Syllabi for Physics 1101 and 1102

Nicholas W. Taylor

Lecturer, Department of Physics, Cornell University

General Physics (Individualized Instruction)

Quantitative two-semester introductory physics for nonphysics majors with particular attention to transferable skills and applications of physics principles in biology and medicine. Prerequisites: for Phys 1101, three years high school mathematics, including algebra and trigonometry; for Phys 1102, successful completion of Phys 1101, 1112, 1116, 2207 or an equivalent course at another college, or a score of 4 or 5 on the Physics AP exam (Physics 1 or Physics C: mechanics). Students without high school physics should allow extra time for Phys 1101-1102. Textbook: College Physics, 4th ed., by Giambattista, Richardson, and Richardson. These courses satisfy the physics requirements for life science majors, including pre-med, pre-dental, and pre-vet students.

The courses emphasize both conceptual understanding and quantitative problem-solving skills. Most instruction occurs in the learning center (RCK 280) where individualized tutoring is readily available. There are no scheduled lectures, recitations, labs, homework due dates, or prelim times. Readings, problems, demonstrations, laboratory experiments, videotaped lectures, short videos, online tutorials, and sample tests are assigned with a flexible schedule of deadlines. The oral and written tests are considered part of the learning process (formative assessment). Students must pass an oral test on each of the 7 or 8 units. Written tests can be repeated (up to three tries per unit), with solutions and tutoring available on tests taken. The course format provides flexibility, but in some ways is more demanding than a course with a traditional format. Success requires discipline and well-developed study habits.

Course Philosophy

Physics 1101: General Physics I (Individualized Instruction)

4 credits, including laboratory. College Physics chapters 1-15.  

Major topics:

Forces and Newton’s Laws of Motion


Motion with Constant Acceleration

Circular Motion

Conservation of Energy

Linear Momentum

Torque and Angular Momentum



Waves and Sound

Temperature and the Ideal Gas

Heat and Thermodynamics

Physics 1102: General Physics II (Individualized Instruction)

4 credits, including laboratory. College Physics chapters 16-29.  

Major topics:

Electric Forces and Fields

Electric Potential

Electric Current and Circuits

Magnetic Forces and Fields

Electromagnetic Induction

Alternating Current

Electromagnetic Waves

Reflection and Refraction of Light

Optical Instruments

Interference and Diffraction


Quantum Physics and the Photon

Nuclear Physics