PHY 252 Computing

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Computing in Physics 252

Useful hints and instructions


The computers used in this lab are controlled by a central server and cleaned periodically of files that you create. In practice, your files will be removed when you log off. It is your responsibility to save files you want, close all applications and log-out of your computer account when you leave the laboratory. You will need to bring a floppy disk or a USB drive to the lab upon which you need to save your files.

There are three software tools you will use:

I. Microsoft Excel
This spreadsheet program is useful for storing data, calculating quantities from that data and plotting them. You can use Excel to avoid repetitive calculations, but you must perform at least one of each type of calculation by hand, enter the correct formula into the spreadsheet , check the spreadsheet result against your hand calculation and then use the program to do all the other calculations for you.

II. Kaleidagraph
This tool is an easy-to-use plotting and graphing program. Although you can use Excel to do many of the things that are possible to with Kaleidagraph, Kaleidagraph is often easier and more user friendly. You can copy data from an Excel spreadsheet and paste it into Kaleidagraph. Once you are satisfied with your graph (binning is correct, labels are clear, axes are labeled and have units!!), you should save the graph to your usb drive or to your floppy disk. It can then be printed separately or copied/pasted into your final lab report.

III. Microsoft Word
Word is used as the standard word processor for the lab. Your conclusions and answers to questions and other material not in your worksheets should ideally be printed in a word document that is part of your lab report. If time is not sufficient, the lab report or part of it can be neatly hand-written

It is advisable to bring your own floppy or USB drive to the class. Save your files on your own USB or floppy drive and do this regularly.  Save your files using your last name and experiment number. Keeping a copy of your work on your floppy or USB drive may help you in the following weeks. Its is also possible that something may happen to your work during the lab. If you don't have a copy, you will have to do the lab again or take a zero. ....SAVE YOUR DATA OFTEN!!! There are no student data back-ups and all student data are deleted when your log off.

 All the necessary computer software and spreadsheets will be on the computer when you start, so you should not have to search for items. You must purchase a new laboratory manual from any of the local bookstores. Do not use old versions of the laboratory manual as there have been significant changes to the material. The correct manual says "Fall 2009" on it.


  • Text: The manual, "PHY 252, Introductory Physics Laboratory II, Fall 2009" , can be purchased at any local student bookstore. Do not use the old manual for Physics 252. There have been significant changes to the new manual.

  • Flash drive or floppy disks: Bring a USB flash memory stick or floppy disk to each lab to save your work.

  • Calculator: Trigonometric and logarithmic functions are required. Statistics functions will be very useful, but are not required.

  • Pens and a Straight-Edge: Pencils and erasers are not allowed in the teaching labs.

  • PHY 252 on the Web :

No food or drinks of any kind are allowed in the laboratories....NO exceptions.