Physics 125: Classical Physics A, Fall 2001

This version: October 15, 2001

(Please discard any previous version which is now outdated)


Course Information


PHY 125 -127 covers the same material as PHY 131, 132, but does so in three rather then two semesters. It is therefore a slower-pace course. In the first semester we cover topics in mechanics corresponding to Giancoli’s textbook Ch. 1-12, with some exceptions.


Required Textbooks (available in the Campus Bookstore)


1). Douglas C. Giancoli, Physics for Scientists&Engineers, Third Edition, Prentice Hall, 2000, either a complete book  or  v.1


WEB site for Giancoli containing chapter summaries and some nice practice problems:


2). PHY125 Lab Notes 125, SUNY SB Staff


Other required material: “Engineering and Science” notebook with graph paper; pocket calculator.




Prof. M. Gurvitch, Office in Physics B147, phone 632-7298, e-mail or (best to use both addresses)

Office hours: F 1:15 – 3:15 p.m. in B147 (except for the weeks of October 15 and November 12; instead of F 10/19 office hour will be held 10 to 12 noon on W10/17; instead of F 11/16 office hour will be held on Tu 11/13 at 10:00 –12:00)


Prof. T. Schaefer, Office in Physics C135, phone 632-4489, e-mail

Office hours: Tu 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in C135


Prof. B. McCoy, Office in Physics D147, phone 632-7984, e-mail

Office hours: Tu 1:00 – 3:00 in D147


Prof. W. Weisberger, Office in Math Tower MT6-112, phone 632-7974, e-mail

Office hours:  Th 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. in MT6-112


Teaching Assistants (TAs):


Jorge Casalderry, email:             

Office hours: W 12:00 – 1:00 and F 12:00- 1:00 in D116.


Julia Guilman, e-mail:             

Office hours: Th 4:00 – 6:00 in A131


Xueqing Liu, e-mail:                       

Office hours: W 3:00 – 5:00 in A108


Ming Lu, e-mail:                                          

Office hours: M 3:40 – 4:20 in A119 and W 1:20- 2:40 in D114

Note that you may go to any of the course’s staff office hours with your questions.



Lectures given by Prof. M. Gurvitch (first half of the semester) and Prof. T. Schaefer (second half, from 10/15): 


Sections 1,2,3,4                   Light Engineering (LE) rm. 102    MWF 9:25 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.

Sections 4,5,6,7                   Old Engineering (OE) rm. 145    MWF 11:35 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.


About Lectures and Additional Credit


We do not take attendance at lectures, but you are responsible for all announcements made in lectures, and we strongly recommend attending them, for a number of reasons. For one, lectures may differ from the Textbook. For the other, it is easier to understand Physics when someone explains it to you, and you can ask questions, as compared to just reading a book (which you should also do, of course). Thirdly, there will be additional credit given for active participation in the lectures: 2 points for each good/intelligent question/suggestion, 2 points for each corrected lecturer's mistake, 2 points for an occasional in-lecture multiple choice Quiz. These extra points are recorded and added to the Final Exam score (see below).


About Recitations and Labs


Recitation and Lab attendance is mandatory. There is a three-hour recitation/laboratory session in most of the weeks. In some weeks there will be only a recitation without a Lab (see the enclosed schedule of Labs). Note that there are no Labs till the week of 9/10, and no Labs in the weeks having holydays (9/17 and 9/24). Missing Labs is very seriously penalized in terms of your grade (see below). There is an opportunity to do make-up Labs on 10/29 and on12/10. However, to do a make-up you must inform your TA at least one week ahead of these dates, telling him or her which labs you need to make-up.


NOTE: Sections 4 and 5, which missed the first lab on Sept. 11, will have this lab on October 29. They will have only one makeup period on 12/10.


Recitation homework assignments will be given every Monday in a lecture, the problems being due the following week in the recitation. Students are expected to solve (or at least seriously attempt to solve) the assigned problems before each recitation session. In each recitation there will be either a 10-minute quiz based on those assigned problems and on the discussion in class, or assigned homework will be collected for grading, or there will be group (3-4 people in each group) work on the problems similar to the assigned ones, which will be graded. Show all your work (including drawings, mistakes, even if they have been crossed, intermediate calculations, etc.) in the homework. The work suspected of being copied will receive zero grades (both the copy and the original). Exams are also largely based on problems similar to homework. It is impossible to get passing grades in this course without very serious work on the assigned problems. Experience shows that putting off this work results in a disastrous backlog and ultimate failure in the course.


In a Lab you will do experiments and collect your own data. These data will be used to prepare a Lab Report for each Lab taken (total of 9 Labs and 9 reports). You are encouraged to start on your report in the Lab, if there is time left. This will help you make sure that you took all the necessary data, and you can also get some assistance from a TA. In any case, your finished report is due in two days after the lab. For example, if your Lab is on Monday, the report is due on Wednesday of that week. The report is submitted with your Lab notebook containing the original data. It should be dropped into a slot in a cabinet located in the Physics Helproom in A131. Look for a slot labeled with PHY125 and your section number. The report will be graded by a TA and returned in your next Lab. This way you will have a reasonably fast feedback concerning your Lab work. If you delay submitting your report, this will complicate TA’s grading work, delay a feedback to you, and make logistic problems (such as not having your notebook available for the next Lab). Because of that, you will be penalized for each day your report is late, at 10% of the Lab grade. For example, if your Lab is on Monday, report is due on Wednesday, but you return the report on Friday, the TA will subtract 2 points for two extra days from your score, which corresponds to 20% lower score for 10 points total. If you are late by 10 days your score will be zero, but you must turn the report in anyway, for otherwise this lab will be considered as missed at the end, and this will bring additional (and more serious) grade penalty (see below).


Recitation and Lab times:


Sect. 01:               

Recitation                Prof. B. McCoy                   rm. P124                 M 12:40 – 1:35

Lab                         M. Lu                                     rm. A119                M 1:40 – 3:40


Sect. 02:

Recitation                 Prof. B. McCoy                   rm. P123                 M 3:20 – 4:15

Lab                         M. Lu                                     rm. A119                M 4:20 – 6:20


Sect. 03:

Recitation                   Prof. M. Gurvitch                 rm. P122                 M 5:30 – 6:25

Lab                         J. Casalderry                             rm. A119                M 6:30 – 8:30


Sect. 04:

Recitation                  Prof. W. Weisberger                rm. P122                 TU 5:30 – 6:25

Lab                         X. Liu                                     rm. A119                TU 6:30 – 8:30


Sect. 05:

Recitation                 Prof. W. Weisberger                rm. P124                 TU 12:50 – 1:45

Lab                         X. Liu                                     rm. A119                TU 1:50 – 3:50


Sect. 06:

Recitation                  Prof. W. Weisberger                 rm. P124                 W 12:40 – 1:35

Lab                         J. Gilman                                rm. A119                W 1:40 – 3:40


Sect. 07:

Recitation                  Prof. B. McCoy                   rm. P124                 W 3:20 – 4:15

Lab                         J. Gilman                                rm. A119                W 4:20 – 6:20


Sect. 08:

Recitation                  Prof. Th. Schaefer rm. P122                 W 5:30 – 6:25

Lab                         J. Casalderry                             rm. A119                W 6:30 – 8:30





There will be two one-hour in-lecture Midterms during the semester (the first one on October 10), and a three-hour Final exam. The Final for sections 1,2,3,4 is on Dec. 17 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and for sections 5,6,7,8 on Dec.19 from 11:00 to 1:30 p.m. Midterms and the Final are held in the respective lecture rooms. The exams are all closed-book, with a few essential constants and formulas provided. The Midterms cover material taught before the 1-st Midterm (Ch. 1-6) and between the Midterms. The Final covers the material for the whole semester. You need to learn how to solve problems to pass these exams (see section on recitations and homework above). The exam attendance is mandatory. Those who must miss the exam for a doctor-certified illness or other verifiable, serious emergency will have to take make-up exams, provided they inform the staff of their expected absence (personally, or by phone, or e-mail) before the scheduled exam, and provide the written proof soon after. No makeup exams can be offered after the scheduled exam date for unexpected absences that were not announced before the exam. An unexcused absence from the Final leads to an automatic F grade. You will need to bring a picture ID to the exam, together with the pocket calculator and a pen. No communication devices of any kind are allowed at the exams.


Once the Midterms have been graded by the TAs, they will be returned to you in the following week’s recitation. You will be given a chance to look at the grading, and, if you find a serious disagreement or a grading mistake, you can submit your exam for re-grading to your recitation instructor, who (unless the problem is trivial and can be resolved immediately) will forward it to the original grader. You will need to write a short statement of your grievance on the exam book. The returned exam book will be accepted only at the end of that recitation session. Please do not request regarding unless your reason is very well founded. Keep in mind that a grader has a right to even decrease your score upon re-examination of a capricious, unfounded request. The Final is graded by the teaching faculty (not by the TAs) at the very end of the semester. For the lack of time at that point, it cannot be re-graded or returned to you, and the Final’s score is not reconsidered.


The course grade composition


The final course grade is assigned by the recitation instructor. The grade will be composed as follows (note the change in the M1 and M2 weights from the previously given equal weights): Recitation (R): 20%; Lab (L): 20%; First Midterm (M1): 10%; Second Midterm (M2): 20%; Final Exam (FE): 30%; Additional Credit for questions/corrections/quizzes in Lectures (AC) is added to the score of the Final. Total of max. 100 points, excluding AC. (with AC your score could in principle be over 100). In addition, missing Labs will severely lower your final grade, as explained below. The letter grade ranges (cuts), such as “A is from 92 to 100”, are decided only at the end of the course, based in part on the overall distribution of scores. Thus it makes no sense to ask at the first Midterm “what my score of 63 corresponds to in letter grade” – it is yet undefined, except for prior year experiences.


NOTE: We do not plan to assign the grades “on the curve”, which means that we are not planning to scale the scores up at the end of the semester. A score of 30 out of 100 means a failing grade whether the average is 75 or 35. Should a large number of students get low scores and bad grades, we will have to keep them. This should be avoided by hard work in this course on your part instead of “massaging” the scores by us.


So, the formula for the final score G (which, in turn, determines the final letter grade) is


G = 0.2 R + 0.2 L + 0.10 M1+ 0.20 M2 + 0.3 (FE + AC)


where G, R, L, M1, M2, FE are all numbers from 0 to 100, and the Additional Credit AC comes in increments of 2 and, sometimes, 1. If, because of AC, anybody gets over 100 points, it is grade "A" with our compliments. Since very few students get scores close to 100, AC should come handy in improving your grade. We may decide to drop one lowest recitation grade, but we do not plan to drop any other lowest grades or otherwise to adjust this formula, except for an ability of each recitation instructor to adjust the final grade just a tiny bit if it is marginal. For example, if you got 84/100, which means, say, B+, and 85 means A-, the recitation instructor may decide to give A- to a deserving student who, for example, came often to ask questions in the office hours, got some additional credit in Lectures, etc.


Note that missed Labs are very damaging to your overall grade. You are required to complete all nine Labs. If, for whatever reason, you end up with missing Labs, we will average the Lab score for the full set, including zeros for missed Labs, but what is more important, in addition, if you miss more then one Lab, each additional missing Lab will be penalized by dropping your course grade by two “notches” (such as from B- to C, or from C+ to C- for each missed Lab; for example, if you miss 3 labs and your course grade would otherwise been B, it will be reduced to C-).



Other notes


·         Students coming from PHY 131 should ask their 131 instructors to e-mail their grades (Labs, Recitations, Midterm (if it was not re-taken in PHY 125) to Prof. Gurvitch or Prof. Schaefer.

·         We welcome your feedback during the course. Do not hesitate to talk to your instructors about your concerns or feelings. You can also express your concerns in writing, and you do not have to sign your name if you so prefer.

·         You are encouraged to discuss homework problems, Labs and any other course material with your fellow students or with anybody else, but copying homework, lab reports, quizzes and exams is considered cheating, is strictly prohibited and, when discovered, will be reported to the Academic Judiciary Office and will also result in a stiff grade penalty.

·         The Society of Physics Students offers some free tutoring. The hours they are available are posted on their door, P121.

·         Despite all the harsh words and strict rules, we want you to enjoy this Physics course, which covers some very beautiful and fundamental science. Physics is one of the foundations of our entire civilization and time spent studying Physics will pay back in a number of ways.

·         If you have a physical, psychiatric, medical, or learning disability that may impact on your ability to carry out assigned course work, you may want to contact the staff in the Disable Student Services office (DSS), room 133 in Humanities, phone 632-6748. DSS will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation concerning disability is kept confidential.


Lab Schedule



No Lab


Pendulum (except for Sec 4,5)


No Lab


No Lab




Projectile motion


Newton’s 2nd Law


Conical pendulum


Makeup Lab (except for Sec. 4,5: Pendulum)


Conservation of energy


Conservation of momentum


Thanksgiving Recess


Conservation of angular momentum




Makeup Lab for all sections


Problems assigned every week from the start of the course, up to the week of October 7 (every assignment due on a recitation the following week):

1). Ch.1 – 1,6,10,16,18,23,28,29,51

2). Ch.2 – 3,6,7,14,19,20,22,23,35,38,47,50,56

3). Ch.3 – 1,10,11,14,18,19,22,26,28,32,36,40,83

4). Ch.3 – 53,56,93,59,64; Ch.4 – 4,7,8,60

5). Ch. 4 – 34,40,41,46,47; Ch. 5 – 1,2,7,10,16,24

6). Ch. 5 – 27,34,35,40,41; Ch. 6 – 2,3,7,18,60

7). Ch 6 –14,21,41; Ch.7- 1,4,10,18,21,25 (due the week of Oct. 15)