects

5. Course Schedule

Session Day Date Test Lectures
1 Tuesday 2  May No test Ch 2
2 Thursday 4  May No test Ch 3
3 Tuesday 9  May Ch 2 Ch 4
4 Thursday 11  May Ch 3 Ch 5
5 Tuesday 16  May Ch 4 Ch 6
6 Thursday 18  May Ch 5 Ch 7
7 Tuesday 23  May Ch 6 Ch 8
8 Thursday 25  May Ch 7 Ch 9
9 Tuesday 30  May Ch 8 Ch 10
10 Thursday 1  June No test Review

Tests are written on the indicated days from 1–1:50 pm in Room TH 325. On days in which there is no test, we meet from 1–1:50 pm in TH 325 for a lecture.

6. Grading Scheme

Component PHYS 1P21 PHYS 1P91 Comments
Homework (WeBWorK) 10% 8% See homework schedule for due dates. Late homework is not counted for credit.
In-Class Work (REEF) 10% 8% Done in class.
Tests 49% 42% Each test may contain material discussed in earlier weeks.
Final Exam 31% 22% Time, date, and location TBA; you must pass the final exam (50% or more) to obtain a credit in the course.
Laboratory Work 20% Both attending the lab and submitting a written report is required to complete a lab; completing all labs is required to obtain a credit in the course. You must score 100% on pre-lab questions before the lab to be allowed to attend the lab.

In calculating your overall test score, each test carries equal weight. If you miss a test, and you have a very good reason (documentation is required and must be presented in person), you will be excused from the missed tests with no academic penalty (i.e., you'll get a "no mark"). The weight of excused tests will be distributed proportionally to the other tests.

For both your homework (done using WeBWorK), and your in-class work (done using REEF), your final score will be increased by a factor of 1.1 if it is less than or equal to 83.33%, and your final score will be increased by "half the distance to the goal line" if it is greater than 83.33%. In this way, if you miss the occasional deadline or miss the occasional class (for a very good reason, of course) your grade will not be penalized, and there will be no need to obtain and send me medical documentation for each such unfortunate event. On the other hand, if you are sufficiently ill that you miss a significant portion of the course, then you should certainly contact me to discuss how to proceed.

If you miss the final exam for a very good reason (documentation is required and must be presented in person), then you will need to write a make-up exam to get a credit in the course, unless your situation is truly extreme. Final exam periods tend to be extremely busy, so there is no guarantee that it will be possible to write a make-up exam soon after the scheduled final exam; therefore, do your very best to stay strong and healthy so that this will not be a concern for you.

If you fail to obtain at least 50% on the final exam, and therefore do not obtain a credit in the course (regardless of your calculated final grade), I am compelled to report a final grade for you that is no higher than 45, according to Registrar's Office policy. In this case, your reported final grade will be either your calculated final grade or 45, whichever is less. In this case, should you desire a credit in the course, you would have to repeat the course.

Withdrawal Deadline

The last date for withdrawal from this course without academic penalty is 19 May 2017.

7. Expectations/Responsibilities

Here is a summary of our expectations of you, which are your responsibilities. You are expected to:

  • attend each scheduled lecture and laboratory session.
  • do your work honestly.
  • attend lectures having prepared in advance by reading relevant parts of the textbook, and completing the pre-lecture homework assignment. You are also expected to bring pencil and paper to lectures so that you are ready to work during the session.
  • attend labs having prepared in advance by reading relevant parts of the lab manual, and having completed the prelab problems.
  • attend each test, with only a non-graphics calculator and writing instruments. Don't bring your formula sheet, as we'll give you one.

To get the most out of the course, work on it a little bit every day. Daily work is key for placing your learning in long-term memory, where it will be readily available to help you to advance your knowledge in second year and beyond. (And, of course, having the course content in long-term memory will help you ace the final exam!)

Prepare for each lecture by reading the textbook, trying some homework problems, and writing down specific questions about points that you find difficult. If you do this, you will be very pleased with the results.

The same kind of advice applies to the laboratories as well. If you attend lab superbly well-prepared, then you will be extremely efficient, you will collect your data successfully, and you will even be able to complete some of your lab report in the lab. You will be especially efficient because you will be able to ask your lab demonstrators good questions while you are in the lab, and this will help you to complete your lab report efficiently.

Remember, it is impossible for your course instructor to effectively cover an entire chapter of the textbook in less than three hours of lectures per week. It is your responsibility to learn the course material. The lectures are there to guide you and assist you in learning the material, but remember whose responsibility it is to actually do the hard work of learning the course material. Showing up to lectures is important, but is not nearly enough to succeed in the course; you must do additional work on your own, and ideally also with your study partner or study group, to really learn the course material well.