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Physics 104
Fall 2010

Instructor: Dr. Gerry Ruch
Office: OWS 160E
Email: gtruch at
Course Web Page:
Phone: 651-962-5207
Lecture: M W F 12:15 PM - 1:20 PM, Owens Science Center, Room 150
Office Hours: Mondays 2:00pm-3:00pm 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 October 8th
Mid-Term 2 November 12th
Final 8:00am to 10:00am December 17th (2 hours)

Observational Project
Three Observations In lab the week of October 11th
Seven Total Observations (4 new) In lab the week of November 15th
Final Writeup In lecture December 10th

- Required Texts -

  • The Cosmic Perspective, 5th Edition, 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.

Electronic Devices
Use of cell phones, pagers, messaging PDAs, or other wireless communication devices (including laptops for e-mail) is not permitted at anytime during class or exams. Please be considerate of your fellow students and conduct your e-business outside of the classroom.

Exam Information
Please see the beginning of this document for the exam dates. Bring two pencils and a photo-ID to all exams! You are allowed to bring one double-sided 8.5'' by 11'' page of notes to each of the exams. Exams will consist of multiple-choice questions and short-answer questions. The final exam will be comprehensive. Questions that proved the most difficult on the mid-terms may be repeated on the final. 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. You will not be performing math requiring a calculator. In fact, a calculator is not required or even necessary. 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.

Influenza/H1N1 and YOU
The University of St. Thomas is committed to a healthy campus community. During the 2009-2010 academic year, there will be ongoing concerns regarding the prevalence among university faculty, staff and students of both the H1N1 virus and seasonal influenza. To help limit the spread of these illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control has provided college campuses the following recommendation: students, faculty, or staff with influenza like illnesses (temperature of 100.0 or greater, plus a cough or sore throat) are directed to self-isolate (or stay home) for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. In the event that students are unable to attend classes due to this self-isolation recommendation, they should consult the pandemic web site and complete an on-line form informing professors of their absence. In accordance, faculty will provide opportunities for these students to participate in alternative educational delivery due to this illness.

- Observational Project -

This course includes an observational project requiring you to make regular observations of the Sun. It is extremely important that you make regular observations spaced evenly throughout the semester. For this reason, you will turn in your observations two times in addition to turning in the final project. The total project, including the two observational turn ins, is worth 100 points (10 percent of your grade).

Turn in #1
The first turn in is worth 10 points. At this time, you will turn in at least three observations. The purpose of this turn in is to ensure that your observations are good and that you are performing the calcualtions correctly. This turn in will be not be graded harshly. If you turn in three observations, you will get most of the points. It's mostly a check to make sure everything is going well.

Turn in #2
The second turn in is worth 15 points. At this time, you will turn in at least seven observations, the three observations from the first turn in with corrections if required and four new observations. If any of the first three observations were determined to be unusable by the grader, you will need to take new observations to replace them. You will be graded on the quality of all seven observations and they will be graded more strictly than the first turn in.

Final turn in
This turn in is worth 75 points. You will turn in ten observations, the seven observations from the previous two turn ins plus three new ones. In addition, you will turn in your final writeup and analysis. The details of the final writeup will be given to you during lab later in the semester

IMPORTANT NOTE - You cannot recieve a passing grade in the class if you do not receive at least 50% of the points on the observation project.

Tentative Lecture Schedule (Subject to Change)

September 6thScale of the Universe
The Sky From Earth
No Lab
September 13thThe Solar System- A scientific model evolves3Measuring the Sky
September 20thNewton's Laws4Mapping the Solar System
September 27thEnergy and Momentum4Impacts
October 4thSpecial Relativity
Midterm 1(Friday)

No Lab
October 11thThe formation of the Solar System8Under Pressure
October 18thLight and Spectroscopy5Jupiter's Moons
October 25thLight and Spectroscopy
The Sun
November 1stThe Sun
Stars and Stellar Evolution
The Drake Equation
November 8thStars and Stellar Evolution
Midterm 2 (Friday)

No Lab
November 15thExotic Objects18HR Diagram
November 22ndThe Milky Way
Galaxies and Galaxy Evolution
No Lab - Happy Thanksgiving!
November 29thCosmology22-23Galaxy Classification
December 6thCosmology
Expansion of the Universe
December 13hFinal Exam
Friday December 17th 8:00am-10:00am
All of them!No Lab


Material % Grade
Lab 25%
Lecture Participation 5%
Observational Project 10%
Mid-Term 1 20%
Mid-Term 2 20%
Final Exam 20%


In order to receive a passing grade in the class you must get at least 50% of the total available lab points, at least 50% of the available observational project points, 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.