Physics 101:

Physics & Society

Fall 2009


****NEWS  FLASH ****


Exam #3
Tues. Nov. 17th

In Class

Other Due Dates:
Paper #1, Part B: T Nov. 10th
Ex#4:  F Dec 17

Office Hours
M 10-11 AM, W 11-noon
& By Appointment

****NEWS  FLASH ****

Interesting Physics & Physical Science Links

What we did today -- some notes about class activities (& reading materials with homework assignments)

  Homework Solutions

Example Problems & Answers

Answers:  1) e, 2) e, 3) e, 4) a, 5) e, 6) a, 7) a, 8) a, 9) d, 10) c, 11) c

Answers:  1) a, 2) a, 3) b, 4) d, 5) a, 6) c, 7) e, 8) c, 9) e, 10) a, 11) b


Special Topics for the Semester:





Fall 2009

9:30 – 10:45 AM            Tues. & Thurs.

Room 46 Culler Hall




 Instructor:  Dr. Jan Yarrison-Rice                                            
Web Course:     

Office:  Room 21 Culler Hall                                                 

Phone:  529-1862 or 529-5626                                              

Office Hours: Not available yet                                                   
Other times by appointment                             


Renewable Energy, R. Wengenmayr & T. Buehrke, Eds. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2008.
Nanotechnology DeMystified, L. Williams & W. Adams, McGraw Hill, New York, 2007.


Websites:            &


The goals of this course are three-fold.  First, I expect you to understand basic physical concepts and mathematical descriptions of topics like energy, thermal energy, the modern view of atoms and nuclei, and electricity.  We will interweave the study of societal issues that stem from this initial understanding such as the US position in Science, the Greenhouse Effect and associated Alternate Energy Possibilities, and Nanotechnology & its Implications.  Lastly, I want you to be able to read a technical article in a newspaper or magazine and know how to study it further, i.e. can you understand the basic science upon which the article is based?  do you know how to find additional information on the physics or the societal aspects of the article?  can you assimilate this information into a well-informed opinion on the topic?


Miami Plan Course:  Physics and Society, Phy 101, is a Miami Plan course and as such fulfills the University requirements for physical sciences.


 As you should be aware, Physics 101: Physics & Society is a Miami Plan Foundation Course. As stated in the Miami Bulletin, the Miami Plan for liberal education is encapsulated by four overarching principles.

1) Thinking critically

2) Understanding contexts

3) Engaging with other learners

4) Reflecting and acting

Below I give some of my interpretation of how these four principles are incorporated in the physics and society course.

 1) Thinking critically:  The goals of this course are three-fold.  First, I expect you to understand basic physical concepts and mathematical descriptions of topics. Then we will study societal issues that stem from this initial understanding. Lastly, I want you to be able to read a technical article. In other words, can you understand the basic science upon which an article is based?  Do you know how to find additional information on the physics or the societal aspects of the article?  Can you assimilate this information into a well-informed opinion on the topic?


2) Understanding Context:  An important quality of physics is that understanding of advanced topics comes from a strong foundation of topics ranging from mechanics through energy. This then allows us to study societal issues that stem from this initial understanding such as Thermal Energy, Atoms and Spectra, Materials and their Characterization, The Nucleus, which allow us to think about Nanotechnology and The Greenhouse Effect, as well as Alternate Energy Sources. In order to understand these societal issues, the physics must be supplemented with historical, societal, and cultural contextual information.


3) Reflecting and Acting:  Physics 101 does not intend to make professional physicists out of its students.  However, a major goal of the course is for you to understand basic physical principles, to learn science by doing science when possible, and to be able to read an article on a technical topic. For example, as a result of taking this course are you more likely to read an article on a physical science or technical topic?  Would you be able to search the web to learn about a topic and create an informed opinion on a particular issue that is being voted upon by local or national governmental representatives?


4) Engaging with Other Learners:  As seen in the class goals above and structure below, Physics 101 provides opportunities for students to interact with each other and with the instructor on a one-on-one basis and within groups, opportunities for hands-on experiences via mini-experiments (you learn science by doing it), and opportunities to consider data collection, experiments, and societal issues grounded in physics from a critical point of view throughout the semester.




Class Structure:  To achieve these goals, the course will be arranged in the following manner.  We will have lectures and demonstrations on a number of topics.  These will be interspersed with films, small group experiments and problem-solving, and science-in-the-news articles.  Even though this is a class with a large population, I want you to be involved in your learning.  Active participation and good class attendance will serve you well.  In class work will be graded for ~5 percent of your total semester score.


This semester we are focusing on two basic topics and each of you will be part of a group that studies in detail a specific aspect of or question on these topics.  You will: Read articles specifically about a particular question or aspect of the topic and prepare individual reviews of articles (in bullet format) on what you have learned.  You will be asked to share this with the class.



There will be four exams including the final exam.  Each exam will have 30 multiple choice questions, each worth 5 points for a total of 150 points per exam.  In addition, each student will be asked to write 2 short article analysis assignments, on an article you read, worth 50 points, and an additional group synthesis outline worth 25 points for each, for a total of 150 points.  Class participation is worth 40 points.    Thus, your grade is based upon 495 total points in the semester.  Grades will be posted on blackboard for the Phy 101 course.




 If you are going to miss an exam, you must contact me BEFORE the exam starts and your excuse must be one I consider valid.  If you have missed an exam for a valid reason, you may submit to me in writing a request for a calculated score for the missed exam.  This score will be calculated by comparing your performance on the other three exams to the class average on those three exams, and then applying that ratio to the class average of the missed exam.  If you miss a second exam, you will be given an INCOMPLETE for the course.


In-Class Assignments:  During class we will work in small groups to discuss issues, work on example problems, and conduct mini-experiments.  You will be given a percent grade on each of these assignments.  You have 2 weeks to speak to me about questions on the grade and whether your grade has been recorded on blackboard.  At the end of the semester, a single, lowest class participation score will be dropped from your average to cover a possible missed class.  Then the average of your percent scores will be calculated and multiplied by 40 to see how many participation points you have earned for the semester.


Letter grades are determined by an absolute, fixed scale that measures your performance as a percentage of total possible points.  In the fixed scale, a 90% performance is an A, 80% a B, 70% a C, and 60% a D.  These scaled grades are adjusted at the end of the term, using any extra credit points you have to give you the largest advantage.


 Exam and Review Session Dates:


Exam #1:   Thurs. Sept. 17th           In Class                        Room to be announced


Exam #2:   Thurs. Oct. 15th       In  Class                       Room to be announced


Exam #3:   Thurs. Nov. 12th        In Class                        Room to be announced


Final Exam: THURSDAY, Dec. 17th         10:15 AM                    Room to be announced


**** Note:  This final exam time is non-negotiable. ****

***You will not be excused from the final exam due to travel plans.  ***



Daily Plans and Homework Assignments will be posted on the WEB.  Some reading assignments will also be provided to you in the course “what did we do today?” website.


<>Introduction:  The U.S. and ScienceHow is science conducted in the US?  How do citizens feel?  How do scientists view this topic?  Critical Thinking:  How does one form an opinion?  How does one argue his or her point? <> 
Motion Basics and Graphing


Thermal Energy

 Main Topic #1:  Global Warming:  From a thermodynamics and energy point of view, where do we stand globally and how is the US approaching it? Alternate energy sources


Electric & Magnetic Properties of Materials


Atomic Structure & Interactions

Semiconducting Materials

Nucleus of the Atom

Topic Collection #2:  Nanotechnology:  The science – New basic science, new technology & health areas, The Health aspects to nanotechnology, The Economics of nanotechnology, and the Ethics of Nanotechnology

We will work in groups for much of the course.  You will sign up for groups of 4 within the first 3 weeks of classes, so that you are prepared for analyzing articles, putting your written work together, and synthesizing it and producing your written assignments.