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PHY2010 - Fundamentals of Physics I (Fall, 2010)


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This is the first semester of the two-semester sequence of calculus-based physics. We cover selected topics in mechanics and statistical mechanics including relativity, momentum, energy, angular momentum, and entropy.

You will learn physical modeling which I describe as the use of assumptions and physical laws to explain physical phenomena and make predictions. Surprisingly, complex phenomena can often be understood in terms of a very simplistic model. For example, atoms in a solid can be modeled as rigid balls connected by springs. Applying the momentum principle (Newton's second law) to this simplistic model allows us to explain wide ranging phenomena such as propagation of sound through a solid.

Our textbook is Matter & Interactions by Ruth Chabay and Bruce Sherwood. This highly innovative textbook focuses on the application of a small set of fundamental physical principles which we informally call:

  • the momentum principle (Newton's second law; Conservation of Momentum)
  • the energy principle (Conservation of Energy
  • the angular momentum principle (Conservation of Angular Momentum)
  • the fundamental assumption of statistical mechanics

By applying these principles and making certain simplifying assumptions (like treating Earth as a uniform sphere for example), we develop physical models. Sometimes we cannot easily solve a problem analytically (i.e. using pencil and paper). Thus, you will learn to write computer programs to model a physical system numerically (i.e. computationally). To accomplish this task most easily, we will use Python and the Visual module for 3D graphics.

High Point University       Last modified:   5/24/13 11:22 AM