Section

  • Physics 1

    Physics 1 is a course designed for high school students in grades 11 & 12. Topics studied include motion, forces, momentum, energy, heat, electricity & magnetism, waves & optics, fluid mechanics, and atomic & particle physics. The course requires that students be comfortable describing and solving real-world problems using algebra and basic trigonometry. The course also requires vector math, but this topic is taught at the beginning of the course. The course is supported by an interactive, inquiry-based laboratory environment where students gain hands-on experience with the concepts being studied. The content of the course course exceeds the requirements of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for high school physics.

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    Forces & Gravitation

    Notes pp. 103-139

    In this chapter you will learn about different kinds of forces and how they relate.

    • Newton’s Laws and Forces describe basic scientific principles of how objects affect each other.
    • Free-Body Diagrams describes a way of drawing a picture that represents forces acting on an object.
    • Forces Applied at an Angle, Ramp Problems, and Pulleys & Tension describe some common situations involving forces and how to calculate the forces involved.
    • Friction and Aerodynamic Drag describe situations in which a force is created by the action of another force.
    • Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation describes how to calculate the force of gravity caused by massive objects such as planets and stars.

    One of the first challenges will be working with variables that have subscripts.  Each type of force uses the variable F.  Subscripts will be used to keep track of the different kinds of forces.  This chapter also makes extensive use of vectors.

    Another challenge in this chapter will be to “chain” equations together to solve problems.  This involves finding the equation that has the quantity you need, and then using a second equation to find the quantity that you are missing from the first equation.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Solving chains of equations.
    • Using trigonometry to extract a vector in a desired direction.
    • Working with material-specific constants from a table.
    • Estimating the effect of changing one variable on another variable in the same equation.
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    Reference

    Data and other useful reference materials.

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    Laboratory

    Notes pp. 13-42

    Laboratory safety, style guides and rubrics for laboratory notebooks and formal reports, laboratory equipment, performing experiments.

    The purpose of this chapter is to teach skills necessary for designing and carrying out laboratory experiments, recording data, and writing summaries of the experiment in different formats.

    • Designing & Performing Experiments discusses strategies for coming up with your own experiments and carrying them out.
    • Accuracy & PrecisionUncertainty & Error Analysis, and Recording and Analyzing Data discuss techniques for working with the measurements taken during laboratory experiments.
    • Keeping a Laboratory Notebook and Formal Laboratory Reports discuss ways in which you might communicate (write up) your laboratory experiments.

    Calculating uncertainty (instead of relying on significant figures) is a new and challenging skill that will be used in lab write-ups throughout the year.

    Skills learned & applied in this topic:

    • Designing laboratory experiments
    • Error analysis (calculation & propagation of uncertainty)
    • Formats for writing up lab experiments
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    Mathematics

    Notes pp. 43-78

    The purpose of this chapter is to familiarize you with mathematical concepts and skills that will be needed in physics.

    • Standard Assumptions in Physics discusses what you can and cannot assume to be true in order to be able to solve the problems you will encounter in this class.
    • Assigning & Substituting Variables discusses how to determine which quantity and which variable apply to a number given in a problem based on the units, and how to choose which formula applies to a problem.
    • The Metric System and Scientific Notation briefly review skills that you are expected to remember from your middle school math and science classes.
    • Trigonometry, Vectors, Vectors vs. Scalars in Physics, and Vector Multiplication discuss important mathematical concepts that are widely used in physics, but may be unfamiliar to you.

    Depending on your math background, some of the topics, such as trigonometry and vectors, may be unfamiliar.  These topics will be taught, but in a cursory manner.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Estimating uncertainty in measurements
    • Propagating uncertainty through calculations
    • Identifying quantities in word problems and assigning them to variables
    • Choosing a formula based on the quantities represented in a problem
    • Using trigonometry to calculate the lengths of sides and angles of triangles
    • Representing quantities as vectors
    • Adding and subtracting vectors
    • Multiplying vectors using the dot product and cross product
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    Kinematics (Motion)

    Notes pp. 79–102

    In this topic, you will study how things move and how the relevant quantities are related.

    • Motion, Speed & Velocity and Acceleration deal with understanding and calculating the velocity (change in position) and acceleration (change in velocity) of an object, and with representing and interpreting graphs involving these quantities.
    • Projectile Motion deals with an object that has two-dimensional motion—moving horizontally and also affected by gravity.

    Skills learned & applied in this topic:

    • Choosing from a set of equations based on the quantities present.
    • Working with vector quantities.
    • Relating the slope of a graph and the area under a graph to equations.
    • Using graphs to represent and calculate quantities.
    • Keeping track of things happening in two directions at once.
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    Angular Motion & Torque

    Notes pp. 149-169

    In this chapter, you will learn about repetitive back and forth motion.

    • Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM) describes the concept of repetitive back-and-forth motion and situations that apply to it.
    • Springs, Pendulums and Angular Motion describe specific examples of SHM and the specific equations relating to each.
    • Torque describes forces that cause rotational motion and the equations relating to them.
    • Centripetal vs. Centrifugal Force describes the forces on an object that is moving in a circular path.

    This chapter will present some new challenges with keeping directions correct.  The torque section will introduce the idea of having multiple instances of the same quantity in an equation and adding them up.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Working with more than one instance of the same quantity in a problem.
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    Momentum & Energy

    Notes pp. 171-202

    This chapter deals with the ability of a moving object (or potential for an object to move) to affect other objects.

    • Linear Momentum describes a way to represent the movement of an object and what happens when objects collide, and the equations that relate to it.  Impulse describes changes in momentum.
    • Work and Energy describe the ability to cause something to move and the related equations.  Power describes the rate at which energy is applied.
    • Escape Velocity and Newton’s Cradle describe interesting applications of energy and momentum.

    New challenges in this chapter involve keeping track of the same quantity applied to the same object, but at different times.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Working with more than one instance of the same quantity in a problem.
    • Conservation laws (before/after problems).
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    Thermal Physics (Heat)

    Notes pp. 141-178

    This chapter is about heat as a form of energy and the ways in which heat affects objects, including how it is stored and how it is transferred from one object to another.

    • Heat & Temperature describes the concept of heat as a form of energy and how heat energy is different from temperature.
    • Heat Transfer, Energy Conversion and Efficiency describe how to calculate the rate of the transfer of heat energy from one object to another.
    • Specific Heat Capacity & Calorimetry describes different substances’ and objects’ abilities to store heat energy.  Phase Changes & Heating Curves addresses the additional calculations that apply when a substance goes through a phase change (such as melting or boiling).
    • Thermal Expansion describes the calculation of the change in size of an object caused by heating or cooling.

    New challenges specific to this chapter include looking up and working with constants that are different for different substances.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Working with material-specific constants from a table.
    • Working with more than one instance of the same quantity in a problem.
    • Combining equations and graphs.
    •  Heat & Temperature File 1.9MB RTF document
    •  Heat Transfer File 1.8MB RTF document
    •  Thermal Expansion File 2.3MB RTF document
    •  Efficiency File 239.7KB RTF document
    •  Energy Conversion File 566.8KB RTF document
    •  Heating Curves worksheet File 35.1KB PDF document
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    Electricity & Magnetism

    Notes pp. 179-227

    This chapter discusses electricity and magnetism, how they behave, and how they relate to each other.

    • Electric Change, Coulomb’s Law, and Electric Fields describe the behavior of individual charged particles and how to calculate the effects of these particles on each other.
    • Electric Current & Ohm’s Law describes equations and calculations involving the flow of charged particles (electric current).
    • Electrical Components, Series Circuits, Parallel Circuits, Mixed Series & Parallel Circuits, and Measuring Voltage, Current & Resistance describe the behavior of electrical components in a circuit and how to calculate quantities relating to the individual components and the entire circuit, based on the way the components are arranged.
    • Magnetism describes properties of magnets and what causes objects to be magnetic.  Electricity & Magnetism describes how electricity and magnetism affect each other.

    One of the new challenges encountered in this chapter is interpreting and simplifying circuit diagrams, in which different equations may apply to different parts of the circuit.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Working with material-specific constants from a table.
    • Identifying electric circuit components.
    • Simplifying circuit diagrams.
    •  Electric Charge File 1.2MB RTF document
    •  Coulomb's Law File 229.8KB RTF document
    •  Electric Fields File 1.2MB RTF document
    •  Electrical Components File 4.3MB RTF document
    •  Magnetism File 5MB RTF document
    •  Electricity & Magnetism File 2.1MB RTF document
    •  Circuits File 1.1MB RTF document
    •  Parallel Circuits File 1.9MB RTF document
    •  Series Circuits File 433.6KB RTF document
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    Pressure & Fluid Mechanics

    Notes pp. 295-316

    Fluid mechanics is the study of behaviors that are specific to fluids (liquids and gases).

    • Pressure is the property that is central to the topic of fluid mechanics.
    • Hydrostatics and Buoyancy describe and give equations for the effects of gravity on pressure.
    • Gas Laws describes behaviors and equations involving temperature, pressure and volume, as related to gases.
    • Fluid Motion & Bernoulli’s Law describes the effects of fluid motion on pressure.

    This chapter focuses on real-world applications of fluids and pressure, including more demonstrations than most other topics.  One of the challenges in this chapter is relating the equations to the behaviors seen in the demonstrations.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Before & after problems.
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    Simple Harmonic Motion & Mechanical Waves

    Notes pp. 229-255

    This chapter discusses properties of waves that travel through a medium (mechanical waves).

    • Waves gives general information about waves, including vocabulary and equations.  Reflection and Superposition describes what happens when two waves share space within a medium.
    • Sound & Music describes the properties and equations of waves that relate to music and musical instruments.
    • The Doppler Effect describes the effects of motion of the source or receiver (listener) on the perception of sound.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Visualizing wave motion.
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    Light & Optics

    Notes pp. 257-294

    This chapter discusses the behavior and our perception of light.

    • Electromagnetic Waves discusses properties and equations that are specific to electromagnetic waves (including light).
    • Color discusses properties of visible light and how we perceive it.
    • Reflection, Refraction, Polarization, and Diffraction discuss specific properties of light, and the equations that relate these properties.
    • Mirrors and Lenses discuss what happens when the direction of a ray of light is changed by a mirror or a lens.

    One of the new skills learned in this chapter is visualizing and drawing representations of how light is affected as it is reflected off a mirror or refracted by a lens.   This can be challenging because the behavior of the light rays and the size and location of the image changes depending on the location of the object relative to the focal point of the mirror or lens.  Another challenge is in drawing precise, to-scale ray tracing drawings such that you can use the drawings to accurately determine properties of the image, or of the mirror or lens.

    Skills learned & applied in this chapter:

    • Drawing images from mirrors and through lenses.
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    Atomic & Nuclear Physics

    Notes pp. 317-362

    This chapter discusses the particles that atoms and other matter are made of, how those particles interact, and the process by which radioactive decay can change the composition of a substance from one element into another.

    • The Bohr Model of the Hydrogen Atom describes the first attempts to use quantum mechanics to describe the behavior of the electrons in an atom.  The Quantum Mechanical Model of the Atom describes the evolution of atomic theory from the Bohr model to the present day.
    • Fundamental Forces describes the four natural forces that affect everything in the universe.  The strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force are particularly relevant to this chapter.
    • The Standard Model and Particle Interactions describe properties of and interactions between the particles that all matter is made of.
    • Radioactive Decay, Nuclear Equations, Mass Defect & Binding Energy, Half-Life, and Nuclear Fission & Fusion describe and give equations for the nuclear changes that radioactive elements undergo.

    One of the challenging aspects of this chapter is that it describes process that happen on a scale that is much too small to observe directly.  Another challenge is the fact that the Standard Model continues to evolve.  Many of the connections between concepts that make other topics easier to understand have yet to be made in the realm of atomic & particle physics.

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    Special Relativity

    Notes pp. 199-221

    This chapter describes changes to the properties of objects when they are moving at speeds near the speed of light.

    • Relative Motion and Relative Velocities describes relationships between objects that are moving with different velocities.
    • The Speed of Light describes some familiar assumptions we have about our universe that do not apply at speeds near the speed of light.
    • Length Contraction & Time Dilation and the Energy-Momentum Relation describe calculations involving changes in the length, time, mass, and momentum of objects as their speeds approach the speed of light.

    New challenges in this chapter involve determining and understanding the changing relationships between two objects, both of which are moving in different directions and at different speeds.

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