PHYS 100 (3 cr): Introductory Physics

Course Overview

PHYS 100 is an introduction to fundamental concepts such as force, energy, velocity, acceleration and their application in real-world examples. We will also discuss heat, work, and electricity. Students will learn how to use a systematic problem-solving strategy to approach real-world physics problems and also learn how to use and interpret graphs. The course will be delivered online, including the laboratory portion of the course that will focus on the analysis, interpretation and presentation of experimental data. Most assessments will be online, but the final exam will take place on campus during the regular exam period.

Course Outcomes

The main goal of PHYS 100 is to present physics as a subject that is interesting and relevant to everyday life. We want our students to appreciate that physics happens in the real world, not only in the lab, that physics explains interesting phenomena, and that it can help to make good decisions. The course is taught in the contexts of forces and motion, energy, transportation and the environment. The emphasis in the laboratory portion is on understanding and using experimental data. Students will learn that scientific facts are established by experiments and that the quality of an experiment is characterized by experimental uncertainty. After taking this course, students should be able to:

  1. Answer a question of personal or global interest with a short calculation or an estimate based on a simple model.
  2. Use sensemaking strategies to check their own answer or 3rd party information.
  3. Apply conservation of energy and thermal physics principles to real-world thermal systems, such as home heating and climate change.
  4. Apply knowledge of work and Newton’s laws to calculate basic dynamics and energy consumption of common transportation systems (cars, bicycles etc.).
  5. Qualitatively explain how electric circuits work and show that circuit rules also apply in other non-electric cases.
  6. Use a systematic problem solving approach to analyze real-world situations by
    1. first developing a qualitative understanding of a real-world situation,
    2. then identifying the relevant physical concepts and principles to model the situation or phenomenon,
    3. then carrying out the quantitative analysis of the situation, and
    4. checking whether the results are reasonable.

Intended Students and Prerequisites

  1. UBC science students that need PHYS 100 as a pre-requisite or as a requirement
  2. UBC non-science students that need a general science credit
  3. Students that need to repeat PHYS 100
  4. It is recommended that first-year students enrol in the face-to-face sections of P100 in the fall term.

Course Topics

The course is divided into 8 modules, but will follow a 13-week schedule.

1. Kinematics:

Motion diagrams and graphs: position vs. time, velocity vs. time and acceleration vs. time. Free fall, motion with constant acceleration, and kinematic equations. PhET simulation “The Moving Man”. Reaction times and the two-second rule for safe driving distance. Kinematics examples: Emergency braking, cheetah and gazelle, stop-and-go driving.

2. Newton’s Laws:

Forces and inertia (1st law). Net force and acceleration (2nd law). Mass and weight. Seat belts. Free-body diagrams. Reference frames and apparent weight: Elevator examples. Interactions (3rd law). 3rd-law force pairs and misconceptions. Tension and propulsion. Examples combining Newton’s 2nd and 3rd laws.

3. Mechanical Energy:

Kinetic and potential energy, conservation of energy, discussion of the PhET simulation “Energy Skate Park”, comparison to a ball tossed up vertically, other examples such as bob-sledding.

4. Forces, Energy and Work in Transportation:

Friction and drag forces. PhET simulation “Forces and Motion”. Parachutes and drag coefficients. Work, energy and mechanical power in cars, bicycles and other transportation systems. Fuel consumption.

5. Chemical Energy, Thermal Energy and Metabolic Power:

Other energies and energy transformations. Energy units. Chemical energy in food and fuel. Power, energy balance, metabolic power and calorie consumption. Examples such as bicycling, running, and walking.

6. Heat Transfers – Conduction:

First law of thermodynamics and heat transfer. Energy balance in home heating using a simple conduction model. Detailed discussion of the problem-solving strategy using the simple home-heating conduction model. Discussion of thermal coefficients using double-paned windows and the effect of (fiberglass) insulation as examples. Conceptual discussion of convection.

7. Electricity and Circuits:

Static electricity and electric charge. Batteries and potential difference. Voltage, current and resistance. Electrical energy and power. Simple resistor circuits: parallel and series circuits. PhET simulations “Signal-Circuit”, “Battery-Resistor-Circuit”, “Resistance in a Wire”, “Circuit-Construction-Kit-DC”. Electrical hazards.

8. Heat Transfers – Convection and Radiation:

Qualitative discussion of convection. General characteristics of electromagnetic waves, light interacting with matter: transmission, absorption, reflection. Energy in radiation: Stefan’s law and Wien’s law. Thermal radiation. Heat transfers due to radiation and net radiant heat flow. Radiation through windows. Energy balance model for the Earth and global warming.

Assignments and Evaluation

1. Reading Assignments – textbook, online quizzes

This is where students first encounter new content. You will read specific textbook section at the beginning of each new module. Guided by brief instructions, it is expected that you learn the basic definitions and basic concepts. You will complete a brief quiz based on the reading assignment, which will allow you to judge whether you have read the textbook sections carefully enough.

2. Online Modules – videos, quizzes, computer simulations, worksheets, online discussions

The purpose of the online modules is to make sense of the physics encountered in the reading assignments, to address misconceptions, and to check understanding. Introductory videos provide an overview of the physics and show the application of physics concepts in the real world and in (lecture) demonstrations. Students will work on guided activities and answer questions with feedback. The activities are often based on computer simulations from PhET or real-world problem questions. The online modules replace the lectures of the face-to-face course.

3. Problem-Solving Activity

This activity is a special part of each module and focuses on problem solving. Its aim is to show how a physicist approaches solving problems in the real world. The activities are based on a five-step problem solving strategy that is introduced in the first module. In particular, you will learn what a physics model is and why it is essential for solving tough context-rich (real-world) problems.

Online Homework

Problem solving practice is provided by our online database. The homework assignments are automatically graded, but just to provide feedback so that you can assess whether or not you are sufficiently prepared for bi-weekly tests.

5. Labs

Students will do experiments at home with simple household materials. Videos and teaching assistants will support you in experimental design and data analysis. Students learn basic experimental skills, analysis of experimental data, and representation of data in tables and in graphs. Students will learn to perform a basic statistical analysis, evaluate uncertainties, and draw conclusions from their experiments. At the end of the course, students will choose a final project in which they perform a simple experiment at home and submit their experiment and their results online.

Final Examination and Tests

The final examination is cumulative and will cover all materials covered in the modules and in the Mastering Physics homework. The final exam will take place on campus during the regular examination period. Bi-weekly test will be administered online.

Course Materials

Source Texts

This course uses an open text and an online question bank that will be available for free on our course web page.

Experimental Equipment

Some experiments will be performed at home with ordinary household items or with inexpensive items that can be purchased at a dollar store.