Syllabus 141 Fall 2015

Physics 141-12, Fall 2015, 10:10 AM Room 53-201

Instructor: Pete Schwartz, Cal Poly Physics:, Pete’s Webpage:, x6-1220, 180-608

Text: We will be using a free online textbook. You can download the full physics textbook directly as a moderate resolution .pdf here. I have also provided a high resolution version that covers only the mechanics portion or everything we will cover in 141. You can also download a high resolution full textbook, or an interactive copy for iPad or other computers at Many students benefit from having a hard copy that you can carry around. I strongly encourage you to print out the chapters as we go along and bind them together so you can write notes on them and keep them for future reference. You are welcome to use any other textbook that you may find, but reading sections are pointed out for this textbook.


There will be three graded exams: two midterms and a final exam. Your final grade will roughly be half the final exam and half from the two midterms. These exams will be graded A, B, C, D, F, based on ability to communicate the correct physics. You are also required to prepare for class by watching the videos and to produce a video for the class to watch.

D: Correctly identifies underlying physics concepts and use of units a minority of the time that I can read and understand.
C: Correctly identifies underlying physics concepts most of the time with reasons and good drawing that I can read and understand. Usually uses units correctly. Produce a video demonstrating a physics concept.
B: Consistently correctly identifies underlying physics concepts and uses units correctly. Majority of the time: sets up problem with good drawing and reasons, formulates method to solve problem that I can read and understand. Usually verifies whether answer makes sense. Produce a video that clearly demonstrates a physics concept.
A: Consistently correctly identifies underlying physics concepts, sets up problem with good drawing and reasons, formulates method to solve problem in a way that I can read and understand, correctly uses units and verifies whether answer makes sense. Produce a professional, thought-provoking video.
F: does not achieve threshold level for D

Class Work: After you are exposed to the material at home, you will work as a group to solve problems in class. I will often help your group, or address the class as a whole. Your group (of 3 or 4 students) will submit all your classwork (or group quizzes) together. We will staple them together and grade only one of them. Everyone in the group will receive this grade. If you miss a class, you will not receive credit for the material you miss.

Problem Sets: Usually due Monday in class. These are graded A,B,C,D,F based on the above criteria. The grade is recorded, but will not be used toward your final grade. Hence, the incentive to do the homework would be to learn the material for the exams and any other internal motivation such as the good times you’ll have kicking the problem around with your friends, the resilience you’ll gain in the process, and how much you’ll impress people at social gatherings when you can kick around concepts like angular momentum and inverse square law. The graders will provide only this letter grade and some advice that may help you in the future. I encourage you to hand in your problem set as a group. You can either staple all your papers together (in which case only one will be looked at) or hand in a single problem set as a group. I will not collect late homework as I’ve found this responsibility greatly complicates my life. However, you can turn in late PS for partial credit in the box outside my door.

It would be a very good idea to completely understand the past homework assignments, quizzes, and midterms before each test.

Formula Sheets: You are welcome to build your own formula sheet provided it has no more than 50 ideas = formulas + statements. Any drawing counts as 10 ideas. No formulas will be provided to you for an exam. I recommend that you start a formula sheet now and add formulas as they appear in the videos. Any drawing counts as 10 ideas.

Project and Video: Groups of 2-4 students will do a research project on something related to mechanics (that is not about quantum physics, electricity, light, relativity, etc.) that interests you. It may involve reading and research, or building and calculating, or doing an experiment. You will document it with a ~ 5 minute video that you will post on YouTube for the rest of the class to see. project description link is on the main page.

Midterms: Midterms cover all the material up to and including the most recent class. After each midterm, the answers (not the solutions) will be posted, in order for you to repeat the questions with perfect answers.

Competition: Your performance will be graded not against each other, but rated against the A-F criteria established above. Therefore if you help others in your class, it is good for you too. My experience has shown that a positive collaborative attitude is likely to raise everyone’s grade.

Calculation of final grade: Your letter grade for the exams will be averaged for each exam. The two midterms and final exam will be averaged with the weight of 25% midterm and 50% final exam. However, if the final exam is higher than at least one midterm, it will replace the lowest midterm grade, so one bad midterm will not be detrimental to your grade. This will be your final grade in the class provided the other requirements are met with respect to the rubric above. That is you have watched 85% of the videos and finished 85% of the LON-CAPA on time, and created a video consistent with the grade you are striving for. If the participation for videos and LON-CAPA is between 50% and 85%, a half letter grade will be subtracted from the test averages. If the participation is less than 50%, then two half letter grades will be subtracted.