Introductory Physics I
PHY 141.001 --- Spring 2012 Syllabus
Physics Department --- Mercer University

 Text: Physics, 4th edition, by James S. Walker
 Class Meetings: Lecture MWF 11:00-11:50 in SEB 144, Lab R 3:05-5:45 in SEB 219
Instructor: Dr. Jose L. Balduz Jr.

               email:, office: SEB 205, phone: 478-301-2229

               office hours: MWF 3-4pm, T 11am-1pm, or by appointment (try email)...

 Course web page:
 Please also see Physics Department home page at


This course is the first in the two-semester sequence PHY 141/142 Introductory Physics I/II, an algebra-based introduction to physics. The main theme in this course is that of mechanics of point particles and extended objects. The course contains both lecture and lab components that will help students learn to think scientifically about the physical world. Following a brief introduction we will consider a series of major topics: Vectors, Kinematics, Newton's Laws of Motion, Energy, Momentum, Rotation, Oscillations and Fluids.  This course is intended primarily for biology majors and pre-health students (pre-medical, pre-veterinary,...), but is also recommended for any student in the College of Liberal Arts seeking to satisfy the general education natural science requirement. Students must already have a working knowledge of geometry, algebra and trigonometry, as indicated by prior academic credit for MAT 133 Precalculus or its equivalent. 


Nature behaves in predictable ways which scientists, over hundreds of years, have formulated into a set of basic physical laws. In the lecture portion of this course, students will learn some of these laws and use them to analyze systems mathematically, reach qualitative conclusions, and compute accurately numerical answers to specific questions. Although we will cover a number of topics and physical systems, the students’ goal should be to learn to think about nature broadly, and solve problems by specific application of general principles, as physicists do.


The ultimate validity of these natural laws always rests on experimental evidence. In the lab portion of  this course we will illustrate, by experiment, a portion of those laws describing the behavior of simple mechanical systems. In the process, students will gain basic concepts and procedures of physics laboratory work. They will become familiar with simple experimental apparatus; measure quantities such as displacement, time, velocity and acceleration; compute derived quantities from the data, and perform basic statistical analysis of the data and the derived quantities; and reason from this analysis to answer questions and arrive at logically sound conclusions about the physical world. This process will help them to master the concepts introduced in the lectures, by showing them in action in the laboratory setting. Although we will investigate a number of specific physical systems, students’ goal should be to learn to think about nature and perform experiments as physicists do.


WebAssign: Each student in the course must obtain an online account with WebAssign that will cost $25.95 and will provide access to the online homework assignments. Relevant links will be provided on the course webpage.


Course web page: During class meetings the instructor will use both a projector and the whiteboard or blackboard. Most material presented on the projector in class will be available on the course homepage or the course labs homepage: basic conceptual material, examples and solutions to textbook problems, lab exercise instructions. Exam solutions will also be posted after these are graded. In addition, other materials which cannot be presented in class due to time constraints will also be posted on the web page: additional textbook problems, old quizzes and homework sets, old exams, and additional practice exam problems. Former students have said that the course web page was very helpful to them, so every student should make good use of this resource.

Lectures: During scheduled class periods the instructor will discuss the theoretical and conceptual aspects of the course topics, present examples, go over solutions to textbook, exam and homework problems, answer questions, ask questions to stimulate thinking and discussion. Occasionally we will see classroom demonstrations. We will have quizzes and exams.  An individual response system ("clickers") will also be used but students' answers will not be graded.

Lab sessions: Each student will be a member of a lab group. Students may form groups as they wish each week. All data collection will be performed by the group. After that, each group must work to complete all data analysis, i.e. data tables and required graphs, before leaving the lab. Often, students will have enough time to complete the entire lab procedure and the analysis during the session. Other times, there will not be enough time during the session, and it will be necessary to finish the analysis later. During each lab session, each student is obligated to a) attend the entire session, b) work successfully with the group to collect the data, and c) help the group carry out the required analysis during the session. Typically, students will not be able to leave the lab session early: Any student who arrives late, fails to contribute to the group work, acts in a disruptive manner, or leaves early without instructor permission will suffer a penalty to their grade for that lab.

Homework (one per chapter, for 18% of total grade): Each student will use WebAssign to complete homework assignments for each chapter. Students may work individually or in groups, and they may use the textbook or any other resources except for the Instructor's Solutions Manual, which is considered off-limits. Although you are encouraged to work together, each student must submit their own answers, by the due date, electronically in their own account to receive credit.

Lab reports (20% of total grade): For most labs, students must submit reports containing data tables, graphs, conclusions, and answers to additional questions: For details please see "Lab Report Guidelines" handout. In most cases, reports will be prepared after the lab session and will be due on the day of the next lab session. The students in each group must either submit individual reports or a group report as they wish. For any report, each student who helped to prepare it must sign it, and everybody who signs it will receive the same grade. Depending on the amount of work involved, each report will be worth a variable number of points ranging from 50 to 100. In cases where all report elements are required, the number of points will be close to 100: data tables and graphs will account for about 20% of the grade, with the introduction, answers to questions and conclusions accounting for the remaining 80%. In cases where there are no questions to be answered and/or no formal conclusions to be drawn, the number of points will be reduced. In some cases students will hand in their work at the end of the lab session; these short reports will also be worth close to 50 points. 


Practice exams (bonus to exam grades): During the lab session before each exam (A, B and C) students will work on practice exams provided by the instructor. Depending on their performance on these practice exams, students may receive bonuses to the associated exam, to be awarded on a competitive basis. Students will work in groups, and all students in a group will receive the same bonus, if any. Bonuses will be assigned depending on the accuracy of the answers, given the presence of adequate written support. In no case will a student receive more than a +5% bonus on any one exam.


Quizzes (one per chapter, for 12% of total grade): There will be an occasional in-class quiz, roughly one per chapter. These may include both qualitative and quantitative questions. They will be open-book: I.e., students are allowed use of their calculator and a textbook, and whatever paper notes they want to bring. No laptops or other devices may be used.


Exams (three, for 30% of total grade): The three exams (A, B and C) will consist entirely of numerical problems. They will be closed-book tests, with a formula sheet provided by the instructor. The topics and tentative dates for the exams are as follows:


Final exam (Thursday, May 3, 9am-noon, for 20% of total grade): The final exam will consist of two parts. The first part will contain numerical problems based on the material covered since the third exam (Rotation, Oscillations and Fluids [Ch. 10, 13, 15]. The second part will contain only multiple-choice questions, and will be comprehensive, including all material covered in the course. The final exam will also be a closed-book test, with a formula sheet provided by the instructor. 

How much weight is given to each activity, in percentages of the total grade, is shown in the left table below. The final letter grade will be determined from the total grade using the scale shown in the right table below.


  # % each total %
Homework ~12 ~1˝ 18
Quizzes ~12 ~1 12
Exams (A, B, C) 3 10 30
Final exam 1 20 20
Labs ~10 ~2 20
Total 100
  GP %
A 4.0 90-100+
B+ 3.5 85-89
B 3.0 80-84
C+ 2.5 75-79
C 2.0 70-74
D 1.0 60-69
F 0.0 0-59





Syllabus changes: If changes to this syllabus are necessary, they will be implemented after discussion and negotiation with the students. The accompanying lecture and lab schedule is not a part of the syllabus: it is tentative and subject to revision, including the dates for exams A, B and C.


Missed labs, quizzes and exams:  To avoid hurting their grade, when a student misses a lab, quiz or exam, they must convince the instructor that their absence was unavoidable or served a very good cause (e.g. when a student represents Mercer as part of a team). If their absence is not excused they will receive no credit for the lab, quiz or exam. It is best to speak to the instructor ahead of time, or to present an official excuse from a Dean or team faculty advisor, or a doctor's excuse.


Lab safety: Lab equipment may be hazardous to your health. Always follow the instructions of your lab instructor or their lab assistant, and consider the well being of your classmates as well as yourself... Think Safety First!  


Lab manuals:  The lab manuals (instruction sets and data tables) are viewable on computers in SEB 219 during lab sessions. There will also be one copy of the lab instructions per lab station in the room. Students may print completed data tables, graphs and lab reports during the lab sessions; please do not print additional copies of the lab instructions.


Dropped grades: There  will be no dropped grades. All work done in the course will be counted.


Extra credit: There will be no extra-credit work, except what is associated with the practice exams.


Honor Code: The  College of Liberal Arts' academic misconduct policy will be followed. All students are bound by the Mercer University Honor Code... In addition, for all graded work completed in this class (except the online homework), each student must write their name on the paper, and they must sign the paper themselves; otherwise they will receive no credit. It is unethical, and a violation of the honor code of this university, for any student to submit work in person or online for credit, knowing that some person who may get credit did not contribute significantly to that piece of work. This applies not only to homework sets but also to quizzes, exams, term papers, lab reports and any other work you do at this or any other school...


Electronic devices: In order to maximize student engagement and to minimize sources of distraction, neither laptop computers nor cell phones may be used when class is in session. Likewise, no student should communicate electronically with any person inside or outside the classroom by any means while class is in session. During quizzes and exams, no electronic devices of any kind may be used except for a calculator. Any device used in violation of these rules may be confiscated by the instructor for the duration of the class period. Exception: Laptop use may be allowed, for note-taking and access to the course web page and the eBook, if this is not disruptive to other students, and if the laptop user pays attention to and remains engaged in the class. If this is not the case, or if any other use of the laptop is made, the instructor will ask the student to close the laptop, on a permanent basis. Nevertheless, it is strongly advised, that students take notes by hand and bring a paper textbook to class.

Office hours: Students are strongly encouraged to discuss with the instructors all their work during the course, regardless of their grades. Office hours are the best vehicle for this discussion. They also afford any student the chance to get personalized help from the instructor, so please don't be shy...

Disability support: Students requiring accommodations for a disability should inform the instructor at the close of the first class meeting or as soon as possible.  The instructor will refer you to the Disability Support Services Coordinator to document your disability, determine eligibility for accommodations under the ADAAA/Section 504 and to request a Faculty Accommodation Form.  Disability accommodations or status will not be indicated on academic transcripts.  In order to receive accommodations in a class, students with sensory, learning, psychological, physical or medical disabilities must provide their instructor with a Faculty Accommodation Form to sign.  Students must return the signed form to the Disability Services Coordinator.  A new form must be requested each semester.  Students with a history of a disability, perceived as having a disability or with a current disability who do not wish to use academic accommodations are also strongly encouraged to register with the Disability Services Coordinator and request a Faculty Accommodation Form each semester.  For further information, please contact Carole Burrowbridge, Disability Services Coordinator, at 301-2778 or visit the Disability Support Services website at

All requests for reasonable accommodation are welcome also in regard to absence from class for school representation (i.e., athletic or other events) or personal/family problems.