Goshen College > Physics

Physics 310 / Chemistry 310

Syllabus, Fall 2012

We meet at:

  • 11:00-11:50 am, MWF in SC 203 (with Paul Meyer Reimer)
  • 12:30-3:20 pm, Thursdays in SC 302 (with Dan Smith)

On the web

You can find the syllabus and other materials related to this course on the web at:  


Grades will be available on moodle.goshen.edu.

We use your "goshen.edu" e-mail address for 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)


Paul Meyer Reimer

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

Dan Smith

Sci 316   ·   x7315   ·   e-mail: danas@goshen.edu


A study of classical thermodynamics in the formulation of Gibbs. Thermodynamic potentials, characteristic variables, stability, homogeneous and heterogeneous systems, chemical kinetics are treated. An introduction to statistical mechanics is presented. Applications include studies of material properties and engineering systems.

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Phys 203-204 (General Physics); Chem 111-112 (General Chemistry); Math 212 (Calculus II)

Texts and Tools


  • Thermo textbook imageAshley Carter, Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics. [GC Bookstore homepage] [Amazon] [Barnes&Noble] Prentice Hall, 2001.
  • Safety Goggles
  • A GC lab notebook
  • Mathematica: You'll need to use a computer algebra system like Maple or Mathematica to visualize and solve some homework problems and exam questions. You don't have to buy one: GC has a site license for Mathematica which is available on all GC lab computers.

Recommended but not required

  • Carl W. Garland, et. al., Experiments in Physical Chemistry. [GC Bookstore homepage] [Amazon] [Cafescribe] 8th edition, 2008.
    You will carry out 2 experiments from this textbook, which will be on reserve in the library. This is the same book which is used in the Chemistry Department's Quantum Mechanics (Chem 312) course. So if you are planning to take that course, you may as well buy the textbook now. But non-Chem physics majors who are not taking Chem 312 can use the on-reserve copy.



homework 16-18%
problem write-ups 6-8%
2 exams 32%
laboratory 25%
final exam 16%
participation 3%

Total grade outcomes:

    A > 90%
    B 80-89%
    C 70-79%
    D 60-69%
    F < 60%

We may adjust this scheme down a bit (e.g. 89% might end up being good enough for an A), but I certainly won't adjust it up.


Working through the homework is perhaps more important for your learning than anything we do in class.

You will always write up the homework problems yourself. But please do work together with others in the class on the assignments. You may also consult other textbooks and the web. And you may find a solution to some of the very problems in our textbook. But just as in a more writing-oriented class, * woe be unto you if you simply copy a solution that you find on the web, giving the appearance of your own work, when it's not.

Problem writeups

We will do two (or at least one) of these short writing assignments.

Chose two problems to write up in more detail. These should be:

  • less-than-trivial problems from the ones at the end of chapters.
  • Not problems that were assigned for another purpose.
  • You must pick your own problem: No two people will work the same problem. You *may* consult other people about your problem.

You'll use Mathematica to write up a solution with equations, diagrams as appropriate, and text which explains the approach you took to the problem, and references the physical principles you're using. See notes on Mathematica documents. Like (some) writing assignments from other classes, you'll hand in a first draft of this, and after feedback, a final draft. The rubric used to grade this comprises these categories:

  • Exposition of the problem - Copy out the statement of the problem. Use a different font to visually distinguish your work from the specification of the problem. Label the problem with chapter and problem number.

  • Diagrams and plots - Use a diagram to sketch out the physical system if appropriate, and label the names of quantities (angles, coordinates, etc). You may hand draw this! Include plots of functions as appropriate, for example to indicate maxima or minima, or equipotentials, or a potential energy surface, or otherwise enlighten the problem in some way.

  • Grammar and spelling - Use a more formal voice than when speaking, e.g. "a maxima" not "a max", "substitute in" rather than "plug in". Punctuation in physics papers is a unique issue. You should punctuate equations as if they were any other part of your writing: periods or commas frequently go at the end of a displayed equation.

  • Correctness of your solution - Gotta make sure you do the problem right! See if you can include some sort of "sanity check" on your results as you go along. For example, an estimation of the answer by some other means.

  • Clarity of narration - Think of your audience as other students in this class, with some general familiarity with the material. Name the principles and techniques you're using to solve the problem at each section of your problem. You may refer to equations in the textbook: give some context to say where such an equation comes from.

  • Math typesetting / notation - Use real subscripts (not t0 when you mean $t_0$). Figure out how to get greek letters in Mathematica. (Esc-a-esc results in $\alpha$. Esc-q-esc $\to \theta$.) Distinguish visually between vector and scalar quantities: scalars are usually displayed as non-bold italic quantities (Mathematica should do this automatically in math mode). Vector quantities are generally non-italic, and either have a little arrow over them, e.g. $\myv{b}$, or else appear as bold face, e.g. $\bf{b}$. Mathematica commands will generally appear as a monospaced font like this "Plot[ Sin[x],......]" without you having to do anything special. When displaying definite integrals, use the ' notation to distinguish between the integration variable and the integration limits, e.g. $$\int_{v_0}^{v(t)} \frac{dv'}{F(v')}.$$ It may be useful to number equations to refer back to them, or put in a hand lettered "star" or other convenient symbol beside one that you wish to refer back to.

Disability accommodations

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/.

* Dean's Office statement on plagiarism

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.


Ashley H. Carter, Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics, Prentice Hall, 2000.

Carl Helrich,Modern Thermodynamics with Statistical Mechanics, Springer Verlag, 2009.

Kerson Huang, Statistical Mechanics, John Wiley, 1987 (2nd edition). Graduate-level text.

Z. S. Spakovszky, Thermodynamics and Propulsion, online notes from a class at MIT.

Image credits

Magnus Franklin