PHY 202 General Physics
Course Syllabus


  1. To think critically and employ appropriate concepts to analyze qualitatively problems or situations involving the fundamental principles of physics. [SAN 1]
  2. To learn the mathematical techniques and concepts needed to obtain quantitative solutions to problems in introductory physics. [SAN 2, QRE 1, QRE 2]
  3. To acquire basic experimental skills by setting up and conducting experiments, with due regard to minimizing measurement error. [SAN 2, QRE 2, QRE 3]
  4. To acquire basic communication skills by working in groups to solve problems that require the thoughtful discussion and interpretation of data. [SAN 3, QRE3]

The following is exerpted from an essay by Brian Greene, Professor of Physics at Columbia University and author of "The Elegant Universe".

"While we are small, my decades of immersion in science convince me this is cause for celebration. From our lonely corner of the cosmos we have used ingenuity and determination to touch the very limits of outer and inner space. We have figured out fundamental laws of physics – laws that govern how stars shine and light travels, laws that dictate how time elapses and space expands, laws that allows us to peer back to the briefest moment after the universe began.
None of these scientific achievements has told us why we're here or given us the answer to life's meaning –questions science may never address. But just as our experience playing baseball is enormously richer if we know the rules of the game, the better we understand the universe's rules – the laws of physics – the more deeply we can appreciate our lives within it.

I believe this because I've seen it.

Which is why I am distressed when I meet students who approach science and math with drudgery. I know it doesn't have to be that way. But when science is presented as a collection of facts that need to be memorized, when math is taught as a series of abstract calculations without revealing its power to unravel the mysteries of the universe, it can all seem pointless and boring.
Even more troubling, I've encountered students who've been told they don't have the capacity to grasp math and science.

These are lost opportunities.

I believe we owe our young an education that captures the exhilarating drama of science.

I believe the process of going from confusion to understanding is a precious, even emotional, experience that can be the foundation of self-confidence. I believe that through its rational evaluation of truth and indifference to personal belief, science transcends religious and political divisions and so does bind us into a greater, more resilient whole.

I believe that the breathtaking ideas of science can nourish not only the mind but also the soul."


Course participants will be conversant in mathematics through college-level algebra and trigonometry, and a first course in calculus. Also, the student will have completed the first term of an introductory physics sequence (PHY 201) and be enrolled in, or have already completed, a second course in calculus. Other mathematical techniques will be introduced as the need for them arises.


Class Meetings: Lecture, Laboratory, & Other

The course has both lecture and laboratory components. Lectures meet four times weekly for a total of 200 minutes, and serve as a review of selected material from the text. Read ahead of the lecture and attempt the assigned exercises. Even if you only read the relevant sections for about 30 minutes before each class, you will be much better prepared. Lecture attendance is required.

Laboratory meets once per week for 110 minutes; as laboratory work is also an integral part of the course, your attendance in laboratory is required.

The weekly Wednesday evening meeting time is scheduled primarily for testing, but from time to time other [enrichment] activities may be scheduled in that time slot. Except for testing, attendance at these sessions is optional.


Experience shows that staying on schedule with assigned homework, and active participation in all components of the lab and lecture are crucial for your success. Accordingly, I will enforce the following attendance policy: After two unexcused absences from lecture, your final T-score (see below) will be reduced by 1 point for each additional unexcused absence. A perfect lecture attendance record for the semester will merit a 1.5 point boost in your T-score. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class and will be closed 15 minutes after the class starts. Please do not be late!

Unexcused absences from laboratory will have to be made up. A common (inter-sectional) make-up experiment will be set up at the end of each semester. Students may perform this experiment to make up one unexcused lab absence. Any remaining unexcused absences, or an unsatisfactory score (0) on a laboratory exercise, will result in a 2 point reduction in your final T-score for the first occurence, and a 1 point reduction for each additional occurence.

Delivery Platform: Blackboard 9

All essential course materials are accessible from the official course web site hosted in Blackboard 9. You may login at If you have problems logging into the course, please contact the TAC at or 910-962-4357.

Time Management

My hope is that you are here to learn how the study of physics leads to an understanding of the universe in which we live. Do not settle for simply "getting through"; rather, make it your goal to master this course. That, in turn, will require considerable determination and effort. I expect that each of you will log into the course for at least 30 minutes each day to complete readings and assignments. And you should be prepared to do exercises beyond what is formally assigned, until a thorough understanding is achieved. Staying on schedule with assignments, and meaningful engagement in all aspects of the course experience will be crucial to your success. Note that I can track all of your time and where you spend it in Blackboard, so please commit to taking the time necessary to be successful in this course.

Disability Accommodations

UNCW Disability Services supplies information about disability law, documentation procedures and accommodations that can be found at To obtain accommodations the student must first contact Disability Services and present their documentation to the coordinator for review and verification.

Honor Code

Finally, all work in this course must be done in compliance with the UNCW academic honor code, which is published in Section I of the UNCW Code of Student Life. The following excerpt summarizes the responsibilities of members of the UNCW community in this regard:

"It shall be the responsibility of every faculty member, student, administrator and staff member of the university community to uphold and maintain the academic standards and integrity of the university. Any member of the university community who has reasonable grounds to believe that an infraction of the Academic Honor Code has occurred has an obligation to report the alleged violation."


Course Content

Course content is split among eleven modules, each with its accompanying objectives and means of assessment. The modules are collected under the heading Learning Modules. The modules address various topics in Electricity, Magnetism and Optics. We will progress through the learning modules in the listed order, and at a pace prescribed by the Class Schedule (approximately one module per week).


Exercises, consisting of problems chosen from the text, are included with each learning module; these will be scored and will contribute to your course grade. Scoring is done electronically using the WileyPlus online grading system; you will need a WileyPlus access code (bundled with the text or available for purchase separately) to participate in this phase of the course.


Three 'hour' exams and a final exam will be administered on the dates specified on the Class Schedule. The hour exams will be administered during the weekly evening meetings, and will cover only the material since the preceding exam; the final exam is comprehensive, and follows the University-wide Exam Schedule.

Working the exercises associated with each module and understanding their solutions in detail are the most important preparations that you can make for writing the exams.

There will be no make-up exams. Instead, extraordinary circumstances will be discussed and evaluated on an individual basis; no general policy will apply to the class as a whole.


Course grades will be weighted as follows: Three Hour Exams (69%); Final Exam (31%). Also, if your cumulative score on the assigned Exercises exceeds your lowest Hour Exam grade, the higher score will be substituted.

Component grades are assigned (and compared) on the basis of the 'T-score', a statistical measure derived from your raw score (RS), the class average (AVG) and standard deviation (STD) as follows:

T = 50 + 10(RS − AVG)/STD
T ≥ 60 A
55 ≤ T < 60 B
45 ≤ T < 55 C
40 ≤ T < 45 D
T < 40 F


There are several ways you can get help with the material of this course:

Office Hours

are times set aside each week when I will be in my office (211 DeLoach Hall) to take your questions. For Spring 2012, I will meet office hours according to the following schedule: MF 12:00 – 1:30 pm;  WR 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. If these times do not work for you, please contact me at or 910-962-7587 for an appointment.

Exam Review Sessions

will be held to help you prepare for each scheduled exam. The time and place for these reviews will be announced at least one week before the date of the exam.

The University Learning Center

(ULC) mission is to help students become successful, independent learners. Tutoring at the ULC is NOT remediation: the ULC offers a different type of learning opportunity for those students who want to increase the quality of their education. ULC services are free to all UNCW students. For more information, visit the ULC web site.


The official textbook for this course is the 9th edition of Fundamentals of Physics, by Halliday, Resnick, and Walker. The learning modules are textbook-based and intended to be largely self-contained, but you should not hesitate to consult supplementary materials if you are having difficulty with any of the material. Valuable supplements include just about any introductory, college-level physics text (all cover the same basic topics at about the same level, and usually in the same order), as well as the online resources I have collected under the heading Web Links. When all else fails, 'Googling' the topic in question will often produce many 'hits', but be aware that you will then be left to evaluate the accuracy of these sources for yourself.


A Q&A Discussions thread will always be open under the heading Discussions, where you are encouraged to post any question or comment you may have about any aspect of the course. In addition, I may occasionally post topics of a provacative nature intended for group discussion. Anyone may respond to these posts, and I will closely monitor them to ensure their integrity and prevent the spread of false or misleading information.