Introductory Physics I: Course Outline

1. What is this course all about?

Brock calendar entry: Kinematics, Newton's laws and their applications to equilibrium and dynamics; conservation laws; oscillations, waves, and sound.

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).

For an 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 A solution manual and other student resources are available at

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, you can also consult the more advanced Openstax University Physics, which is also available for free.

You can also borrow other textbooks 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.


PPLATO is a set of online resources organized as a full-scale physics and mathematics textbook. There are two types of resources: in the left column there are FLAP (Flexible Learning Approach to Physics), while on the right are supplementary self-assessment modules. Think of the left-hand column as of the chapters of a complete textbook, and of the right-hand column as of tutorials on a selection of topics. I'll refer to PPLATO during the course, but if you need a reminder of some basic mathematics, this is a good place to go first.


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 PHYS1P21D02FW2018 or PHYS1P91D02FW2018) and log on using your Brock username (of the form ab18cd) and password.

WeBWorK is set up so that if your input is within 1% of the correct answer, then it will judge your input as correct. WeBWorK does not currently understand significant digits yet (we're working on it), so you don't have to worry about inputting your answers into WeBWorK using the right number of significant digits in this course.

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.

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: Mondays 9–9:50 am, Wednesdays 1–1:50 pm, and Thursdays 9–9:50 am. All lectures are in Room DHOWES.


Tests are written most Thursdays from 8–8:50 am in Room DHOWES and in another room to be announced soon. Check the schedule further down this page for details.

PHYS 1P91 Laboratory

Lab experiments are performed in Room MC H200, during alternate weeks. Labs 1-9 start the week of 17 September 2018 and Labs 11-19 start the week of 24 September 2018. The lab manual is available for printing from the course homepage. Be sure to read the lab outline and submit your pre-lab assignment before attending the lab. If you have any questions about the labs, you can contact the senior lab demonstrator Ms. Ivana Komljenović-Metcalf (Room MC B210A, or the lab instructor Mr. Phil Boseglav (Room MC B211

Your pre-lab assignments and lab reports are submitted online via, which is used to check for plagiarism. Your lab report is due by 11:00pm six days after you perform the experiment. For example, if you perform your experiment on Thursday 20 September, then your pre-lab assignment is due by 11:00pm on Wednesday 19 September, and your lab report is due by 11:00pm on Wednesday 26 September. Late submissions automatically generate a zero grade for that report; i.e. a 100% penalty. If you have a valid medical or compassionate excuse, contact the lab instructor as soon as possible.

You will be registered automatically into your lab class at, and you will receive a confirmation email message from them to your Brock mailbox. If you already have a account, the message will inform you that our course is now on your list, and you can access it by logging in to If you haven't used before, then go to and enter your Brock email, then click on Forgot your password and follow the instructions to set a new password. Within your Turnitin class you will find the set of prelab and experiment assignments that you will have to complete. For each assignment, the submission deadlines will be shown. For the experiments, the start date is the date when you attend the lab.

Make-up labs: you will have the opportunity to perform one missed experiment during the make-up week of December 3-7, 2018. Enter your name, date and Experiment in the schedule that will be provided. The submission deadlines are as usual but you will need to see Phil in MCB211 to have your Turnitin due dates changed in order for you to be able to submit the overdue prelab assignment and lab report.

An integral part of the labs is the use of computer-based data acquisition; you may wish to consult in advance. Under the "Get data" menu selection, select "demo" and click "go"; the demo mode allows you to try the tools without being in the lab.

3. Sources of help

Office hours: S. D'Agostino MC E219, Mondays and Wednesdays, 2–3:30 pm, or by appointment. The best way to contact me is by email.

PHYSICS HELP DESK: Run by physics graduate students, the schedule is as follows:

In Room MC H200, every day (Monday to Friday inclusive), from 11 am until 1:45 pm.

In Room TH 133 (near the Guernsey Marketplace), from 9 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 7 pm on Tuesdays only.

PHYSICS HELP DESK to prepare for December final exam: Wednesday 5 December, Thursday 6 December, and Friday 7 December, all in Room MC H200, from 9:30 am to noon, and from 1:30 to 4 pm.

Falling behind in a mathematics or science course leads to extreme difficulties, because university mathematics and science courses are extremely fast-paced compared to high-school courses, and because typically each week's new course content depends on course content from previous weeks. 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 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, (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 16: Oscillatory Motion and Waves
    • Hooke's law
    • period and frequency in oscillations
    • simple harmonic motion
    • OMIT: simple pendulum
    • energy in simple harmonic oscillations
    • comparing uniform circular motion and simple harmonic motion
    • damped harmonic motion
    • forced oscillations and resonance
    • waves
    • superposition and interference
    • energy in waves: intensity
  • Chapter 17: Sound
    • sound
    • sound speed, frequency, and wavelength
    • sound intensity and sound level
    • Doppler effect and sonic booms
    • sound interference and resonance; standing waves in air columns
    • hearing
    • ultrasound

5. Course Schedule

Week Dates Lectures Test Test Dates
0 5 Sept.–7 Sept. Ch 2 No Test
1 10 Sept.–14 Sept. Ch 2 No Test
2 17 Sept.–21 Sept. Ch 3 Ch 2 20 Sept.
3 24 Sept.–28 Sept. Ch 4 (Part A) Ch 3 27 Sept.
4 1 Oct.–5 Oct. Ch 4 (Part B) Ch 4A 4 Oct.
8 Oct.–12 Oct. Reading Week No Test
5 15 Oct.–19 Oct. Ch 5 Ch 4B 18 Oct.
6 22 Oct.–26 Oct. Ch 9 Ch 5 25 Oct.
7 29 Oct.–2 Nov. Ch 6 Ch 9 1 Nov.
8 5 Nov.–9 Nov. Ch 7 Ch 6 8 Nov.
9 12 Nov.–16 Nov. Ch 8 Ch 7 15 Nov.
10 19 Nov.–23 Nov. Ch 16 Ch 8 22 Nov.
11 26 Nov.–30 Nov. Ch 17 Ch 16 29 Nov.
12 3 Dec.–4 Dec. Review No Test

Test locations

Tests are written from 8 am–8:50 am on Thursdays, according to the schedule above. Make sure that there is at least one empty seat between you and other students sitting in your row.

  • If you are enrolled in PHYS 1P21, write your tests in Room STH 204.
  • If you are enrolled in PHYS 1P91, write your tests in Room DHOWES.

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.
Tests 55% 44% Each test may contain material discussed in earlier weeks.
Final Exam 35% 28% Monday 10 December at 7 pm, in the WCIBDS gym; you must pass the final exam (50% or more) to obtain a credit in the course.
Laboratory Work 20% Attending the lab and submitting both a pre-lab assignment and a written lab report is required to complete a lab; completing all labs is required to obtain a credit in the course. Pre-lab assignments count for 25% of your lab grade and lab reports count for 75% of your lab grade.

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 your homework (done using WeBWorK) 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 homework deadline (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 Tuesday 6 November, 2018.

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.

8. Pay Attention to Your Life

There is a kind of art to living life, and if we thought of our lives as works of art, imagine how this would change the way we live. All of us are inundated with distractions every day, crafted by experts in addiction to steal the most valuable of our resources: Our time and attention. We all have to figure out how to cope with this insidious problem, but it's particularly dangerous for you young people, because you are in the primes of your lives, with the potential for rapid development. Your brains could indeed develop rapidly and beautifully if you stimulate them effectively, but this is difficult to do because of the intense pressure we all feel from addictive electronic gizmos.

I highly recommend that you put into place some system that helps you to avoid your addictive electronic devices for long periods of time during the day so that you can focus your attention on what truly matters, which is to develop yourself to the highest degree. To help you in this quest, laptops or portable alert devices like smartphones or smartwatches are not allowed during lectures. Turn them off, and put them well away from your consciousness. Research shows that even if your phone is turned off but it is within your view, it poses a significant distratction. Physics is hard enough to learn as it is; there is no reason to try to learn it while you are cognitively impaired.

This may be appear to be inconvenient, but there are important reasons for this. Multitasking is known to reduce the quality of performance in all tasks, and not just for you but also for people around you. Our lecture room is a cramped space, with students seated in close proximity, and even silent visual alerts on a screen affect others.

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Taking lecture notes longhand ensures that important cognitive encoding takes place. This is particularly important in a conceptual course such as physics. See here for more details; and a ScienceDirect link to the source of the [Canadian!] data.

The following are the only exceptions to the policy of no electronic devices:

  • a registered learning disability that requires the use of a laptop (requires a note from the Student Accessibility Services, delivered to the instructor in person);
  • an electronic paper device, laid flat on the desk and used to make hand-written notes electronically, must be in airplane mode;
  • volunteer firefighters or medical professionals on-call are allowed network-active devices on silent (requires a letter from the employer, delivered to the instructor in-person).