December 6, 2022


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Honors Physics
2015 – 2016 Syllabus & General Information

Dr. Robert F. Szalapski
The Harley School – Physics

§ 1. Contact Information

Web site:

We will make extensive use of my web site, Every student must have an account on this website. My Google calendar is embedded on the “Students/Harley Physics” page, and it will be updated frequently. A wide variety of links and down-loadable resources are available here.


This is the fastest and most reliable form of communication. My Harley e-mail is, and associated with my website I have the e-mail address

Communication is a good thing, and more is generally better.

§ 2. What is Honors Physics

The focus of this course is student growth and learning. An understanding of science is very important for students to grow as well educated citizens who are engaged and informed in a highly technological society.

This is an algebra-based physics course. The Honors in Honors Physics means that it will be roughly a step above the level of a Regents physics course, but with far more concern for depth of understanding. The first half of the year will be fairly traditional with a focus on kinematics, dynamics (Newton’s Laws), circular motion and conservation of energy and momentum. From there we will progress to waves and wave phenomena along with electric and magnetic fields. In the spring we will study Modern Physics with topics from Quantum Mechanics and Relativity.

§ 3. Grading

We hope to keep the focus on student engagement, growth and learning. Nevertheless, to prevent the collapse of western civilization as we know it, students must apparently be graded. The pie chart shows the rough breakdown of the grades. The individual “slices” of the pie will be explained more thoroughly below. Please note the largest slice corresponds to “Exams”.

Letter Grade Point Total
A+ 97\le\mathrm{Points}<\infty
A 93\le\mathrm{Points}<97
A- 90\le\mathrm{Points}<93
B+ 87\le\mathrm{Points}<90
B 83\le\mathrm{Points}<87
B- 80\le\mathrm{Points}<83
C+ 75\le\mathrm{Points}<80
C 70\le\mathrm{Points}<75
C- 65\le\mathrm{Points}<70


The breakdown by letter grade is shown in this table. Please note that I have no way of officially recording the grade of A+, but I still track it for purpose of comments and feedback. Also please note that extra-credit opportunities are offered on some lab write-ups and some exams, so it is possible to obtain a score greater than 100%, but generally scores do not go all the way up to infinity (\infty). Grades are tabulated automatically to a couple of decimal places, and as a matter of routine they are not rounded up. Rounding to the next higher grade is purely at the discretion of the instructor.


Grades will be tracked in Schoology. It is the responsibility of each student to login on Schoology on a frequent basis. Please do not ask the instructor to do this on your behalf.

§ 3.1. Regarding Flexibility

Students are oftentimes over-scheduled, and time management can be an issue. It is up to each student to manage his or her time and to limit activities within his or her energy and ability limits. In order to allow some flexibility, some of the lowest scores may be dropped. Plan wisely so that you do not need to drop more than you are allowed.

§ 3.2. Homework (10%)

Anticipate homework on a daily basis that could take the form of reading, writing, problem solving, preparing for laboratory activities and maintaining the class binder. Homework will be posted on the website and on the bulletin board. It is the responsibility of the student to check for homework assignments. While 10% may seem to be a small piece of the pie, success in the course correlates very strongly with performance on daily homework.

Homework solutions will be posted nightly on the website and the following morning on the bulletin board in the hallway. Homework must be completed and corrected prior to the start of class. Homework will be checked for completion and corrections within the first five minutes of class. Homework must be completed neatly, in pencil and with all work shown.

Late homework will not be accepted except in the event of an illness, but students may drop 4 homework assignments per marking period. This degree of flexibility is being offered in advance, so plan accordingly.

§ Class Binder

It is a class requirement that you have a course binder with section dividers for the different graded elements of the course. (Your section tabs should correspond to the pie slices above.) Maintaining the binder will be part of your homework.

§ 3.3. Quizzes (10%)

Quizzes will be given often and without notice. Any questions from homework or lab activities of the previous day or earlier are fair game. (This means that there has been time to ask questions.) These are intended to be low pressure. The primary purpose is to provide feedback on student learning so that both student and teacher may make adjustments as needed. Keeping up on homework and following-up on questions from the homework will allow for excellent quiz scores. Two quizzes may be dropped each marking period.

§ 3.4. Participation (10%)

For students in a public school the ratio of science-class periods to school days is typically 1.2 while at The Harley School it is 0.9. We furthermore have a shorter year, and this curriculum is slightly more advanced than the Regents curriculum. On the other hand, I find that less time is required for the review of math skills at The Harley School, and we don’t waste a lot of time on pointless standardized testing. In order to be successful we must make excellent use of the time that we have!

  • Students must be seated according to the daily seating chart within 3 minutes of the bell with course materials in hand and self-corrected homework ready for inspection.

  • Homework inspection will be completed within the first 5 minutes of class.

  • All students must be engaged in classroom discussions, and side conversations must be deferred for another time.

  • Students arriving late for unavoidable reasons must have a signed pass. Whenever possible other meetings must be scheduled during free periods, not during physics class.

  • Materials for other courses may not be accessible during class – even if there is an imminent exam or due date in that other class.

  • Students who complete their own work early may assist other students or work on more advanced problems as directed by the instructor.

  • Regular (twice per week minimum) logins to the web site are a class requirement.

§ Course Materials

Bring your course binder with your reference tables, a sharpened pencil and an eraser every day!

§ Calculators

Bring either a scientific or a graphing calculator every day!

§ Cell Phones

Cell phones serve no constructive purpose in the classroom. They should be silenced and out of sight – preferably left in your locker. Because they are a distraction from classroom activities their usage deducts from your participation grade.

§ 3.5. Labs (30%)

Labs are a very big part of the class. Most will come in the form of a lab packet. Each student is responsible for his or her own work. Each student must

  • Record his or her own data.

  • Complete all calculations individually, but comparing with a lab partner is encouraged.

  • Complete all graphs independently, but comparing with a lab partner is encouraged.

In situations where Excel is used, each student must perform the computations independently.

Lab grades will be reduced by 10% for each day that a lab is late. Labs must be neat and in pencil with all work clearly displayed. Defective work will not be accepted and will be subject to late penalties while corrections are being made.

§ 3.6. Exams (40%)

Exams will cover concepts, problem solving and laboratory practices. You should expect some multiple-choice questions, some essay questions and some problems. There will be a cumulative final exam each marking period, and the final exam grade will be entered in the grade book twice. The lowest exam grade will be dropped. This means that either one exam is dropped outright or the final is weighted as an ordinary exam.

Exams must be completed in pencil, and all work must be shown for credit. The exception is multiple-choice questions where showing work is optional, but work shown might allow for partial credit.

Students are oftentimes unaccustomed to the lower exam scores that appear on physics exams. A mean below 70 is not uncommon. The desired class grade is oftentimes achieved with lab reports and other grades.

§ 4. Food, Drink

Food and drink are absolutely forbidden on the laboratory side of the classroom. Liquids in spill-proof containers and moderate snacks are permitted on lecture side of the room only and are limited to the point where they are not a distraction. Students are responsible for their own clean-up.

§ 5. Integrity

Each student is responsible for his or her own work. Copying or taking credit for another’s work is never permitted. On the first instance of cheating a student will receive a zero for the assignment in addition to the maximum penalties imposed by the Administration. A second integrity violation will earn a zero for the marking period in addition to the maximum penalties imposed by the Administration.

§ 6. Course Outline

  1. Kinematics

    1. Motion in One Dimension

      • Linear Motion

      • Free Fall

      • Motion Graphs

    2. Motion in Two Dimensions

      • Vectors

      • Projectile Motion

      • Relative Motion

  2. Dynamics

    1. Newton’s Laws

      • The First Law – Inertia & Equilibrium

      • The Second Law – Force & Acceleration

      • The Third Law – Action and Reaction

      • Resultant Force & Equilibrium

    2. Types of Forces

      • Uniform Gravity

      • Normal Force

      • Friction

      • Tension

      • Hooke’s Law

    3. The Modern View

      • Fundamental Forces

      • Applicability to Science Coursework

  3. Conservation Laws

    1. Momentum

      • Momentum & Impulse

      • Totally Inelastic Collisions

      • Elastic Collisions

      • Partially Elastic Collisions

    2. Energy

      • Kinetic Energy

      • The Work Energy Theorem

      • Potential Energy

      • Other Forms & Conversion

  4. Wave’s & Wave Phenomena

    1. Properties

      • Longitudinal & Transverse

      • Wavelength

      • Period & Frequency

      • Wave Speed

      • Anatomy of a Wave

      • Wave Fronts & Rays

    2. Behavior

      • Reflection

      • Standing Waves

      • Refraction

      • Diffraction

      • Resonance

      • The Doppler Shift

      • Beats

  5. Electric & Magnetic Fields

    1. Electrostatics

      • Charge & Coulomb’s Law

      • Electric Fields

      • Electric Potential

    2. Magnetism

      • Sources

      • Magnetic Fields

    3. Light

      • What is Light?

      • The Electromagnetic Spectrum

    4. Electricity

      • Current

      • Resistance

      • Ohm’s Law

      • Circuit Basics

      • Generation of Electricity

  6. Modern Physics

    1. Quantum Mechanics

      • The Black Body Spectrum

      • The Photoelectric Effect

      • Line Spectra

    2. Relativity

      • The Michelson-Morley Experiment and c

      • E=mc^{2}: Matter-Energy Conversion

      • Length Contraction & Time Dilation

    3. The Standard Model

      • Antimatter

      • The Fundamental Forces

      • Three Generations

      • Leptons, Baryons & More Baryons

      • Schrödinger’s Cat & Neutrinos

    4. Radioactivity

      • \beta Decay

      • Muon Decay

    5. The Frontiers of Physics

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