Physics 201 is the second part of the threesemester calculusbased
introductory physics course primarily designed for science and
engineering students. The course is organized around various
fundamental principles of physics.
Course
goals
By the end of this course students will...
...
have improved their problem solving and critical thinking skills
through individually and group worked activities.
... be
familiar with the fundamentals of physics, particularly concepts
and the meaning behind the equations and theorems.
... be
familiar with the fundamentals of laboratory work including
data collection, error analysis, and presentation of results.
... ,in
short, be prepared for future science and engineering courses
as well as life in the 21st century.
In this course we will examine one of the fundamental forces
electromagnetism (the others are gravity, strong and weak). We
say electromagnetism because we now know that electricity and
magnetism are intimately related. In fact, it would be best to
say that they are really two forms of the same force. Electricity
and magnetism comprise such a large percentage of our daily lives.
Things like light bulbs, radios and computers clearly rely on
the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism. But, there are
so many other examples of electricity and magnetism in our lives
chemical reactions (the attraction of one ion to another), light
(the motion of electrical and magnetic fields), etc. It is not
much of a stretch to say that electromagnetism is the most relevant
of the fundamental forces.
We will
be building up Maxwell’s equations one at a time, assembling
them until we have the complete set (chapters 23 31 & 34).
Much like in mechanics where Newton’s Laws describe all
of the phenomena, Maxwell’s Equations (plus the Lorentz
force equation) will completely describe any electrical and/ or
magnetic phenomena. There is one major difference between Newton’s
laws and Maxwell’s equations Newton’s are only valid
for some range of speeds and masses whereas Maxwell’s equations
are valid under all conditions. (For a complete description of
mechanics one needs quantum mechanics and general relativity.)
Chapters
27 28 (& 32 33) present us with some of the circuit applications
of electromagnetism. Once you understand how resistors, capacitors
and inductors function, you only need to add a tad of quantum
mechanics to understand all of today’s circuits. (Chapter
43 in the “modern physics” section gives a wonderful
overview of how the building blocks of digital circuits, diodes
and transistors, function at the microscopic level.)
One small
warning to go with the sales pitch: Electromagnetism can be rather
mathematical and abstract. Typically students have difficulty
“seeing” fields. Unlike blocks and pulleys, fields
seem to be disconnected from our everyday experience, but the
truth is they are very real. Think about gravity and its ability
to perform an “action at a distance”, this is one
example of a field that we’ve already studied. (There must
be something which tells the book to fall down when it’s
let go. This is the gravitational field; we can’t see it,
but it is very real.)
One last
part of this introduction how the course will be taught. The
class will be taught in a “studentcentered” style
using various strategies designed to promote active engagement
with the material. Most of our class time will be spent asking
and answering questions, doing demonstrations, and participating
in group activities. This design is not based on a whim, rather
it stems from years of educational research by some rather smart
people.
A Few
Thoughts About Understanding
Critical
thinking and understanding on a conceptual level are complex skills
that are not easily mastered, but are ones that can provide a
lifetime of benefits. There are a couple points that I’d
like to mention.
 Understanding
does not come quickly or easily. Don’t give up if you
don’t know how to proceed when you first look at a problem.
Keep at it.
 Memorizing
does not equal understanding. Just knowing the names of something
or the equations, does not mean that you know what’s going
on. Names and equations are important, but they are not the
end goal, only on part of the bigger picture.
