PHY184: Physics for Scientists and Engineers 2
Spring 2012

Department of Physics and Astronomy

College of Natural Science

Michigan State University




Course Website

MSU’s LON-CAPA ( will be used for homework assignments, syllabus, lecture notes, course communication, etc.


In addition we will maintain a course website


Instructor Information

Hendrik Schatz - Section 001 (Office: W211, Cyclotron)

Phone: 517-908-7397 


Artemis Spyrou - Section 002 (Office: W205, Cyclotron)

Phone: 517-908-7141          Email:


Course Description

 Electricity and magnetism are everywhere. They are at the center of modern technology (e.g., computers, fiber optic communication, magnetic resonance imaging), chemistry (molecules form and undergo chemical reactions on account of electronic interactions), and physiology (our nervous system operates via generation and transmission of electrical impulses, and as with liquids and solids, we are held together by electronic forces). Light itself is just electromagnetic waves. Physics 184 covers the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism. This includes the interactions between electric charges and between magnetic objects; the representation of those interactions by electric and magnetic fields; alternating- and direct-current circuits; time varying fields (electromagnetic waves); geometrical and physical optics, including interference and diffraction; and special relativity. This is an introductory course, so the focus will be on developing a conceptual understanding of physical phenomena and translating that conceptual understanding into a mathematical language that allows us to address practical problems such as how electrical circuits work. While a familiarity with the basic elements of vector calculus, i.e., basic integrals and derivatives, is a prerequisite, the emphasis is not on rigorous mathematical proofs or advanced mathematical methods. Similarly, the emphasis is not on hunting for formulae into which to plug numbers but on understanding the concepts embodied by formulae.



1. Introductory Mechanics PHY 183, PHY 183B, PHY 193H, PHY 233B, or LB 271

2. MTH 133, MTH 153H, or LB 119


You must be familiar with Newton’s Laws, linear and angular motion, conservation laws (energy, momentum, and angular momentum), and the distinction between kinetic and potential energy. Mathematically, you should be comfortable with Euclidian geometry, vector addition and multiplication, differentiation, integration, and Taylor series expansions.

Class Hours

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

BPS 1410

Section 1: 8:00 - 8:50 am

Section 2: 9:10 - 10:00 am



Office Hours

Prof. Schatz: by appointment (e-mail any time with a few proposed time slots) or after each lecture (just get in touch at the end of the lecture).

Prof. Spyrou: by appointment (e-mail any time with a few proposed time slots) or after each lecture (just get in touch at the end of the lecture).

Physics Learning Center in BPS 1248

The Strosacker Physics Learning Center (PLC) is a place where students can work together on resolving difficulties in understanding the course material. In addition, teaching assistants are present during certain hours that can help student groups who are stuck. The PLC is open when the BPS building is open and you are welcome to use it. In addition there are certain hours where PHY184 TAs will be present – these will be announced in class during the first week.


Textbook and Lecture Slides

University Physics, 1st Edition, 2011, by Wolfgang Bauer and Gary Westfall (McGraw-Hill).  This textbook has been chosen because it presents a large number of example problems worked out in step-by-step detail and illustrates many conceptual details behind everyday technology. This textbook is required for the course. We will cover Chapters 21-35, which are contained in the complete version of the textbook and in Volume 2 of the two-volume version of the textbook. We will not refer to Chapters, page numbers, or problem numbers from previous versions of the textbook; earlier versions will put you at a disadvantage.

Copies of many of the PowerPoint slides used in our presentation will be posted on LON-CAPA before the relevant chapter is covered. In this way it is hoped that you can focus on discussions rather than transcribing lectures without understanding.


Homework Information

During the semester, 14 weekly homework assignments will be posted on LON-CAPA and must be submitted on their associated due date. Homework assignments will be due on Sunday night at 11:59, the system will not accept late submissions.


Note that computer or network problems on Sunday and other last minute problems will not constitute a valid excuse. You are responsible for making sure you make the deadline by taking such possibilities into account and entering answers well ahead of the deadline.


Group work is encouraged to discuss physics problems and how to solve them but each student must do her/his own calculation, including the derivation of problem specific equations. Copying the final solution, or the final problem specific equation used to calculate the solution, from a fellow student, website, or discussion board is considered academic dishonesty.


See below for policy on missed assignments.


Exam Information

In order to provide you and us with frequent feedback on your understanding of the material, to further encourage you to keep up in the course, and to diminish the impact of one bad day on your final grade, there will be five Monday exams during the course of the semester and a final exam. Your lowest score from the first five exams will be dropped. The final exam is cumulative.


All exams are “open textbook.” You may only use your textbook. You may not use other notes. You may use a calculator.


Exams will be multiple-choice and will include both problems of an exclusively conceptual nature (i.e., no explicit math beyond perhaps simple arithmetic) and problems requiring math through calculus. Clicker questions are often good examples of the types of conceptual questions we might ask.


The final exam will be held on Wednesday, May 2 – 8:00-10:00 p.m.


You must take the exam in your section. See below for policy on missed assignments.


Clicker Quiz Information

In class clicker quizzes/questions will be used as an integral element of the course to enhance learning, to encourage student discussions, and to provide instant feedback on learning progress. You must therefore have a registered I-Clicker. Your clicker must be registered on your student ID including the “A”. You can register your clicker at


Clicker quizzes will begin in the first week. For most lectures there will be at least one clicker quiz, the number of quizzes per lecture may vary. Clicker scores will count towards extra credit starting on Wednesday, January 11.


Clicker quiz scores will typically be 1 for a wrong answer and 3 for a correct answer though this might vary. To account for all valid excuses for missed classes, clicker malfunctions and any other reason one might have missed a clicker quiz, the clicker score is determined out of the 80% best quizzes.


You must use the clicker in the section you are registered in to obtain extra credit. Using a clicker registered to another student in class is considered academic dishonesty.


See below for policy on missed assignments


Grading Information

The final grade in this course will be based on homework, midterm exams, and the final exam. Each of these items will count as follows:


The final grade in the course will be assigned on a fixed scale as follows:

Grade > 92% --- 4.0

84% < Grade < 92% --- 3.5

76% < Grade < 84% --- 3.0

68% < Grade < 76% --- 2.5

60% < Grade < 68% --- 2.0

52% < Grade < 60% --- 1.5

44% < Grade < 52% --- 1.0

Grade < 44% --- 0.0


Policy on missed assignments and excuses

Contact your instructor by e-mail as soon as possible if you miss an assignment for a valid excuse, or if you know you will miss an assignment for a valid excuse. The earlier you contact your instructor the more likely it is that the impact on your grade can be minimized. Valid excuses are for example sickness, major family emergencies, religious or important MSU team sports activities. Documentation such as a doctor’s note will be required and must be provided in class as soon as possible.

Missed homework:   If you miss a homework assignment for a valid excuse, contact the instructor immediately, ideally ahead of the homework deadline. Typically arrangements for making up the missed assignment will be made. Note that computer or network problems on Sunday and other last minute problems will not constitute a valid excuse. You are responsible for making sure you make the deadline by taking such possibilities into account and entering answers well ahead of the deadline.

Missed exams:  Contact your instructor immediately, ideally before the exam, for arrangements. Sometimes makeup exams are arranged. They can only be attended with prior approval from the instructor. They are typically scheduled ahead of the regular exam.

Missed clicker quizzes: The fact that the extra credit score is determined out of 80% of the maximum possible score takes care of ALL reasons, including valid excuses, for missing a clicker quiz. Clicker quizzes therefore cannot be made up for any reason. If you feel that your case is special (for example, if due to extended illness you miss more than 20% of the lectures) don’t hesitate to contact your instructor.