Physics 270 Ė General Physics: Electrodynamics, Light, Relativity and Modern Physics

Spring Semester 2008

Lecture: M 7:00-8:50 PM and W 7:00-7:50 PM in PHY 1410

Instructor: Prof. James Drake (sections 0401-0402)

  Office: 3311 A.V. Williams
Office Hours: drop-in or by appt.
  Phone: 301-405-1471 Email:

Class Web site:
The syllabus, homework assignments and solutions to the homework and exams will be posted on the class web site (

Teaching Assistant:

Andrew Robertson
Office: 1322 Physics Office Hours: M11
  Phone: x5-8577 Email:

Prerequisites: PHYS 260, PHYS 261 and MATH 241
Textbook: Randall D. Knight, Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 1st Edition
This course will cover portions of chapters 22-23 and 32-40: Magnetism, AC Circuits, Electromagnetic Waves, Geometric Optics, Wave Optics, Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics

PHYS271, the laboratory component of this course, is required. You must complete and pass PHYS271 (do all the labs) in order to pass PHYS 270. If you believe that you have completed the lab in a previous semester, go to Student Services (PHY 1120) during the second week of this semester to have your grade verified. The lab is run separately and is organized by Prof. Boyd this semester. All question specific to the lab should be addressed to your lab TA or Prof. Boyd. Please click here for more information regarding the lab.

CORE Lab Science Requirement:
PHYS270 and PHYS271 must be taken in the same semester to count for CORE Lab Science. PHYS270 taken alone will NOT count as a non-lab science for CORE.

Discussion Sections:

  Section Time Classroom
  0401 W 8-9
PHY 4220
  0402 W 6-7
PHY 4220

You must attend the discussion section to which you are assigned. The TA will cover material relevant to the homework and exams which may not be covered elsewhere.  For your benefit and the benefit of the TA, please come to discussion sections prepared, i.e., read the chapters, review your lecture notes, and attempt the homework problems so you will be prepared to ask questions in the discussion section.

All homework problems, including due dates, will be posted on Mastering Physics and the course web site. Homework will consist of two parts: a portion that is to be completed on-line using Mastering Physics and a written portion, consisting of one or more problems that is due in class.

Typically homework will be due at the beginning of class on Monday. There will be approximately 13 homework assignments. Because we may have in-class discussion of the homework on Monday after the written assignment is due, no late homework will be accepted. The lowest three homework scores will be discarded so missing an assignment will not hurt your grade.

Doing the homework is an essential part of learning physics. For this reason, homework is a significant portion of your grade. If you need help with a particular homework problem, you may consult with your fellow students, the TA or me. The best way to do physics problems is to work out a formula for the answer, and only plug in the numbers at the end.  If you carry numbers throughout a long problem, you will lose track of what you are doing, make algebra errors and waste time. On the Mastering Physics problems you will be allowed six opportunities to enter the correct answer on a given question and the homework system will tell you instantly when you are wrong.  I strongly suggest that you try the Mastering Physics problems before your weekly discussion section.   Bring questions about the assignment to your discussion section.
There will be three midterm exams and a final.  Exams will be closed book but I will provide a page with various formulae so don't feel that you have to memorize formulae. If you have a good reason why you cannot attend an exam, please talk to me before the exam so we can arrange  for an alternate date. The final exam will be the same for all three of the Physics 270 instructors.
Points will be awarded as follows:

  Homework (drop 3 lowest scores) 100
  Midterm Exams
  Final Exam

 In addition, to ensure that one bad day will not control your grade I eliminate your lowest score above (either the homework, a midterm score or half of the final). Note that 75% of your 270 score will be added to 25% of the laboratory portion of the course (Physics 271) to make up your final combined score. You must complete and pass PHYS271 (do all the labs) in order to pass PHYS 270.  A letter grade will be assigned to you according to your combined 270/271 score.  You will receive the same grade for 270 and 271.  There are no predetermined score values for the grades "A", "B", etc.  If everyone in the class masters the material, there will be a large number of very high grades.

General Comments:
Physics is naturally a cumulative subject; the knowledge learned at each stage builds upon previous knowledge. Do not fall behind! If you find yourself in trouble, seek help. Attend the discussion sections and ask questions, or go to office hours. Donít wait until just before the exam.

Where To Go When You Need Help
1) Professor Drake - I am the best resource for this class. Don't hesitate to come by or e-mail for an appointment if you have questions or are having difficulty with any of the material in this class.
2)Slawsky Clinic (1208 Physics) - offers free tutoring in Physics 270 and other subjects.  Physics 270 times are MTWThF 11-12 and 1-2. 
3) TA Office Hours - if you can't make these, phone or e-mail the TA and ask to make an appointment.