Instructor: William Fenton, Science Department, The Hotchkiss School


Goals and Purposes

Physics 581/582 is an advanced course in physics which stresses a sophisticated understanding of topics in physics by emphasizing mathematical problem solving. Developed with the philosophy that it is a detailed investigation of a subject that makes it particularly interesting and worthwhile, each one semester course will provide an in-depth look at only one area in physics: mechanics and electricity and magnetism. Throughout the course, strong emphasis will be placed upon using mathematics to represent and describe physical systems. AP Physics is a second course in physics. It is assumed that students have previously studied most of the central topics that are discussed and it is assumed that students have a facility with the fundamentals of calculus, either from previous study of from a course that they are taking concurrently.


First Semester

Second Semester

Office Hours

I've found that due to students' tight schedules, weekly office hours aren't very useful. If you need to see me I will be available Thursday evenings while on duty in Watson and by appointment during the class day. Check my schedule to see when I have free periods.

Text and Materials

There is no particular required textbook for this course. I do recommend you get one but I don't particularly care what author or what edition as long as it is calculus-based. You can check the College Board AP Physics C site for recommendations. The physics we are learning has not changed for about 100 years so there is no reason to spend $200 on the latest edition of any textbook. If you have troubling buying or borrowing one I have a few lying around you may loan. I lecture from University Physics by Young and Freedman and Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Serway and Jewett. In addition to a standard notebook, a bound lab or research notebook will be required for labs and homework. A calculator will be required but just about any scientific calculator will do.

Course Web Site

This syllabus and other information such as the class calendar can be found at Some resources and animations can be found at the textbook website.

Tests and Quizzes

Announced tests will be given every couple of chapters and I reserve the right to give short unannounced quizzes. The lowest test grade will be dropped at the end of each semester. If you are having difficulty, I encourage to seek help as soon as possible.

Daily Homework

Homework will be submitted on-line using Quest, a service provided by the University of Texas. You will be required to sign-up for the service (at no cost) and affiliate yourself with Hotchkiss and use "Unique Course ID #" 581. You should solve homework problems in your bound notebook and then submit answers on-line. You will have multiple attempts to answer each problem so you need not be afraid of getting them wrong on the first or second try. After homework is due, solutions will be available on-line. Homework is meant to be practice. You should not agonize for hours over a homework assignment. Often, getting answers wrong is a good way to learn. To de-emphasize the importance of homework I drop the five lowest homework grades of the semester.

Lab Work

One meeting per week will be devoted to lab activities. Typically, you and a partner or two will perform some calculations and perform data collection. While you will work together, you should do your own calculations in your bound notebook.


Grading for each semester is as follows:

AP Exam and College Credit

Physics 581 prepares students to that the AP Physics C Examination in Mechanics and Physics 582 prepares students for the AP Physics C examination in Electricity and Magnetism. Each exam is an hour and a half in length and is administered on Monday May 14, 2012. Physics 581/582 is intended to be similar to two semesters of a three semester introductory physics sequence for physical science and engineering majors at the college level. Introductory programs vary enormously among colleges, and the credit or placement that you may get will depend upon the policies of the school you attend. The College Board urges colleges to review a student's "lab portfolio" as part of the determination of whether or not to award credit and/or placement and states that "students should be prepared to show evidence of their laboratory work in case the college asks for it." Save your lab notebook from this course!

Academic Dishonesty

The Science Department's policy on academic dishonesty is outlined in a class handout, and will not be tolerated. You are responsible for knowing what you can and can't do but be sure that any kind of cheating or fabrication of data will be followed by a trip to the Disciplinary Committee. In the context of Physics 581, homework may be collaboratively but you must write your own answers and solutions. Thus, your homework should not be overly similar to anyone else's. In addition, you must write the names of students with whom you have worked on the assignment. This does not affect your grade--you can list 20 people if necessary!--but it gives credit where credit is due.

Late Work and Extensions

All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Homework is assigned and submitted via Quest and will not be accepted after the due date. The lowest two homework scores will be dropped and not included in the calculation of homework average. The school-wide policy on extensions:
If a student has two or more hour tests, major paper, or projects due on the same day, the student has the option of having the paper or test which was assigned last postponed until the next day. It is the student's responsibility to inform the teacher whose assignment is being postponed as much in advance as possible. It is not acceptable to inform the teacher on the day of the test.

Tardiness and Absences

Be on time. Every three classes you are late, you will receive a class cut. If you have an unexcused absence on the day of a quiz, you will not be able to make up the quiz and will be given a zero for that quiz. If you have an unexcused absence on the day of a test, you will not be able to make up the test for full credit. Ultimately it is your responsibility to make-up any missed work , or test even when you are on Red Card, on a Field trip, or away for a game. You are responsible for all material covered in this course whether or not you are present in a given class.


The Science Department Lab Safety Policy is outlined in a handout.

Dress Code

Read pages 81 and 82 of Blueprints for details. You are expected to abide by these rules.
If an adult member of our community informs a student that he or she is out of dress code, the student should go and change clothes as instructed.
Blueprints, p. 81
If I deem necessary, I will send you back to your room to change and you will recieve a tardy or cut.