Goshen College > Physics

Physics 100 - Physical World

Physics for World Leaders

Syllabus, Fall 2012

Physical for World Leaders is a conceptual physics course intended for non-science majors. The course focuses on the basis for scientific knowledge, energy, and connections with current social issues.

Bloom's hierarchyThe course assumes only basic math skills, simple algebra, and occasionally bits of trigonometry.

Physics courses have a reputation for being 'hard'. Perhaps two factors that go into this are...


Paul Meyer Reimer

Sci 011   ·   x7318   ·   e-mail: paulmr@goshen.edu

Significant contributions to class material (particular laboratory) come from Prof. Carl Helrich and past laboratory assistants.


You can find the syllabus, class notes, and other materials related to this course on the web at:  
goshen.edu/physworld , or
goshen.edu/physix/100 .

Grades will be available on moodle.goshen.edu.

I use your "goshen.edu" e-mail address for many class communications. Some of you may use other e-mail services. If you do use some other service, make sure your goshen.edu e-mail account is set up to forward e-mail to the account you read most often. (Zimbra: Preferences > Mail)


Art Hobson, Physics: Concepts and ConnectionsRequired: Art Hobson Physics: Concepts & Connections, 5th edition.  Addison-Wesley, 2010. An e-book version of this text is also available.

You will also be required to buy a copy of the course laboratory manual ($10-20). This will be available for purchase in lab.


Class - MWF 8:00 am in AD 28.

Participation: Bring paper and writing instruments to every class. Many classes will involve some sort of individual or group written response.

A secondary purpose of the written responses is an incentive for class attendance. They cannot be made up if you miss class (though they will be pro-rated if you have a valid excuse.)

Assigned Homework: I will assign occasional short writing assignments (a few paragraphs) and homework. Some will involve web research. Read Wikipedia's policies on research and citing.

Maybe you can't figure out what in the world any of the articles are talking about. You will receive full credit if you write up a descriptive response detailing what you can't understand. On the other hand, no credit will be given to responses which have portions substantially identical to web content, or really any content that is not original to you, unless you surround the content in quotes and cite your source.

Feedback on these will be short, 0-3 scale.

Readings and recommended exercises: You are responsible to have read the sections marked in square brackets (e.g. [1.2, 1.3]) marked in the schedule on the class home page before the class period (except the first one!). Sometimes I will quiz you on the assigned reading.

Recommended exercises from Hobson will also be listed for many sections. You should complete these before the following class period when there will usually be opportunity for some discussion. The "recommended" exercises will occasionally be handed in. But a portion of each exam will be drawn directly from the recommended exercises, both those handed in as well as those not handed in. So...

Laboratories - you've signed up for one of the following lab times:

All of these meet in SC 001 (bottom floor, on the railroad-side of the Science building). About the labs:

Exams: Exam dates will be published on the class schedule at least 2 weeks ahead of time. Make up exams are not possible unless prior arrangements are made, or you have a medical problem come up that is documented by a healthcare provider treating you.


In Fall 2009 I asked the students who improved by more than 10% between the first and second exam what they did the second time. Some of their responses:

Study with a friend

"I studied with a friend."

"A friend and I split up the studying. I wrote out the conceptual exercises, another wrote out notes from each chapter."

Time spent studying

"I spent more time studying for this class."

"The play was over and I had so much more time."

"I studied about 3 hours more this time..."

Working problems

"I went through all of the odd questions [these have answers in the back of the book] in the chapters that the test covered. This helped me work on problem solving rather than just memorizing facts."

"I made sure I had a grasp on every sample problem."

"The most helpful thing was doing the concept review questions."

A different way of reading

"I read the book more closely than the 'broader point' reading we do in social sciences."

"I found it helpful to read the textbook word-for-word."


[During the test] "I tried to think what you wanted us to know, not what the question was asking".

Project: U.S. Energy Policy - Groups will research one kind of energy source. Groups will re-shuffle and carry out a simulation of the energy sources for the U.S. economy for the next 50 years and write up results. More information coming!


Participation & assigned HW 24%
2 exams 24%
Final exam 12%
Laboratory 25%
U.S. Energy Policy Project 15%

Total grade outcomes:

I may adjust this scheme down a bit (e.g. 88% might end up being good enough for an A), but I certainly won't adjust it up.


It's a widely held assumption among post-secondary U.S. teachers that if you are able to explain something in your own words that this is evidence of your understanding of concepts.

Avoid lingo. For most of the assignments in this class, you should write as if you were explaining things to an interested friend, someone who is generally as well educated as you are (!), but who is not necessarily a specialist in the field you're writing about. You should avoid using lingo that non-specialists would not understand, unless you explain it. There are, however, a number of words that have specialized or narrower definitions in physics than how they are used in common speech--for example 'energy' and 'power'. You should use those words in such a way that would make sense to someone who *does* happen to know physics.

Other people's work. You should protect yourself from the appearance of plagiarism--presenting the words of someone else as if you had written them--by enclosing anything that someone else wrote between quotation marks and acknowledging who *did* write it.

Papers you submit in this course will be checked for plagiarized material copied from the web, other student papers, and selected on-line databases. Cases of plagiarism are reported to the Associate Dean. Penalties for plagiarism are listed in the college catalog and range from redoing the assignment to dismissal from the college.

If you're referring to several different sources, this acknowledgement will get complicated, ranging from a short "(Joe Klein, writing on Wired.com)" to full-blown numbered footnotes and a bibliography. If you're reviewing one article, it's still necessary to quote anything the author wrote, but you don't need to say each time who you're quoting because it's obvious from context.

But even if you rigorously quote everything that someone else wrote, it is still almost always bad style to use long quotations:

What's the meaning of the banner image?

It's all about energy: almost all of the energy we have access to on Earth has it's origin in our sun: Wind, hydroelectricity, coal, oil, natural gas can all be traced back to some kind of solar energy. Nuclear energy is the one exception: Radioactive elements are made in stars, and spewed into space when the star dies. Almost all the radioactive elements on Earth originated in other stars, not our still-shining sun.

Disability accomodations

Goshen College wants to help all students be as academically successful as possible. If you have a disability and require accommodations, please contact the instructor or Director of the Academic Resource and Writing Center, Lois Martin, early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. In order to receive accommodations, documentation concerning your disability must be on file with the Academic Resource and Writing Center, GL113, x7576, lmartin@goshen.edu. All information will be held in the strictest confidence. The Academic Resource and Writing Center offers tutoring and writing assistance for all students. For further information please see www.goshen.edu/studentlife/arwc/.

Image credits

NASA, sunflowers