PHYS 245 / 246

Oscillations and Waves / +Lab


Kenyon College

Spring 2008


Instructor :


Christopher LaSota




Hayes 214

X 5466



Office Hours

Mon / Wed / Fri : 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Tues / Thurs : 12 – 1 p.m.

If regular office hours don’t work for you, or you want to meet with me at an alternate time, please make an appointment.  I can often be found in my office, so you can also just try and stop by to see if I’m available.


( Click here to see my teaching schedule )


Required Textbooks


“Vibrations and Waves”, by A. P. French

“A Student’s Guide to Fourier Transforms”, by J. F. James

A 4x4 quad ruled brown lab notebook with at least 75 pages


Course Objectives


Oscillations and waves, differential equations, matrix methods, Fourier analysis, and boundary value problems don't represent an area of physics in their own right, but comprise a suite of concepts and analytical tools used in all advanced physics courses.  With this course, you'll be introduced to these techniques with the intent of preparing you for future courses.  At the same time you'll apply these new tools in laboratory exercises, improve your scientific writing skills through lab reports, and learn how to use computers to implement some of these methods to solve problems and visualize results.


Course Grades


  • PHYS 245
    • Weekly homework problem sets (15%)
    • Three regular in-class exams (20% each)
    • A comprehensive final exam (25%)


  • PHYS 246
    • Written lab reports (80%)
    • Attendance to labs and colloquia (20%)




The regular in-class exams will be a maximum of 2 hours long.  Tentative dates for the regular exams are February 11, March 19, and April 14.  The final exam for the lecture course will be a maximum of 3 hours long.  The final is scheduled for Friday, May 9 at 6:30 pm.  The final exam for the lab will consist of a final lab report.


Attendance Policy


Attendance will be taken each lab period.  Friday lab meetings will typically be replaced with Physics Department colloquia, which you will attend. The percentage of all labs and colloquia that you attend will determine the attendance portion of your grade for PHYS 246.  This will be adjusted to account for any College-approved excused absences.  If you are aware of an upcoming absence, you must discuss this fact with me in advance.  Failure to do so will count against you.


Homework Assignments


Homework will be typically be assigned once a week, and is due in class, at the beginning of class, on the due date, and will be considered late otherwise.  Late homework or lab reports will receive an automatic 20 % penalty, but will only be accepted up to the beginning of the next class.  Do not place your homework or lab reports in my department mailbox!  For homework problems, you must show complete derivations and calculations from initial assumptions and diagrams to final results.  Add written explanations to discuss your approach to the problem and to clarify your steps.  Write out each assigned problem neatly on a separate sheet of paper.  Do not hand in homework with lots of crossed out work -- re-write the parts you wish to keep on new sheets of paper.  Sloppiness and illegibility will be penalized.  If you cannot logically obtain a known final answer, don't “fake it” and magically arrive at the correct result.  Do as much work as you can on each problem.  Partial credit will be available for sufficient effort.  I expect that you will discuss homework problems with your classmates, but you are required to hand in original work, explaining your solution in your own unique style.  Imitating someone else's work without understanding it will lead to poor grades on your exams -- count on it.


Make-Up Policy


  • If you need to miss class on a day when homework is due, you must make arrangements with me to turn in your homework before the deadline.  You may have a trusted classmate or friend deliver your homework to me, but it must be before the deadline, or it will be considered late.


  • If you know that you will be absent on the day of an exam for reasons that warrant a valid excuse from the Dean's office, you must notify me sufficiently in advance in order that we can make arrangements for you take your exam at an earlier time or day.  Failure to do so may result in a zero.


Office Hours Policy


Office hours are “first-come, first-served”.  If you can't come to regular office hours, please make an appointment to meet with me at an alternate time.  I am here to help you learn and understand the material.  Note that if you repeatedly fail to show up for scheduled appointments, I reserve the right to refuse to schedule non-office-hour appointments with you.


Communication Policy


Be aware that I sometimes send important course-related information to you through e-mail, so I expect you to check your Kenyon e-mail account regularly. I will only send e-mail to your Kenyon account.  I will not discuss your grades with you over e-mail, nor will I debate your grades with you.  For this reason, if you send me an e-mail at the end of the semester about your grades -- I will not respond.


Students with Disabilities


If you have a disability or condition that may impact your performance or participation in this course, please contact the Office of Disability Services (x5453) to set up an interview.  This interview is for the purpose of deciding what special accommodations might be available to you.  Such accommodations can only be granted if they are recommended to me by the Coordinator of Disability Services.


Academic Dishonesty


Please read Kenyon's “Academic Honesty and Questions of Plagiarism” statement on pages 26-29 of the 2007-08 “Kenyon College Course of Study”.  A basic guideline to avoid plagiarism is this: if you are reading what someone else has written (another student's work, my notes, published articles or textbooks, lab handouts, web sites, etc.) while you are writing something that you will hand in as your own, then you are likely committing plagiarism.  Frequent use of a thesaurus to paraphrase someone else's work is plagiarism.  Anything you put in your document that comes from someone else's work (statements, diagrams, tables, graphs, descriptions, experimental results, photos, etc.) should be properly referenced.  If you cannot communicate your ideas in your own words and with your own style, then you probably don't understand what you are writing about.  Study and ask questions until you understand enough to write your document without reliance on anything but your own knowledge of the topic and a bibliography telling others where to go to check your reported facts.