Physics 123 - Fall 2011

Welcome to Physics 123 (section 2)!

Fall 2011 

NOTE: Section 2 is for Physics majors and minors only, or (with my permission) for people who are seriously considering a major/minor.

Instructor: John S. Colton
 Email address: "john_" (including the underscore) plus "colton" at
 Office hours: MWF 2 - 3 pm, in the Underground Lab study area
 Office: N335 ESC, meetings available by appointment
 T.A./grader: Chris Mackprang
 TA's email address: "mackpack" + "314" (the first three digits of pi) at
TA's office hours: MW 5 - 6:30 pm, F 3:30 - 5 pm; in the Underground Lab study area


  • 5 May 2011 - barebones website set up
  • 29 Jun 2011 - syllabus posted
  • 25 Aug 2011 - all links now functional
  • 29 Aug 2011 - office hours set


  • The main textbook for the class is Physics for Scientists and Engineers, by Serway and Jewett (6th, 7th, or 8th editions). You will need a textbook, or combination of textbooks, that covers chapters 14, 16-22, and 35-39. Inexpensive used versions are perfectly acceptable.
  • A small auxiliary textbook will be Physics phor Phynatics, by Dallin Durfee (a faculty member here at BYU). This book contains supplementary material specific to this section of 123. It is a very inexpensive book, and Dr. Durfee does not receive any royalties.

Syllabus and Course Packet

  • Phys 123 section 2 syllabus.pdf - The syllabus will also be available in the bookstore for purchase, for $5-6. If you prefer, you can print out your own copy from the pdf file. (But if you do so, please don't use department printers unless you reimburse the department for the expense.)

Lecture Notes

Videos of Demos

Here are a lot of the demos I have done/likely will do in class this semester, posted here in case you have to miss a class. The videos were filmed in old Phys 123 and Phys 105 classes. Click on the demo title to get it to play in the movie window.


  • Instructions for all the labs, along with the sheets which must be turned in, can be found in the main syllabus packet following the homework problems. Due-dates for the labs are shown on the main schedule, the first page of the syllabus.
  • All but two of the labs are similar to the "walk-in" labs of Physics 121. They will be set up in room S415 ESC on the dates indicated on the schedule.
  • Two of the labs involve computer simulations. Follow these links to get more information for those labs:
    • Lab 3 - Dispersion
    • Lab 6 - Fourier transforms

Term Project Info

  • Guidelines for the term project (includes a grading rubric)
  • Some possible term project ideas
  • Some actual term projects from previous semesters

Tutorial Lab Info

  • Where to find the Tutorial Lab

Old Exams

Here are some old exams for you to use as study aids. There's no guarantee that this year's 123 exams will be the same as any of these posted exams, in terms of multiple choice/not multiple choice, time limit/no time limit, notes/no notes, calculators/no calculators, difficulty level and so forth. For example, this year I am not letting students use any notes on the exams, but rather I will provide some (but not all!) equations on the first page, like this sample first page of exams.

This semester's exams

How to get started

  • You need to do the following things as soon as the semester begins. (If you have added the class late, it's even more important to do them ASAP.)
    → If you have not received one in an email, get a "class ID number" using the "Obtain your class ID number" link on this page. You will use the CID as your personal identifier for all your assignments.
    → Read the syllabus, available either as a pdf file elsewhere on this web page, or from the bookstore. Among other things, the HW problems are found in the syllabus.
    → Get a copy of the Serway & Jewett textbook (see textbook info, elsewhere on this web page). If you can't get one soon, you can use one of the copies available in the Tutorial Lab (see Tutorial Lab info elsewhere on this web page).
    → Do the reading assignments for each upcoming lecture as marked on the schedule on pg 1 of the syllabus; if joining late, do the past reading assignments.
    → Get an "i-clicker" at the bookstore if you don't already have one. Bring your clicker to each class.
    → Register your clicker (via the link elsewhere on this page) so that you get credit for in-class clicker quizzes.
    → Get your individualized homework data numbers which you will plug into the HW problems in your syllabus, using the "Print HW data sheet" link on this page.
    → Start working HW problems! The first assignment is due Wed, Sep 1. You can get credit for late assignments, so work the HW sets you miss/have missed, in addition to the ones coming up. The syllabus has much more about how to turn in HW problems.
    → Where required, submit your computer-graded HW answers via the online system using the "Submit HW" link. Again, read how to do this in the HW section of the syllabus. Learn how to get partial credit by re-submitting the problems you get wrong. Talk to other students to figure this out, if necessary. HW due-dates are marked on page 1 of the syllabus.
    → Be sure to turn in the work for your HW problems to the slot labeled “Phys 123, section 2” in boxes near room N375 ESC.
    → Sign up for a departmental computer account if you don't have one already.
    → Gain access to the departmental computer labs (N337 and N212) by talking to Diann Sorenson in room N281.


  • Dr. Colton's Basic Commands of Mathematica document. (Must be opened with Mathematica.)
  • BYU Physics Department's website for Physics 230, where among other things the Introduction to Mathematicatextbook can be downloaded (if you want even more Mathematica than my "Basic Commands" document).

Math Review

Supplementary Material

Current Topics in Physics