Course Syllabus

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Course Content:  

Required Text: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems, 5th Edition, David J. Griffiths, Prentice-Hall, 1999. 

This is the first half of a course on what is called classical dynamics or classical mechanics. By the end of this course you should be comfortable with the material in chapters 2-7 of the text. The course will focus on the dynamics of a finite number of masses. The chapters, topics and approximate dates are listed at the web site:

The prerequisite for the course is general physics (PHY 201-202) and a co-requisite of either mathematical physics (PHY 311) or differential equations (MAT 361). As the techniques are fairly mathematical, you should have a good calculus background, be comfortable with vector operations. Additional mathematics is provided in the appendices and Chapter 1. 


Course Philosophy

This is most likely your first physics class after taking introductory physics. This will be an extension of the mechanics that you had seen in PHY 201. So, you might want to review some of the earlier chapters in your general physics course as you read through the first chapters in our text. You will find that we will be developing more sophisticated tools for understanding the foundations of classical mechanics. These tools are important in your further studies of quantum mechanics and relativity. There are a lot of good problems in classical mechanics. While not all problems will be assigned, it certainly should be fun to attempt as many of them as you can. This will strengthen your physics background and your mathematical skills in problem solving.

Classical dynamics (classical mechanics, Newtonian mechanics) is the study of the motion of material objects, the forces and energy involved and some of the fundamental building blocks needed to understand the deterministic world of Newton and others that followed. It provides a description applicable to everyday physics. The fundamental principles of classical mechanics were spelled out by Galileo and Newton in the 16th and 17th centuries. Over the next one to two hundred years these principles were reformulated by Euler, Lagrange, Hamilton and others. The new tools and concepts, such as symmetry induced conservation laws, have become important tools in the study of modern theories today, such as general relativity, quantum theory, and even string theory. Therefore, a firm foundation of classical mechanics in formulations of Newton,  Lagrange, and Hamilton, is important in the study of physics.

Advice for Success:  

In order to learn the material in this course and earn a good grade, you need to put in some effort. Do not put off assignments or reading. If you do not understand something, ask the instructor. Come to office hours, use the email, ask knowledgeable students, or go to the library/internet and find supplementary material. It is recommended that you also read and work problems in an introductory text like Halliday, Resnick and Walker. This will help you to keep in touch with the physics and not get lost in the details of the mathematics. Additional material will be placed at the course website: The instructor can only cover the basics in class. You are not expected to know the material by only listening to the lectures. You need to work problems and think about what you are doing. You should also read the book ... and read it several times if you need to do so.

Course Requirements:

Attendance: YOU ARE EXPECTED TO ATTEND ALL OF THE CLASSES! After two excused absences there will be a penalty of 2% for each absence from your total grade.

Homework: Homework assignments will be collected on a regular basis and you will be told when the work is due. As doing homework is very important for learning the material in this course, it will count as 30% of your grade. You will be expected to do the given assignments. Some of these assignments could be challenging, so you need to start them early and be prepared to communicate often with the instructor.

Projects: Projects will be an integral part of this course. You will use computers as tools for analysis and exploration. You will report your findings in a format consisting of project reports. This part of the course will count 10% of the grade.

Exams and Grades: There will be three in-class exams and a final for this course. The exams will cover the material up to the date of the exam. The tentative dates for the exams are below.

Exam I

Chap 2 Sep 11

Exam II

Chap 3-4 Oct 11

Exam III

Chap 6,-7.4 Nov 13


Chap 2-7 Dec 11, 7:00 PM

Your final grade will be based on the following:



Projects 10%














This syllabus is subject to change!

Academic Honor Code:

"The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is committed to the proposition that the pursuit of truth requires the presence of honesty among all involved. It is therefore the institution's stated policy that no form of dishonesty among its faculty or students will be tolerated. Although all members of the university community are encouraged to report occurrences of dishonesty, each individual is principally responsible for his or her own honesty." Student Handbook. (This includes plagiarism, bribery and cheating.)

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


E-Mail: Dr. Russell Herman Last Updated: August 21, 2007