Syllabus| Schedule

Physics 4C Syllabus
Spring 2018

Learner Outcomes from the Catalog:
(a) Analyze and solve problems using the concepts, equations, and methods of thermodynamics, optics, and modern physics in both independent and collaborative settings.

(b) Investigate physical phenomena experimentally using appropriate equipment and methods, and make valid comparisons with theoretical predictions.
(c) Clearly communicate results of scientific inquiries in both oral and written form.

Click here to read an article by Nobel laureate Carl Wieman on how STEM education should train students to think like scientists.

The Course: Physics for Scientists & Engineers III -- Heat, Light, and Modern Physics
Class: T/W/Th, 11.10 am - 12.25 pm, Room 804.
Labs: Room 802. Section 1: M 11.10 am - 2.15 pm; Section 2: M 2.30 - 5.35 pm; Section 3: F 1.00 pm - 4.05 pm.
TBA Activity: 50 minutes per week, Room 834 (The "STEM" Center).
Prerequisites: PHYS 4A and MATH 5B
. Concurrent enrollment in MATH 5C highly recommended.
Recommended texts
Knight, Physics for Scientists & Engineers, edition 2,3 or 4. (This one has my vote.)
Halliday, Resnick, Walker, Fundamentals of Physics. 9th or 10th edition of this book is fine.

Instructor: Marcus Watson
Office Hours & PLC Hours:
Click here for my schedule.
Phone Number:
(831) 479-6519

Course grades will be assigned by the A=90% / B=80% / C=70% / D=60% cutoff scale. The grading is not curved, so you are competing only against these standards, not against each other. There is no fixed number of A grades given. This means that everyone can succeed! Please work with your partners outside of class and help each other so everyone does well.


TBA Activities
Homework Sets
Labs & Class Participation
In-Class Quizzes
2 Midterm Celebrations
Final Celebration

Homework Sets
Homework problems constitute a crucial part of this course. We will operate according to the idea that "if you can't do the problems, you don't understand the material". Homework sets will be due approximately once per week. Work is due in class and no late homework will be accepted without prior approval. Remember! Physics is about relationships. The essential point of modern science is to find the very few basic relationships that exist in nature and apply them to various seemingly different situations. Accordingly, we are interested in developing an understanding of how to proceed from the (few!) basic relationships to an algebraic solution. We are (usually) NOT INTERESTED in some numerical outcome or other. Consider yourself "done" with a problem when you have derived an algebraic form that represents the final relationship and you fully understand how that derivation proceeds. This is what I will be looking for on the celebration problems.

TBA activities - to be done in room 834 (see below for more info)
Work on the TBA activity in groups in room 834 for 50 minutes per week. Check your work off with the available tutor or instructor and answer any follow-up questions asked of your group. PLCs should be checked off by Friday every week at 4:00 pm.

Celebrations of Knowledge: Scheduled for 3/6 & 4/24.
Final Celebration: 
Comprehensive. 5/22 at 10 am.

Please note: all celebrations will be conducted in the same way. You will receive a single page with the problems to be solved. Then, pick up a stack of blank paper so you may write out your solutions to whatever depth you consider necessary to express to me your complete understanding of the problem and its solution. Here is the introductory paragraph on all celebrations of knowledge:

Please complete the following problems on your blank sheets. Begin each problem on a new sheet for good separation. Show all your work clearly and neatly. I recommend you complete the problems you understand well first, and come back to others later. Don't dwell too long on any one problem -- manage your time!
Work from fundamental equations only and indicate all steps in your derivation clearly. When you are finished, please number the pages and put your name on the first page. Staple them together neatly, and in order. No notes of any kind are to be used. Please complete all your reasoning symbolically and express your answer as an algebraic expression available for numerical evalution.

Active participation:  REQUIRED.
Missing 2 labs will mean being dropped from the course (no questions asked) or receiving an F after the drop date.
Lab Journal: A good lab journal is a useful and permanent document. It may not be as polished as other pieces of work you may write several times before submitting, but it should be complete, organized, and readable. Building good habits is key -- all good scientists have them.

Required elements in your lab journal: Start each lab write-up at the top of a blank right hand page. Each entry must have a title and a date. Start the "theory" section by familiarizing yourself with the reason(s) we are doing this lab activity. That means you should (a) understand what quantities we will be comparing, (b) be able to derive, from general Laws, all working equations that will be needed, and (c) draw any relevant pictures that alleviate the need for lots of words. The next section would be your "procedure" - but only include this if you had to either modify a given procedure or devise your own. After these, be sure to write about what you learned and any questions you might have -- leave space after the questions so you can answer them later.

Academic Honesty

Please review the Cabrillo statement in the catalog regarding plagiarism / academic dishonesty. Collaboration on exams or plagiarizing the work of a colleague is strictly forbidden and will result in the failure of this class and the full extent of disciplinary action allowed by the College.


Students needing accommodations should contact the instructor ASAP. Veterans may qualify for accommodations. Wounded Warriors may have acquired injuries which through the Americans with Disabilities Act, entitles the use of accommodations to ensure equal opportunity for students with verified disabilities. To determine if you qualify or need assistance with an accommodation, please contact Disabled Student Services, Room 1073, at 479-6379 or the Learning Skills Program in Room 1073, at 479-6220.

TBA (To Be Arranged) Hours:
Physics 4C requires 50 minutes per week of arranged hours to be fulfilled in The Physics/Engineering Learning Center (PLC) in Room 834. It is your responsibility to record your attendance by signing and completing your hour recording sheet each time you attend the PLC. The instructor will collect these hours periodically. These hours are required, tracked, and the assignments graded. Arranged hours are class time and all students are expected to meet the number of hours per week to fulfill the requirement of this course.

PLC Policies & Procedures:

  • TBA hours (i.e. PLC assignments) must be worked on cooperatively in small groups of 2 - 4 students.
  • PLC exercises and experiments must be completed and signed off between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm during the times an instructor is available. The times are posted online and in the PLC.
  • To be checked off, students must sign in when they enter the PLC and sign out when they leave on their hour recording sheet.

All PLC activities are posted on our site at
The weekly schedule of topics for TBA assignments is reprinted below:

Friday Due Dates
PLC Activity
2/2 PV Diagrams
2/9 Heat and the 1st Law
2/23 Engines and the 2nd Law
3/2 Traffic Light
3/9 Mirrors andImages
3/16 Refraction and Lens Images
3/23 Lenses
4/6 Interference and Polarization
4/13 Diffraction
4/20 Traffic Light
4/27 Events in Special Relativity
5/4 Lorentz Transformations
5/11 Quantum Physics
5/18 Final Traffic Light

©2018 M. D. Watson

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