General Physics I (PH 101)
Fall 2005

Instructor: Andreas Piepke (202A Gallalee; 348-6066)
Graduate Assistant: Octavian Micu (317 Gallalee; 348-0826)
Time and place: Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 am to 11:50 am in room 203 (Gallalee Hall).
Recitation: Friday 11:00 am to 11:50 am in the same location as the class
Office hours: 11:00 am to 12:00 am Wednesday. I have an open door policy. You may see me whenever I am in my office.
Graduate office hours: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm Tuesday
Text used: Serway and Faughn, College Physics (Sixth Edition)
Prerequisite: MATH 100
Credit: 4 hours
PH101 Web site:

Learning Objectives:

This class will introduce scientific methods for finding and reporting facts about nature. The laboratory part of the class will introduce you to measurement techniques, you will learn about data handling and analysis. In physics observations are reported using mathematics as language. The lecture sections will emphasize this approach which will further be practiced in the homework. The lecture part will be a formal but brief introduction of the class subjects and it will present worked out examples (problems), similar to those assigned in the homework and exams.

It is expected that the students read the appropriate textbook section before class. This is essential for being able to follow the class and for achieving a good grade. Because of the time limitations lectures are necessarily brief. The students should use the class time to clarify questions regarding the reading material. This can happen through discussion with their peers or the instructor. Short quizzes will be administered occasionally to reinforce this learning concept. During this course, students should develop a qualitative and quantitative understanding of basic mechanics, conservation laws, oscillations, waves, and thermal physics, all encountered in daily life. The quantitative treatment of these topics will be emphasized. This should help students to develop their general problem solving skills.

The understanding of basic mathematics, as covered e.g. in Math 101, is thus an essential class pre-requisite. It is expected that the students are familiar with algebra, quadratic equations, systems of equations, trigonometry, powers and logarithms. Knowledge of calculus will not be required to follow this class. You are urged to consult the free online service ALEKS that assesses your mathematical readiness. If you find you are not, this service can be used (for a fee) as a tutorial to help get you prepared. Math for Physics is located in the Adult and Continuing Education section. In both lab and class students should develop standards of logic and evidence that can be applied in many other aspects of life.

Class Format:

The course will emphasize fundamental concepts and problem-solving techniques in physics using interactive instruction, computer-based techniques, and cooperative learning. There will be no separate lab and lecture section. The course will be team taught by a faculty member (Piepke) and a graduate teaching assistant (Micu). During classes on Tuesday and Thursday there will be a mix of short lectures and group activities. Electronic lecture notes will be provided on the web as the class goes on. The lecture notes will not cover class room examples, which will be presented on the white board. It is a good idea to keep notes as some of the in-class examples will be similar to the exam problems. This should encourage class attendance.
The group activities will include lab experiments, mostly using the computer for data acquisition and analysis, and other short `exercises'. The exercises will consist of real-world problems and computer simulations. The one-hour Friday class will be a `recitation' devoted to problem solving and preparation for the lab experiments.

Students are expected to find and print out their own copies of each activity before the class period. The manuals can be down-loaded from the web site of PH101. Students should not expect to be able to print out a copy in the classroom. It is very important to read and understand the experiment instruction before coming to class. Experience shows that the students typically need some time to understand how to properly use the equipment. There is just not enough time to also study the physics content of the labs during class time. During every lab period one group of students will be asked to come to the board and answer questions related to the experiment performed that day. This oral lab exam will receive a grade that counts as a quiz grade. Every student has to turn in a written lab report describing the results of his/her experimental work. These reports will be graded.

It is expected that the students read the appropriate textbook section before class. This is essential for being able to follow the class and for achieving a good grade. Because of the time limitations lectures are necessarily brief. The students should use the class time to clarify questions regarding the reading material. This can happen through discussion with their peers or the instructor. Short quizzes will be administered occasionally to reinforce this learning concept.


Problems are assigned weekly and are due Tuesday 3:00 pm. This gives the weekend after recitation to work on the homework. Late work will not be accepted. Every set of homework problems will count 10 points. The problem solutions must be submitted on the web, using a program called BCA. You can access BCA using either Netscape or Internet Explorer using a PIN. The PIN for this class is: E-4CTKYP4JG6R78. The PIN is case sensitive. You have from 6/25/2005 to 9/8/2005 to enroll. After that you will need to come to me for late enrollment.
BCA will give you instant feedback on the correctness of your solution and students can resubmit solutions up to a maximum of five attempts. The numerical values of the problem are different for each student and will be changed when a solution is resubmitted. The first Friday recitation session will be devoted to explaining how to use BCA.

It is important to understand how to work a problem and not just check the boxes. Students must keep a notebook of how they work each problem and be prepared to turn this in for spot grading as requested. Although students may collaborate when working problems, each student must keep a record of problem solutions (not just answers) and should submit their own answers- based on the particular numbers in their problems.

It has been observed that some students were able to obtain a solutions manual for these problems. This will, of course, improve the homework grades. However, it has also been observed that these students perform very poorly in the exams as they have not really learned how to solve problems. Such a homework strategy will thus lead to failure and is strongly discouraged. The homework is there help you better learn the class subjects. You can only do so by confronting your problems. In case of trouble with the homework feel free to see me in my office.

It is essential that you read the textbook, as the lectures will not cover all the material. This is also true for the homework.

Attendance and Makeup Policy:

Students are expected to attend the classes. Regular attendance is a crucial element in being able to pass the exams. Studies have shown a clear and direct correlation of attendance with grades. Short quizzes will be administered from time to time. The quiz grade will count towards the recitation grade.

No makeup of in-class work or exams will be given. If you have a legitimate reason for missing a major exam, then you must inform the instructor as soon as possible. If the reason is acceptable, then the final exam will count proportionately more. The two lowest grades on in-class exercises, recitation work and homework will be dropped. This will allow a limited number of missed classes regardless of the reason.


Two one hour exams will be administered: Friday, September 23 (11:00 to 11:50) and Friday, October 28 (11:00 to 11:50). The comprehensive final exam is scheduled for Wednesday December 14 (8:00 am to 10:30 am). The exams will take place in room 200 of Gallalee Hall. In all exams all work must be done in pen in an exam book that will be provided. Any work in pencil will be discarded. Students may use a pocket calculator and one equation sheet (letter size). The exam results will be published in the PH101 box in the hallway.


Homework problems will be submitted each Tuesday outside of class. In-class work will be collected at the end of each class period and will count as part of the course grade. Not all in-class work will be graded in detail. Occasionally, short (10 min) quizzes will be given based on in-class work done during the week and the most recently submitted problem assignment. Problem notebooks will be occasionally collected on Friday for spot-checking. Thus, class attendance is very important. There will be no makeup of missed class work. Each exam problem will be assigned a point value. Problems marked with a * are optional and will earn extra credit when correctly solved. 100% is calculated excluding the * problem.

Grading Policy

Letter Grade
Numerical Grade

(Min. percentage points)




Superior ability or attainment significantly beyond all minimum expectations (93%)






Good ability or attainment which meets and exceeds many minimum expectations (83%)






Ability or attainment which is acceptable and meets all minimum (required) expectations (73%)






Ability or attainment which does not meet all minimum (required) expectations (63%)




Attainment of some but not a number of important minimum expectations and is, thus, not appropriate for a minimum professional level of performance (0-59%).

Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to follow the Code of Student Conduct, as laid down by The University of Alabama. All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct. In particular each student is expected to do his/her own work on quizzes and exams. Suspected violators of this policy will be referred to the Dean's Office in the College of Arts and Sciences. Students are encouraged to work together when studying and preparing for homework.

Disability Accommodations

To request disability accommodations, please contact Disability Services (348-4285). After initial arrangements are made with that office, contact Dr. Piepke.

Tentative Schedule:

A tentative class schedule can be found on the web (click here). It may be adjusted to keep both sections of PH101 synchronized.