PHY 101: University Physics I

Course rationale

This is one of the courses offered by the university, which fulfills the requirement of general education in Natural Sciences for graduation from the university. The course will lay emphasis mainly upon physical description of processes. It introduces Newtonian mechanics which is the physics that mainly governs our daily life. It also introduces kinetic theory of gas which is subsequently extended to heat and thermodynamics. In the third part, this course elucidates different phenomena in waves and optics.

Course content

Vectors and two-dimensional motion: vectors; position, velocity and acceleration in multiple dimensions; motion with constant acceleration, free falling bodies, motion of a projectile. Newton’s laws: Newton’s first, second and third laws of motion and their applications; Newton’s law of gravitation; gravitational mass; work, kinetic and potential energy, power, work-energy theorem, momentum, conservation of momentum and energy, center of mass. Rotation: circular motion, angular velocity, and acceleration, rotation with constant angular acceleration, kinetic energy of rotation, moment of inertia, work and power in rotational motion, relation and comparison between linear and angular quantities, conservation of angular momentum. Properties of matter: elasticity, surface tension, viscosity, fluid dynamics. Kinetic theory of gas: molecular model of gas, heat capacity and equipartition of energy, distribution of molecular speeds. Laws of thermodynamics: zeroth, first and second laws and their applications. Periodic motion: elastic restoring force, simple harmonic motion (SHM), differential equation of SHM and its solutions with explanation, examples of SHM, Waves and sound: periodic waves, mathematical description of a wave, boundary condition for a string, standing waves, vibration of a string fixed at both ends, sound waves, intensity level and loudness, quality and pitch, beats, Doppler effect. Basics of optics: nature of light, reflection, refraction, total internal reflection, focal point and focal length of a spherical surface. Interference and diffraction: coherent sources and interference, Young’s Experiment, diffraction from a single slit, diffraction grating.

Course objectives

  1. Recognize and analyze different phenomena of Newtonian mechanics.
  2. Use proper mathematical formalism, for example vector algebra and basic calculus, to express different formulae in analytic form.
  3. Undertake calculations using energy conservation law in thermal systems and evaluate the effects of heat and temperature in a mechanical system.
  4. Identify and apply physical concepts and terminology used in optics and wave physics and be able to make approximate judgements about wave phenomena.
  5. Use the proper formula to solve numerical problems concerning Newtonian mechanics, thermodynamics, waves and optics.


  1. University Physics (15th edition) by Hugh Young and Robert Freedman
  2. Fundamentals of Physics (10th edition) by David Halliday, Robert Resnick, Jearl Walker
  3. The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964) by Matthew Sands, Richard Feynman, and Robert B. Leighton
  4. Samuel J. Ling, Jeff Sanny and Bill Moebs; University Physics, OpenStax.