PHYS101N - Elementary Physics I  |  Fall 2022, TR 9:30 - 10:45 Room 0200 OCNPS

Mechanics and Electromagnetism - Instructor: Dr. Sebastian E. Kuhn -

Department of Physics - Physical Sciences Building II Room 2100J - Drop-in Hours: Mondays 10-11 a.m. and Thursdays 11 a.m.-12 noon in my office as well as by appointment (email skuhn at

Important Links:


Welcome to PHYS101N. This site is under construction - new items and updates will be added frequently. Return occasionally to get the newest information.

What do you need?

General Information

1) Is this course for me?

The purpose of this course is to gain a fundamental understanding how Physics can describe the world around us with a coherent body of concepts and models. We will develop some very abstract ideas (energy, momentum, force) that have precise meanings (as opposed to the loose everyday meanings we associate with some of these words). We will also have to "unlearn" some of the "obvious" things we thought we knew about the physical world around us and how it works that just ain't so. Finally, to demonstrate the relationship between the abstract concepts and models and everyday phenomena or technical applications, we will have to study a variety of examples and observations and solve problems. It helps if you have some knowledge of math (high school geometry and algebra) and had some science courses in high school as well. Even more importantly, you should have some curiosity about science and how it can explain the natural world. If you think this applies to you, then this course should reward you with a deeper understanding of the world around you (not to mention a reasonable grade – but no guarantees!). In that case, this course is definitely for you!
If you tend to faint at the sight of any mathematical equation, this course may not come easy. If you have too heavy a course load already and cannot commit substantial time and effort to this course (think at least 10 hours/week), you may be disappointed by the outcome. Note that you only have until the end of the first week of classes to withdraw with full tuition refund. It pays (literally) to figure out right away whether or not you plan to continue the course.

2) Suggestions for Homework

Homework will be submitted through CANVAS. All deadlines are hard and fast - no extensions under any circumstances (that includes late-night technical glitches).

Some advice:

Get involved: Tell me (via email, office hour, note, in the learning center, after class) what you would like me (or the TA) to do or change to make the learning easier for you. However, don't expect miracles: We can't simply reduce the material to be covered by a large fraction, so be prepared to give us trade-off options ("do more of this and less of that"). Remember, if you never go to office hours, the Learning Center, etc., we can't help you. No student who made an effort to meet with me when (s)he encountered problems has ever failed this class!

3) Suggestions on how to prepare for tests and exams

Many of the suggestions above for the homework also apply for the preparation for a midterm or final exam. In particular, the best preparation for exams is to do both your regular homework and maybe a couple extra "practice exercises" every week. But to get anything out of that, you really have to work hard at getting the answer on your own. Don't expect your fellow classmates or the learning center to "just do the problems for you". The same applies to "just looking up the answer" on Google or other online sites. Not only is this against my rules (and the Honor Code!), but it also deprives you of the learning process. Even if you don't get the final answer (right), if you have at least made a serious attempt, you will understand the correct solution better and be able to see where you may have troubles or weak areas.
The second-most important way you can prepare yourself for tests and exams is by attending lecture. Not only will it help you understand what's important, you will also see me work out examples and - most importantly - you will be able to test your understanding with in-class response surveys ("clicker quizzes"). The latter are often a good indicator on what might be on the test, as well!

And now some other "good advice": Finally, don't wait until the last moment. Spend a couple hours each week reviewing material and maybe 1-2 hours each day before the exam to prepare yourself. This is more efficient than cramming for one night (not only will you be tired, you will also forget everything more quickly again). Recent research shows that you learn more if you make sure you sleep enough during the night!

Homework Problem Sets and their Solutions

Note: Solution to HW problems will be posted after their due dates.

Lecture Notes

Useful (and fun) Web Sites


Our class fielded THREE awesome teams to build pumpkin catchers:

Congratulations to all!

Check out the web page by Kathy Joseph ("Kathy loves Physics"). She has a book and a bunch of YouTube videos about the original discoveries about electricity and magnetism.

Practical application of impulse and momentum conservation: NASA conducts a real-life "Armageddon" test

General Information

Onwards to the second semester - PHYS102N!
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