Introductory Course Descriptions

401-402. Introduction to Physics I and II

Broad survey of classical and modern physics. Designed to enable students to appreciate the role of physics in the life sciences and technology. Emphasis on the fundamental laws of nature on which all science is based, with some examples of interest to biologists. Knowledge of high school algebra, geometry, and trigonometry essential.

Prereq: PHYS 401 or equivalent to take PHYS 402. Lab. 4 cr. each.

406. Introduction to Modern Astronomy

Descriptive coverage of contemporary astronomical and astrophysical techniques with a review of current knowledge and theories concerning the solar system, galaxies, and the universe. Recommended for liberal arts and beginning science students. Knowledge of high school algebra is assumed. Lab. 4 cr.

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407-408. General Physics I and II

Introductory course emphasizing mechanics, heat, sound, and electromagnetism. Recommended for the student specializing in science and engineering. Prereq: PHYS 407 or equivalent to take PHYS 408; thorough knowledge of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; MATH 425 for 407; MATH 426 for 408, or taken concurrently. Students may not receive credit for both 401 and 407 (or 402 and 408). Lab. 4 cr. each.

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407. General Physics I—Calc/Phys Studio

This course is a combined Physics and Calculus course which satisfies both the General Physics I (PHYS 407) requirements and the Calculus (MATH 425) requirements. You must be registered for both these courses. This course is also offered through the honors program.

This course covers the same material as any typical college, freshman level calculus-based physics and physics course. One overarching idea in both courses is change - how do we describe and work with values (position, for example) that are constantly changing? The other idea is that of superposition - we can understand complicated phenomena by breaking it down into smaller, simpler pieces, then adding the effect of those pieces to get the whole effect. These two ideas are related in that we can obtain the total change by adding up the small changes.

In particular, the topics we cover in physics are description of motion (position, velocity, accleration), explanation of motion using forces and Newton's laws, looking for what stays the same when everything else is changing (momentum and energy), and description and explanation of motion in a circle. For calculus, the topics covered this semester include functions (polynomials, exponentials, logarithms, trigonometric functions), average and instantaneous rates of change, derivatives, antiderivatives, Riemann sums, integrals, the fundamental theorem of calculus.

One major difference in this course from standard introductory courses in physics and calculus is that we begin to look at differential equations - equations that contain derivatives and cannot be solved with algebra techniques. These equations naturally arise in physics because they tell us how quantities (e.g. position) change in time. We will learn a few techniques of how to solve these important problems.

The format of this class is also quite different. We meet five times a week for two hours each time. Each class is a mixture of short lecture, group activities, computer work and experiments (some short, some longer). There is no separate recitation or laboratory meeting. The class size is about twenty-four students.

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Some students have either calculus or physics AP credit and wonder if they should decline that credit and take studio calc/phys instead.  Here are some thoughts from alum Morgan D.

Pros on taking studio

  • Improve background knowledge of physics and calc
    • Almost all students in the calc section (when I took it at least) have already taken calculus, so you won't be alone. I don't think anyone found the class boring, and I don't think most even found it to be easy.
    • The physics material was somewhat similar to high school (especially Ph407), but for the most part problems are harder and expectations for understanding are higher. While it may not feel like a ton of new information, the amount that you learn will put you at an advantage when you begin upper level classes.
    • I got a 5 on AP physics and did not feel like 408 was easy...
    • The difference between students who took honors studio and those did not was apparent when we got to upper level classes, both math (i.e., Linearity) and physics. Many non studio students performed just as well but I think they did feel like there was an element of playing catch up.
    • Overall, most students probably have more to learn from intro calc/physics than they think they do, and might underestimate the impact of a strong foundation in their performance in their upper level classes.
  • You will start college with classes you feel comfortable and confident in
  • You will start college in classes with your peers (!!)
    • Not the most important thing, but I think nontrivial...
    • You will be in a class with mostly other high achieving freshman... starting in say, Calc III, this will not be the case (classmates will be upperclassmen who prioritize school to varying degrees). You also spend lots of time interacting with your classmates, which is not the case in normal classes. Makes it really easy to make friends.
    • Pretty much everyone from freshman year studio still will say hi when we see each other senior year! I can't say that about any other class I've been in.
  • If you're forgoing studio to use only physics or calc AP (not both), you will have to take non honors studio version of those classes. Studio experience is really really worthwhile if you care about individualized help/attention. I think there is a difference in how well the average student in the studio vs. nonstudio classes feels about their understanding of the material.
    • Taking honors was really important for setting me up to succeed in college, and think there are other students who feel similarly
    • If you know that you could succeed just by reading a textbook by yourself, this might apply to you less. If you want support in your learning taking studio is the way to get it.
  • Many students who skip studio end up on the math track where they don't take Linearity... depending on major this is a big loss! If Linearity makes sense for your major (i.e., you need those three classes anyway) it's really worthwhile.
  • You're using up a block where you could take a different class.
    • This really only matters if you want a minor... otherwise your courses should all fit regardless.
    • Maybe still possible to fit a minor, but depends on major and other AP credits you have coming in (I completed an applied math minor but had AP credits).
  • Studio is more time consuming than other classes, as far as time in classroom and time outside of classroom
  • If you are genuinely far outside the normal for an incoming freshman (e.g., you turned down an offer from MIT to come to UNH) and you have an exceptional understanding of calculus and intro physics, then sure, taking studio might be a waste of your time.

505. General Physics III

Electromagnetic waves, geometrical and physical optics, relativity, atomic physics, elementary quantum mechanics, molecular physics, and nuclear physics. Prereq: PHYS 407-408; MATH 425, 426. Lab. 4 cr.