Physics 102. - Physics as a Liberal Art

3 credits (3:3:0) - East Stroudsburg University - Course Syllabus

Lecture Courses– Spring 2008

( for PSI Courses syllabus see the PSI Homepage @ )

(Last revised Jan. 11, 2008)

Section S175: Lecture MW   12:00-12:50     Th 2:00 - 2:50 p.m.         Room: 117 Gessner 

Course Instructor:         Dr. David A. Larrabee

Website for instructor   :

Website for the Course:

Office Hours:                Posted on Office Door and by the Physics Office and on the web

Location:                      Gessner 207

Telephone:                    ex. 3292  (i.e. (570) 422-3292)


Catalog Course Description

This course acquaints students with what Physics is and how it is important.  It provides an introduction to physics and its development examines the physical world in which we live and explores issues and technologies with which physicists and engineers are involved.  This course does not involve problem solving and is available to non-science majors with a non-mathematical background.

Prerequisite Courses:  None                  Prerequisites Class Standing:  None

Course Objectives

This course has seven objectives:

1) To understand what physics studies and how we go about that study.

2) To understand the relevance of physics to the everyday world in which we live.

3) To understand the physical explanation for a number of common phenomena.

4) To train the student to follow critically the discussion of physics related news in the media

5) To understand the basic philosophy of physics and how it evolved within the history of science


Required Materials

Texts - Robert M. Hazen and James Trefil, Science Matters Achieving Scientific Literacy,  Anchor Books Doubleday Ó 1990

            A Study Guide for Physics as a Liberal Art Ó 2007 David A. Larrabee – Available on WebCT

            Why is Science a Science? Ó 2007 David A. Larrabee – Available on WebCT

Supplies - You have access to the campus computers.  I will assume you know how to use a word processor, the internet and Email. 

Required Additional "Readings" – will be passed out in class or put on reserve in the library.

General Information

I am going to assume that all of the class is capable of reading the tests and study guides and assigned articles of the course.  Quizzes will be given to assure me that you have read the assigned material and to motivate you to do the reading in a timely manner (see the section on quizzes below).  I will be happy to answer any question you have with the course material during class, but I do not intend to bore you by lecturing “from the book.”

Instead during class we will examine how the principles covered in the text explain natural phenomena.  Thus the text (which is “dry”) and the lecture should complement each other rather than cover the same material.

Absenteeism - I will not take attendance.  Attendance is not part of your grade.

If you are absent, you are still responsible for all the assigned work as well as the material covered in class.  You need to make arrangements to the material covered in in class.  You can get in contact with me by telephone, leave a message on the answering machine, or leave a message at school. My Email address is also given at the top of this syllabus. 

Academic Honesty: Cheating on the exams or homework, plagiarism, stealing, lying, computer theft, and all other forms of academic dishonesty are totally unacceptable.  I will take any incident of academic dishonesty very seriously.  Simply put, I expect that when you hand in your own work, not someone else’s work.  You should feel free to discuss the material with anyone, share ideas or ask for help and advice.  But in the end you need to do your own work.

Any time you hand in work that that is not your own you are guilty of plagiarism.  As such it is a major violation of the Student code of Conduct, which could result in expulsion from the University.  It might also mean that I fail you for the assignment and or the course.

Assignments - see Homework

Cell Phones – If you have a cell phone turn it off before you enter class.  If for some reason you must have a cell phone on during class I will ask that you: 1) obtain my prior permission, 2) have it set on vibration mode so it does not disturb class by ringing and 3) go outside the classroom to answer the phone.

If you answer the cell phone during a quiz or test that will end the quiz or test (for you).  If you need to have an exception to this rule you need to obtain my permission before the test or quiz.  NO EXCEPTIONS. (Please not waste class time by asking for permission for this during the start of class!).

Communications – Please not that we have a course WEB CT page (see top of the syllabus).  Information about the course will be posted to WEBCT.  If you have questions please email me. 

Examination dates – There will be weekly quizzes (see below) and a comprehensive final.  I am not planning any other GRADED tests. 

Final Exam - The final exam will cover all the material in the course (i.e. a comprehensive exam).  This final is closed book, no notes, no 3x5 cards etc.  You may not use or answer a cell phone during the exam.  A list of procedures for the final will be handed out near the end of the term.

Grading Requirements:  Your grade is based on the accumulation of “points.”  You get points for the completion of a unit (there is roughly one unit a week) and you get points when you take the final exam.

We will be covering one unit each week.  On the first day of a week (usually a Monday), there will be a quiz on the material covered in the previous week. (see homework for details on the Quizzes).  The following table translates the percentages that are correct into “points” for the week. 

Quiz Percentage


Greater than or equal to 90%


Greater than 60% or less than 90%

(example 78%)

Quiz grade in percent.

(example 78 points)

Less than or equal to 60%

1 point to indicate you have taken the quiz.  Note that if you score is this low you are expected to retake the quiz, assuming you have completed the WEBCT quiz by the deadline and are so eligible

During some weeks there may be a reading assignment.  During these weeks some of the questions on the quiz (as well as the vocabulary) may be drawn from the article.  In addition you will be expected to write a summary of the article on the quiz.  If you fail to convince me that you have read the article, you will fail that quiz.

A perfect grade on the final would be worth 1000 points.  The number of points you get for your final is equal to the percentage correct times 10.  Thus a 75% on the final is worth 750 points.

The total number of points you get for the course is the sum of all the points earned.  The grade is awarded on the basis of the following schedule


Number of points

Approx Percentage of maximum number of points


2040 – 2400 points

 Between  85% and  100%


1920– 2039 points

Between  80% and  85%


1680 – 1919 points

Between  70% and  80%


1440– 1679 points

Between  60% and  70%


< 1440 points

< 60 %


There is however one exception to this computation of the final grade; if you fail the final exam (less than 60%) you will fail the course.

Grievance Procedures: If you have a complaint, suggestion or comment, please contact me.  The chairperson for the Physics Dept. is Prof. Cohen ext. 3428.

Homework/WebCT Quizzes: - There is homework in this class.  The homework is to pass a WebCT quiz on the unit we are studying with a 90% or better.  You may take this WebCT as many times as you wish.  The quiz is timed (usually limited to 15 minutes) so that you can not treat this as an "open book" quiz (it isn't).  The quiz is graded immediately by WebCT, so you get feedback on what you do not understand.  You must wait 1 hour before reattempting the quiz, to give you time to study.  This is meant as practice for taking the "real quiz" which is either given in class or doing my office hours.

This homework is due midnight of the day before the quiz is given in class.  For instance, you must "pass" the WebCT quiz on Unit 5 with a 90% or better before midnight Feb 24th since the in class quiz will be given on Feb 25th.

If you do NOT accomplish the homework then you will be limited to taking the unit quiz ONCE when it is offered during class.  You will not be allowed to take the quiz at any other time.  If you miss the quiz in class you will receive a zero for that unit.

If you DO accomplish the homework you will be allowed to retake the quiz up to two more times (during my office hours) with your grade being the BEST of the three grades (once in class, twice during office hours).  You may not take two makeup attempts for the same unit on the same day.  You may however take two makeup quizzes for different units on the same day.  So you may not take two unit 3 retests on Wednesday, but you may take a unit 4 and a unit 5 retest on Wednesday.

Lateness – I'll start the class on time.  If you're late you'll miss what was presented. Please be punctual, it disturbs the rest of the class if you are routinely late.  Being on time is a courtesy to the rest of your classmates as well as to the professor.  In cases of habitual lateness I reserve the right to lock the room and deny access to students who are late.  Furthermore, if you are late for a quiz, you will NOT be given extra time to make up for your lateness.

Lecture: - During class sections we will; have formal lectures, have discussions, have class demonstrations, have exercises and demonstration with student participation, answer student questions about the reading, review quizzes and tests, and of course take quizzes.  Very little (none?) of the lecture will be taken directly from material that is covered in the text.   The student is responsible for all material discussed in class, as well as the material covered in the text, and handouts.

If you have a cell phone turn it off before you enter class.  (see section on cell phones)

Makeup / Retaking Quizzes –   If you have passed the WebCT quiz with a 90% or better by the due date, you may retake quizzes during my office hours so there is no need for a special make-up quiz.

This  retesting option is only available within about 3  weeks of the original quiz date (see the cutoff date at the end of the syllabus).  If you take the quiz more than once, the best result will be considered your grade on the quiz. 

 If you have NOT passed the WebCT quiz with a 90% or better by the due date, you may only retake quizzes during my office hours if ALL of the following conditions are met (this long explanation is necessitated because of a few students who try to abuse the system I offer rather than try to work within it).

    1) The reason you were absent from class was beyond your control. 

Being late because of traffic is NOT an example of something beyond your control.  You control the time you started out for class.  If you are a commuter, traffic problems are part of your life and you need to take them into account when you make the decision as to when to leave home for class.    Furthermore, had you completed the homework on time this would not be an issue!  What is an example? The death of a parent or relative or a trip to the emergency room would be examples PROVIDED they happened BEFORE the due date for the WebCT quiz.  Missing class because you were in the emergency room DURING THE QUIZ does not automatically provide you an excuse since it my not have prevented you from completing the WebCT quiz (in which case this whole discussion is unnecessary).

    2) There is evidence on WebCT that the student was on schedule to pass the unit within the allotted time IF the situation in part 1 had not had not arisen.  This evidence has to be sufficiently strong that there would have been a STRONG EXPECTATION that the student would have passed the online Quiz were it not for the situation in part 1.

I consider it unreasonable to expect to start a quiz late Sunday evening and expect to pass it by midnight.  This is a value judgment on MY part (and is part of my job).  I will look at your record.  Positive evidence would be a history of passing the WebCT "with plenty of time to spare"  (as opposed to passing it Sunday evening).  Another positive piece of evidence would be taking the quiz periodically during the week with increasing quiz scores.  This would indicate that you are actively engaged in trying to pass the unit.  I will view VERY NEGATIVELY a history that showed the first "reasonable score" (above a 70%) Sunday afternoon or later.  This also means that the reason in part 1 had to be the REASON why you were unable to complete the WebCT quiz.

3) You must obtain a 90% or better on WebCT BEFORE you take the make-up  quiz. 

4) You may only take 1 make-up quiz for a unit in any given day.  For instance, you may take a make-up quiz for units 8 and 9 on the same day, but you may NOT take two make-up quizzes for unit 8 on the same day.

No make-ups will be given FOR ANY REASON UNTIL the webCT quiz has been passed with a 90% or better.  There are NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE.

Example where a student gets a makeup quiz.

A student has shown steady progress in working on WebCT and in fact received an 85% on the WebCT on Saturday.  They had made the deadline with a similar history 5 of the previous 7 times.  During a Sunday field hockey game they broke their arm and were in the emergency room having it set Sunday evening.  They did not make back to campus until after class on Monday due to their having to make special arrangements to get to campus.  

Part 1 is met because breaking an arm is an unforeseen event beyond their control.  Part 2 is met because there is ample evidence that they are employing a successful strategy that had worked for them in the past.  Therefore it would be reasonable to expect that they would have passed the webCT within the allotted time had they not broken their arm.  Once they achieved a 90% on WebCT they would be allowed to make up the unit (as long as this is within the allotted time).  I presume that the broken arm would be obvious.  It the condition were not obvious I would ask for a medical excuse.

Example were a student does NOT get a makeup quiz.

A student routinely attempts the quizzes for the first "real time" on Sunday evening.  In the past they have successfully completed the quiz on time less than 50% of the time.  They take the WebCT quiz for the first time at 8pm on Sunday evening and do not achieve a 90% or better.  Late Sunday evening they get sick and miss class on Monday morning (with a medical excuse). 

Part 1 could be met.  However Part 2 is not met.  The student COULD have started the online Quizzes earlier in the week.  There is ample evidence that their current strategy IS NOT WORKING and there is not a strong possibility that the student would pass (less than 50% is not a strong possibility).  Failing to meet the standard in part 2 they would not be allowed to make up the unit quiz.

Makeup Final Exam:  If you can not make the final exam you will need to notify me BEFORE the event.  You will need to obtain my approval and make prior arrangements for any make up final exam.  If you are sick or otherwise detained from the final you need to contact me as soon as the emergency is over (don’t delay or I may not approve a makeup exam).

Mathematics:  Physics is a quantitative science.  This makes it very difficult to avoid mathematics all together.  This is a “physics appreciation” course.  So just like a music appreciation course I will not require that you “perform” and solve mathematical physics problems.  The reading however may illustrate a point by using elementary mathematics. 

Plagiarism: - (see academic honesty above)

Quizzes: - (see grading requirements)

The classroom opportunity to pass a week’s quiz will usually be at the beginning of the first class of the week (the first 15 min).  See the chart at the end of the syllabus 

The quizzes are generated by a test generation program.  Each quiz is different and has an answer key code.  Failure to put the correct code on the grading sheet will make it impossible to grade your quiz (and you will fail the quiz).

Your quizzes are graded by an automatic grading program.  This program requires a ID code that is unique to you.  This ID code is posted on WebCT where only you have access to it.  You MUST remember this ID code and put it on the Quiz answer sheet.  Failure to put the code on the answer sheet could result in you getting a zero for the quiz.  If I catch the mistake and manually insert your code I will deduct 20 points from the quiz.

The results of  quizzes are posted on WebCT. 

The quiz will be composed primarily of; 1) vocabulary , 2) multiple choice, 3) short answer questions (in some cases), and 4) a short essay (in some cases, especially if a reading assignment is given.).  The questions will be taken from the readings (texts, study guides, handouts, reading assignments etc) that have been assigned up to the date of the quiz (even if not gone over in class) as well as the material covered in class.

Quizzes will be closed book, without notes. No one will be allowed to enter or leave the room during the quiz.  Quizzes (as well as the final) will not be returned to the student.  The student may review the quiz during my office hours.

The use of cell phone is prohibited during quizzes (see section on cell phones)

Readings: There may be assigned readings that are about some area of Physics that you are studying in this course.  These will be quiz questions based on these readings.  The vocabulary used in the reading is also fair game on the quiz (so if you do not know the meaning of a word, look it up!).  Finally you will be expected to write a brief summary of the article on the quiz. 

Please note that it is your job to convince me that you have read and understood the article (not just the beginning and the summary of the article).  If multiple people hand in the identical summary I will mark them all wrong and possibly treat this as academic dishonesty (or plagiarism see above).

Retention of Student Material.  Student exams and homework assignments and other course materials will be kept for 1 term after the term that the student takes this course.  Thus all homework, exams, finals, etc. may be destroyed any time after finals week in the Spring of 2008.

Review Sessions.   Review sessions for the tests can be scheduled in the evenings if requested by at least 5 students.  Otherwise please see me during office hours or schedule an appointment.

Special Needs Students: If you have some special need, or if there is something I could do that would help you be more successful in this class I would appreciate your coming to talk to me.  It is my desire that you all do well.  I am dedicated to helping you where I can.  So do not be nervous about asking if we can accommodate you in some way.  I promise you that I will listen and where appropriate make what accommodations seem reasonable.

Tests – See final exam, quizzes and grading requirements.

Text and Assigned Readings: I expect you to read the relevant chapters in the book before the lecture so you are ready to ask me questions about things you didn't understand.  You are responsible for all the material covered in the assigned readings even when it isn't "covered" in lecture.  Students that have questions about the readings are encouraged to ask questions in class, so that everyone can benefit from your questions.  Quizzes may contain questions about the assigned reading for the week (if any)



We are all coming to this course with some purpose and some expectations.  If we work together we can achieve those aims.  This requires that both professor and student “take on” certain responsibilities.  It is probably futile to attempt to list every task and responsibility (and not necessary). 

The first and most important responsibility of every member of this class (including the professor) is to be polite, courteous, and respectful of all  other class members, any guests in the room (students, professors, administrative personnel, etc.), and the professor.  There will be no discussion on this matter.  I reserve to the right to drop any student who is disrespectful, rude or inconsiderate of any class member, guest, or of the professor.  This is as applicable on the first day in class as it is during the final exam!

Here is a list of some common sense responsibilities.  If you have any additional needs or suggestions, please feel free to communicate them to me.  At the very least we will be able to talk about them.

Responsibilities of the Professor

1)   To treat class members fairly, humanly, and honestly.  To treat you as capable adults.

2)   Answer all questions to the best of my ability when asked, or if I do not know the answer, to get an answer before the next class period.

3)   To cover the syllabus as outlined, or to inform the class ahead of time of any deviations.

4)   To return any collected material (other than tests and quizzes) within one week of receiving them.

5)   To provide help for any student who is having problems and requests my assistance, either during office hours or during a previously scheduled meeting.

6)   To act professionally (on time, prepared, act in a courteous and friendly manner, etc.)

7)   To maintain order and civility in the classroom.

8)   To answer any question about a students performance and grades directly and in private.

Responsibilities of the Student

1)   To act civil to your fellow students and professors.  Hostility, acts of humiliation or intimidation of others will not be tolerated.  This will be grounds for the professor dropping the student from the course.

2)   To come to the class prepared.  This includes reading the assigned material and being prepared to raise questions about the material that you do not understand.  It also means that you pass the WebCT quizzes on time!

3)   To participate in the class.  Both by being alert, and by sharing your insights and questions with the rest of us.

4)   To turn in quizzes, tests, and any other assignments on time.

5)  To communicate to the professor when you need help.


Preliminary Class Outline





Class Topics


Class Quiz Date Last Date to pass Quiz



Jan 14

Unit 0



Jan 23 Feb 11  


Jan 14

Unit 1

The Philosophy of Science

Larrabee Ch. 1-3

Jan 23 Feb 11  


Jan 21

Unit 2

Ancient Science

Larrabee Ch  5-6



3 Jan 28

Unit 2

Ancient Science

Larrabee Ch  5-6

Feb 4 Feb 25  


Feb 4

Unit 3

The Mechanical Universe

S.M. Ch 1 & 2

Feb 11 March 3



Feb 11

Unit 4

The Electrical Universe

S.M. Ch 3

Feb 20 March 10  


Feb 18

Unit 5

The Atom

S.M. Ch 4, 5

Feb 25 March 17 (2)


Feb 25

Unit 6

From atoms to "stuff"

S.M. Ch 6, 7

March 3 March 24  


March 3

Unit 7


S.M. Ch. 8 March 17 March 31  
  March 10   Spring Break        


March 17

Unit 8

Particle Physics & Astronomy

S.M. Ch. 9, 10

March 24 April 7  


March 24

Unit 9

Cosmology and Relativity

S.M. Ch. 11,12

March 31 April 14  


March 31

Unit 10

Science since the Greeks

Larrabee Ch.11-14

April 7 April 21  


April 7

Unit 11

Controversies in the Epistemology of Science

Larrabee Ch. 4 April 14 April 28 (3)


April 14 Unit 12

Controversies in the Metaphysics of Science

Larrabee Ch. 4      
13b April 21 Unit 12

Controversies in the Metaphysics of Science

Larrabee Ch. 5, 6 April 28 Before Final  
14 April 28 Unit 13

Science and Society

Larrabee Ch. 15, 16 (4) Before Final  
15 Final  




(1)  No classes on Monday, Martin Luther King's Birthday

(2)  No classes on Monday, Presidents Weekend, Wednesday Feb 20th is Monday's schedule

(3)  No classes on Thursday,  "Spring Holiday"

(4) This quiz can be taken either during my office hours during finals week or during the scheduled final exam.