Physics 320

PHYS 320

Catalog Entry

PHYS 320. Mechanics
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: PHYS 306

This course is an intermediate treatment of the classical mechanics of particles, systems of particles, and rigid bodies.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The subject matter of this course is the Newtonian mechanics of simple systems. A working knowledge of differential and integral calculus is assumed. The topics covered are:

1. Fundamentals


        a. Newton's laws.
        b. Frames of reference. Galilean invariance.


2. Motion of a Single Particle


        a. The equation of motion.
        b. Conservation laws.
        c. The harmonic oscillator.


3. Gravitation


        a. Gravitational field and gravitational potential.


4. Central-Force Problem
5. Systems of Particles


        a. Center of mass.
        b. Conservation laws.
        c. Collisions.


6. Noninertial Reference Frames


        a. Rotating coordinate systems.
        b. Centrifugal and Coriolis forces.
        c. Motion of a particle relative to the earth.


7. Rigid Bodies


        a. Rotation about a fixed axis. Moment of inertia.
        b. Statics of a rigid body.
        c. General motion of a rigid body.
        d. The inertia tensor.
        e. Euler's angles.
        f. Euler's equations of motion.


8. Vibrating Systems of Particles


        a. Coupled oscillators. Normal modes.
        b. The vibrating string.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The class format will be lecture/discussion. Although some class time will be required for the development of the formal theory, the majority of the meeting time will be devoted to problem solving. This is also true of the students' time outside of the classroom. The solution of some problems may require the use of computers.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The following student abilities are expected to be developed or enhanced in this course:

1. The student will be able to critically discuss the theoretical structure of classical mechanics.
2. The student will be able to apply appropriate mathematical techniques to the analysis of mechanical systems.
3. The student will develop proficiency in the solution of intermediate-level mechanics problems.


Assessment Measures

Student comprehension of the theoretical basis of the subject and proficiency in the application of this theory to specific problems will be repeatedly assessed through classroom discussion and student presentation of solutions. In a course such as this, the student is attempting to advance from elementary to intermediate-level problem solving. Frequent feedback from the instructor is crucial in this process. Consequently, the assessment of each student's progress must be an ongoing procedure. Periodic tests will also be given and they play a valuable role in the assessment of the student's development over time, and in relation to other students.


Other Course Information




September 2001 Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair