Syllabus: PHY131 Spring 2017

Physics 131 is the first of a two semester survey of classical physics. Topics to be covered include the description of mechanics, wave motion, kinetic theory, and thermodynamics. The topics are covered in Chapters 1-20 "Giancoli" (see below). This course is calculus based and the co-requisite is MAT 131

Due to the nature, size and pace of the course, the procedures are rather inflexible.

The pace of the course is extremely rapid; a great deal of material will be covered in the semester and not all topics will be treated in lecture. The course material assumes that students have some previous experience with physics (such as a non-calculus based course at another institution). If you have not seen the material before, expect to spend extra time studying. Careful reading of the text is mandatory. Dropping the course, or changes of section within size limits can be done through the electronic registrar system. The first exam is scheduled so that students can transfer into the PHY125/126/127 sequence which covers the same material at a much more reasonable pace.

There will be assigned homework problems, quizzes in the recitation, two mid-term exams and a final exam.

Finally, this is a large, fast paced, and difficult course. That has the unfortunate consequence that, to make the class fair for all students, the policies are not very flexible.

Contact Information

Instructor: Prof. Clark McGrew

Office: D-134

Phone: 631-632-8299


Web Page Addresses

Check out this page from time to time for course announcements, grades etc. The material will also be linked from blackboard.


The text is Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Giancoli (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008). It is available through the bookstore at the publishers list price. You must have access to the web site which will be used for all homework assignments.


Lectures are at 9am, MWF in the Simons Center Auditorium. Attendance is strongly suggested. Concepts and problems treated in lecture will dominate the examinations. You are strongly encouraged to have read the lecture topics in the book before coming to lecture. During lecture, I will concentrate on the important aspects of each topic and cover any points that might not have been apparent in the reading. You are responsible for any material and announcements made during lecture, so make sure you speak to a class mate after any lecture that you miss.


You are strongly urged to read the book sections listed in the course calendar before coming to the lecture; the lecture will be much more meaningful if you do this. You should expect to spend several hours reading the material and practicing problem solving each week. In addition, the assigned homework problems are expected to take about two hours to complete. Each week's homework problems are due at the beginning of the following week. Late homework is heavily penalized, so complete the homework before the due date.


Attendance is mandatory. There will be a one-hour recitation section during most weeks. The purpose of these sessions is to provide a small-class atmosphere where assigned problems and physics concepts can be discussed and where your particular questions can be answered. The assigned problems and reading due the prior week will be used as the basis for discussion and quizzes in recitation the following week. Your level of preparation and knowledge concerning the assigned problems will be tested during the recitation period. There will be a quiz given at the beginning of each recitation which will be graded on a scale of 0 to 10. You will receive a minimum score of 5 points for taking the quiz, 6 or 7 points for demonstrating that you understand the question, 8 points for making a plausible attempt at a solution, and 9 points for a substantially correct answer. In general, make-ups for missed quizs will not be offered, and students arriving late will not have an opportunity to take the quiz. Students requiring accommodation for testing should work with DSS, your recitation instructor and Prof. McGrew to determine an appropriate solution.


You may contact your recitation instructor or any other recitation instructor during office hours. The teaching assistants in the physics help room (A-131) will also be available to help you.

Computer Access

You will need computer access. The University has several SINC sites, where a large number of computers are located. Depending on the local policies of the SINC site you are using, you may need an account to log in to the campus network. Be aware of the fact that some of the sites are busier than others. Contact the personnel at a SINC site close to you and ask about the details. The phone number for the residential SINC sites is 2-6966.


The exams will cover the book sections indicated in the course schedule, plus any additional material discussed in lecture. Each exam will be cumulative in the sense that you will be responsible for information covered in previous exams. However, the second midterm will focus primarily on information covered after the first midterm, and the final exam will have some emphasis on material covered after the second midterm, although the whole course will be covered.

The exams will emphasis basic principles over memorization, but will be closed book. You may bring one 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheet of notes with writing on both sides.

You should bring a pen/pencil and a hand-held calculator capable of doing simple arithmetic and trigonometric functions to the exam. Replacement calculators will not be provided, and you may not share a calculator during an exam. If your calculator does not work or you forgot to bring one you will have to complete the exam without using a calculator. Your identification may be checked during each exam. You must bring a photo id to the exams. Examples of acceptable identification include: Stony Brook student identification, a driver's license, a green card/passport, etc.

Notebooks computers, smart phones, tablets or other hand-held devices with significant memory, and devices with communication options (including beepers, buzzers, phones, tablets, tin cans with string attached, etc.) are not allowed. Simply put, calculators are allowed, and other devices are not allowed. If you have a question about a particular calculator, ask. Typically, any calculator allowed on the SAT will be allowed.

I expect no communication between students on the exams. Any evidence of cheating will be reported to the academic hearing officer. Cheating will result in a stiff grade penalty. Leaving the exam room is by permission only. The text of the exam may not leave the room before the exam is over. (After the exam is over you are encouraged to take the text home and review it.)

Absences, make-ups, and accommodations

If you have a medical condition that influences your ability to take the exams at the regular time, contact the staff in the Disabled Student Services office (DSS) in Room 133, Humanities, 632-6748, at the beginning of the Semester.

If you know in advance that you cannot take a midterm (scheduled medical procedure, etc.), let me know at least three weeks before the exam. A make-up exam will be arranged for you approximately one week before the regular exam time, covering the same material as the regular exam. No make-up exams will be offered for unexpected absences.

In an emergency, an exam absences will be excused. The necessity of an absence must be documented: The advising office can help you with the appropriate documentation. (Please do not provide medical details or other confidential information!) If you have a question about the appropriate documentation, please ask.

If you had an excused absence on one of the midterms and you did not miss any other exam, a properly calculated average of your other grades will replace your midterm grade. An unexcused absence will be assigned a score of zero.

An unexcused absence from the final leads to an automatic F grade. An excused absence from the final exam (assuming you have satisfied all other course requirements) will qualify you for an incomplete grade in the course. A makeup final should be taken early in next semester.

Exam grading policy

Both multiple choice and "physics essay" exam questions will be used throughout the semester. The multiple choice exams will be personalized to each student, so during an exam you must make sure that you are sitting at the exam with your name printed on it. For a "physics essay" exam, mostly given during recitation, it is not sufficient to solve simply solve the algebraic equations needed to reach the answer. You must explain your answer. For typical questions, the following rough guidelines apply (assuming a 10 point grading scale):

It should be emphasized that these are rough guidelines. The specific grading criteria for each problem on an exam will depend on the its difficulty.

The course grade

Your final letter grade for the course is calculated from a weighted sum of your performance, as follows:

Your recitation grade will be assigned by your recitation instructor within course-wide guidelines. The recitation grades will be based on attendance and quizs given at the beginning of each session. The different letter grade assignments will be based on a compromise between absolute standards and the distribution curve of the whole class. In other words, if the whole class does particularly well, the average grade can rise above the B-/C+ level, and if the whole class does particularly poorly, the average grade can sink below this level. My goal is that a score of 35% will earn a C-, 40% will earn a C, 45% will earn a C+, 50% will earn a B-, 55% will earn a B, 60% will earn a B+, 65% will earn an A-, and 70% will earn an A.

Academic Honesty

Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary.

An environment of honesty and integrity is important for both the conduct of science and for a constructive learning environment. I expect your honesty in all academic transactions. Students are encouraged to discuss homework problems and issues in the course with each other and with the staff. Indeed, you will find that you learn a great deal from each other. Keep in mind, however, that:

Critical Incident Management

Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students' ability to learn.


I recognize that I make mistakes, and give you an opportunity to help me to correct them. If you feel comfortable bringing an issue to my attention, that is probably the best way to find a good solution. If speaking directly to me makes you uncomfortable, please contact the physics office, or your academic counselor. They will make sure the issue is brought to my attention.

Fixing Grading Problems

The graded exams will be returned to you in a recitation session as soon possible after the exam is given, typically one to two weeks. The solutions to the exam problems will be discussed on the same session. You may want to make notes on your exam during the discussion, however, you should use a writing instrument that is markedly different from the pen/pencil used during the exam. It must be emphasized, any marks made on the exam after it has been returned must be made in a clearly different pen/pencil that was used to take the exam. If an exam is returned for regrading with modifications that are not clearly indicated it will be counted as cheating and dealt with appropriately

In general, a single problem on an exam will be graded by a single person, and every effort is made to keep the grading uniform. That means that unless there is a grading error, I will not usually change the assignment of partial credit.


If you have a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Disability Support Services at (631) 632-6748 or They will determine with you any accommodations that are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.

Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Support Services. For procedures and information go to the following website:

Maintained by Clark McGrew.Last updated $Date: 2017/03/28 18:25:08 $