Physics 174: Physics Lab Introduction

Syllabus - Fall 1997

What the course is about: Physics 174 is an introductory Physics Lab that meets for two hours each week in Room 3112 of the Physics Building. In this course you will be introduced to a few basic ideas and tools which you will find need for later labs, including: understanding experimental errors, using computer spreadsheets for analyzing, plotting and fitting data, and working with simple electrical circuits and electrical measuring equipment.

Web Site: To get the latest information on Physics 174, check our web site at:

Lab sections: There are three lab sections:

Lab section






8-10 AM

Jordan Goodman and Fred Wellstood



3- 5 PM

Jordan Goodman



2- 4 PM

Fred Wellstood

Arriving late to class: Classes at Maryland begin right on the hour. It is important that you arrive on time to Physics 174 so that you can get instructions for the lab and have time to finish. If you arrive more than 10 minutes after the start of a class, you will probably not be allowed into the lab and will have to make it up during another section or during the Makeup Section on Tuesday of the following week.

Course Instructors:

Prof. Jordan Goodman Office: Room 4328 Physics Building

Phone: 301-405-6033 e-mail:

Prof. Fred Wellstood Office: Room 0367 Physics Building

Phone: 301-405-7649 e-mail:

* Office Hours: You can try stopping by our offices at any time, but if you can't find us, make an appointment by phone or e-mail.

* Discussion Section and Lab Makeup Time: The makeup section will be held on Tuesday in Room 3112, at a time to be arranged. If you miss your regular lab section, then you should make that lab up by going to another section that week or by attending the makeup lab before the next lab. If you have questions about the lab, the equipment, or the homework, you can also stop by during this time.

* Teaching Assistant: Phil Johnson,

phone number 5-6185, e-mail, office room 4203 Physics.

* Prerequisites: The only prerequisite or co-requisite for the course is Math 140.

*Recommended text: "A Practical Guide to Data Analysis for Physical Science Students" by Lyons.


Homework 60% -----> do the homework!!!

Test on Spreadsheet, errors and measurements 20%

Test on the oscilloscope 20%

Missing one Lab (and not making it up before the next lab) will cost one letter grade in your final grade.

Missing one homework set will cost one-half of a letter grade in your final grade.

*Homework is assigned at the end of each Lab. You will turn your homework in by e-mail (we'll tell you how to do this) and can do so anytime during the week, but by no later than 6 PM on the Tuesday after the lab. Corrected homework should be available by the start of the following Lab.

*No credit will be given for late homework unless you are seriously ill and provide a written note from your physician.

General Comments on Homework: Finishing all of the homework sets is very important. Missing one homework set will cost you about one-half of a letter grade in your final grade, so just do it. Also, if you can't completely finish a homework set, it is still important to turn in what you do have.

When you are working on the homework sets, feel free to discuss among yourselves to try to figure out what is going on. By all means get together in small groups and discuss the homework problems. Thursday night at a local pizza parlor is a fine time and place. However, do not use these discussions as an excuse to copy someone else's solution to the homework, or let someone else copy your solution. That is cheating and is strictly forbidden. It is also very self-defeating since the other part of your grade will come from tests. The right way to discuss the homework is to first work through the problems by yourself and arrive at a definite answer. With this preparation you can then discuss intelligently with your colleagues and see if you have missed something essential. Of course, you can always ask us or the TAs. Staying awake in the lab also helps a lot!

One final thing, if you get something fundamental wrong on a homework set or the practical tests, you will probably be assigned extra problems to solve individually until you master the concept.

Important Dates

1. Measurements and the standard deviation Sept 3-4

2. Excel - using computer spreadsheets in the lab Sept 10-11

3. Experimental Errors Sept 17-18

4. Errors and Least Squared Fits Sept 24-25

5. Test on measurements, errors, and spreadsheets Oct 1-2

6. Basic Electricity Oct 8-9

7. Measuring currents and Voltages Oct 15-16

8. Resistance and Ohm's Law Oct 22-23

9. Introduction to the Oscilloscope - Part 1 Oct 29-30

10. Introduction to the Oscilloscope - Part 2 Nov 5-6

11. Measuring wave forms with the Oscilloscope Nov 12-13

12. Measuring the Speed of Light with an Oscilloscope Nov 19-20

13. Thanksgiving week - no lab Nov 26-27

14. Test on simple circuits and the oscilloscope Dec 3-4

15. Last week of class - Make-up lab Dec 10-11