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Physics 104
Spring 2016

Instructor: Dr. Gerry Ruch
Office: OWS 160E
Email: gtruch at
Course Web Page:
Lecture: M W F 12:15 PM - 1:20 PM, Owens Science Center, Room 150
Office Hours: Wednesday 9:00am-10:00am or by appointment.

You are responsible for all information contained in this syllabus as well as any changes made during the semester.

- Important Dates -

Mid-Term 1 Friday, February 26th
Mid-Term 2 Monday, April 4th
Mid-Term 3 Friday, April 29th
Final Friday, May 20th 8:00am-10:00am (2 hours)

- Recommended Text -

  • The Cosmic Perspective, Bennett, Donahue, Schneider and Voit
The lecture schedule lists the chapter of the textbook associated with each lecture topic. Reading the relevant chapter before a topic is covered in lecture not only reenforces the material in your mind but allows you to bring questions to class and motivates in class discussion.

- Course Policies and Procedures -

Academic Standards
In the process of conducting scientific work, it is essential that an attitude of trust and honesty exists between all participants. In the Physics Department, we have an honor code. We expect you to behave honorably in all aspects of your life. This means that we trust you. For example, you are free to leave the room during a test without asking me. We take this trust seriously and a breach of trust has severe consequences. Cheating in any form is grounds for dismissal from the course with a grade of F.

Exam Information
Please see the beginning of this document for the exam dates. Bring two #2 pencils to all exams! You are allowed to bring one double-sided 8.5'' by 11'' page of notes to each of the exams. Exams are multiple choice and the final exam is comprehensive. I encourage you to argue with me about your exam score if you believe that something was graded incorrectly or if you believe that you deserve more points.

Makeup Exam Information
If you cannot take an exam, see me well in advance about scheduling a makeup exam. If you cannot notify me in advance (minimum 1 week), contact me as soon as possible; this is best accomplished through e-mail. All makeup exams will have short-answer / essay questions ONLY.

**The Final Exam CANNOT be made up or rescheduled**

Although this course is largely descriptive in nature, proficiency in basic algebra is expected. During lecture and on exams, you will not need a calculator. I want you to come away with a basic understanding of the mathematical reasoning behind modern scientific research. Plugging numbers into an equation and getting an 'answer' is not the best way to achieve this. Instead, I would like to help you understand, through some basic algebra, what an equation really has to say about the natural world.

Tentative Lecture Schedule (Subject to Change)

February 1stScale of the UniverseNo Lab
February 8thThe Sky From EarthMapping the Solar System
February 15thThe Solar System- A scientific model evolvesJupiter's Moons - Lab 1
February 22ndNewton's Laws
Exam 1 (Friday)
No Lab
February 29th Special Relativity
Quantum Mechanics
Jupiter's Moons - Lab 2
March 7th The Formation of the Solar SystemUnder Pressure
March 14th Light and SpectroscopyImpacts
March 21st***** Spring Break ****No Lab
March 28thPlanetary AtmospheresNo Lab
April 4thExam2 (Monday)
The Sun
April 11th The Stars
Stellar Evolution
Drake Equation
April 18th Stellar Graveyard-Exotic Objects
Determining Distances
HR Diagram 1
April 25thMilky Way
Exam 3 (Friday)
No Lab
May 2nd Galaxies and Galaxy Evolution
HR Diagram 2
May 9th CosmologyGalaxy Classification
May 16th Final Exam May 20th
OWS 150 8:00am-10:00am
No lab


Material % Grade
Lab 16%
Mid-Term 1 16%
Mid-Term 2 16%
Mid-Term 3 16%
Homework 10%
Class Participation 3%
Final Exam 23%


In order to receive a passing grade in the class you must get at least 50% of the total available lab points, miss no more than 2 lab periods, and you must take all exams.

Grade Breakdown

Range Letter Grade Range Letter Grade
95 % - 100 % A 76.7 % - 79.9 % C+
90 % - 94.9 % A- 73.3 % - 76.6 % C
86.7 % - 89.9 % B+ 70.0 % - 73.2 % C-
83.3 % - 86.6 % B 65.0 % - 69.9 % D+
80.0 % - 83.2 % B- 60.0 % - 64.9 % D
0 % - 59.9 % F

The grading scheme is guaranteed to be no stricter than that stated above. Any changes to the grading scheme will be in your favor.