How to Succeed

Here is discussion about how to succeed in this online course. There are no formal lectures to watch, but there are several ways in which you can obtain help. There are two important components to this course: conceptual understanding and problem solving. Considerable research shows this is the way to learn physics, and we ascribe to this view. The tests, which primarily determine your course grade, will have both conceptual questions and numerical problems. The primary thrust of this course is Chapters 2-8 in the textbook. We will spend less time on Chapters 1 and 9-16, but you are responsible for the entire book. The longest homework assignment is usually for Chapter 2, on special relativity, which is one of the most interesting subjects of the course. We give you an extra long time to complete this assignment, because many students are registering late and/or having difficulty obtaining the textbook. We give lots of extensions for the first month or so of the course, but not so many later. We give extensions for vacations, but by July it is hoped that you will be able to get a little ahead if you know you will be away for a week or two.

Textbook. The primary learning method is by reading the textbook, which was written by the professor teaching this course. The book was written specifically for this course and is in its fourth edition. Read the textbook carefully, especially the examples. We try to give examples about most important ideas in modern physics, but of course it is not possible to do it for everything. All the homework problems are taken from the end-of-chapter problems. There is a Student Solutions Manual for sale to students with solutions to about 25% of the problems. See Materials for information on how to purchase this manual.

Mini-lectures. There are short 5-10 minute mini-lectures that have been recorded by the professor for every chapter. More will be added over time. You find these lectures for each chapter by clicking on a chapter number at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, these mini lectures are given by the same professor who wrote the textbook, so you will not really receive a different viewpoint about the physics. However, the lectures should help. You can download them from this website. These lectures are Flash files and should start immediately on your computer.

Other Textbooks. Most students do find that it helps to have another modern physics textbook to look at for subjects which you find a little confusing. It helps to have a different viewpoint. Sometimes the introductory text that you used for the first two semesters (usually) of physics will have some modern physics at the end, especially if you have the extended version. You may be able to borrow another text or check one out from a library. This is recommended. And of course, just about everything is on the Internet, so don't be shy about searching on a topic you don't understand. Other viewpoints are good.

Michael Fowler Notes. Professor Michael Fowler of the University of Virginia has written a nice set of notes that cover most of the material in this course. It would help you to read over his notes to obtain a different perspective of the material. You can find his notes at These notes are somewhat old (note that the course number was 252 back in the day), but the subject has not changed.

Problem Solutions. The professor has also recorded himself doing several end-of-chapter problem solutions for each chapter. He has strived to do these solutions thoroughly by giving his thought processes while solving the problems. Doing problem solutions is an important part of every physics lecture, and students should watch all these videos. They are found in the same location as the list of mini-lectures for each chapter.

Multiple Choice Questions. At least 10 questions for each chapter are available on WebAssign to test your understanding and knowledge of each chapter. These questions are for practice and do not count towards your grade. You should look at these questions before taking the chapter tests.

Computer Simulations. Most chapters have links to computer simulations, which many students find helpful. These simulations are becoming more numerous every year. They are also getting better. The links are on the chapter pages. Students may also do a Internet search to find additional simulations or computer help. Please send the professor information on them if you think they are really worthwile. Also please let the professor know if the links no longer work.