PHYS101: Introduction to Mechanics
Physics 101 is the first course in the Introduction to Physics sequence. In general, the quest of physics is to develop descriptions of the natural world that correspond closely to actual observations. Given this definition, the story behind everything in the universe, from rocks falling to stars shining, is one of physics. In principle, the events of the natural world represent no more than the interactions of the elementary particles that comprise the material universe. In practice, however, it turns out to be more complicated than that.
As the system under study becomes more and more complex, it becomes less and less clear how the basic laws of physics account for the observations. Other branches of science, such as chemistry or biology, are needed. In principle, biology is based on the laws of chemistry, and chemistry is based on the laws of physics, but our ability to understand something as complex as life in terms of the laws of physics is well beyond our present knowledge. Physics is, however, the first rung on the ladder of our understanding of the physical universe.
In this course, we will study physics from the ground up, learning the basic principles of physical laws, their application to the behavior of objects, and the use of the scientific method in driving advances in this knowledge. This first of two courses (the subsequent course is Introduction to Electromagnetism) will cover the area of physics known as classical mechanics. Classical mechanics is the study of motion based on the physics of Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. While mathematics is the language of physics, you will only need to be familiar with high school level algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. The small amount of additional math and calculus that we need will be developed during the course.
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