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Physics 104
Spring 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 10:00am-11:00am 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 March 4th
Mid-Term 2 April 15th
Final 8:00am to 10:00am May 20th (2 hours)

Sunset Project
Three Observations In lab the week of March 7th
Seven Total Observations (4 new) In lab the week of April 18th
Final Writeup In lecture May 13th

- Required Texts -

  • 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 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. 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.

- The Sunset 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 20 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 25 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 55 points. You will turn in ten total 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)

January 31stScale of the Universe
The Sky From Earth
No Lab
February 7thThe Solar System- A scientific model evolves3Measuring the Sky
February 14thNewton's Laws4Mapping the Solar System
February 21stEnergy and Momentum4Impacts
February 28thSpecial Relativity
Midterm 1(Friday)

No Lab
March 7thThe formation of the Solar System
Planetary Atmospheres
Under Pressure
March 14thLight and Spectroscopy5Spectroscopy
March 21stSpring BreakNothingNothing
March 28thLight and Spectroscopy
The Sun
Jupiter's Moons
Arpil 4thThe Sun
Stars and Stellar Evolution
Arpil 11thStars and Stellar Evolution
Midterm 2 (Friday)

No Lab
Arpil 18thExotic Objects18HR Diagram
Arpil 25thThe Milky Way
Galaxies and Galaxy Evolution
Galaxy Classification
May 2ndCosmology22-23Drake Equation
May 9thCosmology
Expansion of the Universe
May 16thFinal Exam
Friday May 20th 8:00am-10:00am
All of them!No Lab


Material % Grade
Lab 25%
Observational Project 15%
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.