• 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.

  • Instructions: Clicking on the section name will show / hide the section.

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    Course handouts, expectations, forms, etc.

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    Data and other useful reference materials.

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      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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        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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            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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              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.
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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.
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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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                        Final Project/Exam

                        This year's final exam is a lab experiment with write-up.