Tim Gfroerer, Davidson College



Class Discussion: MWF 11:30 – 12:20, Dana 153

Office: Dana 155, Lab: Dana 049

Text: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems,

Phone: x2319

5th edition, Stephen T. Thornton and Jerry B. Marion

Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 2:30 – 4:30 pm (and more generally, most other normal working hours when I'm not preparing for or teaching a class). Questions naturally arise in the process of learning and doing physics. In fact, the really good questions are what keep physics alive! I expect you to have lots of questions and I hope that you will come by my office talk to me about them.


Course webpage:

I will post announcements, simulations, assignments, and solutions here.


Objectives: Physics 330 is an extension of the classical mechanics that you learned in introductory physics.  We will use more powerful mathematical tools to solve more complicated dynamics problems.  The course starts with the familiar Newtonian formulation involving forces and then moves on to Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods which rely on energy considerations.  In particular, we will focus on the following topics:


 Newtonian Mechanics and Gravitation

Chapters 2, 5, and 9

 Linear and Nonlinear Oscillations

Chapters 3 and 4

 Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Dynamics

Chapters 6 and 7

Class Discussion and Exercises: Attendance at and participation in class discussions are critical for learning new physics.  Reading the relevant sections and working the pre-class exercises before class will definitely facilitate this part of the learning process.  Pre-class exercises allow me to gauge your grasp of new material and enable me to use class time effectively.  They are due 1 hour before class starts. In-class exercises will be used periodically to give us the opportunity to explore new concepts and problem-solving techniques together.  The College’s 25% rule on attendance will be in effect. 


Homework: More sophisticated mathematics and a deeper understanding of the concept of energy will enable us to solve new kinds of problems.  Building problem solving skills takes lots of practice.   To this end, I will assign a substantial amount of homework.  I encourage you to work together on the homework sets, but you must participate in the process of obtaining the solution to each problem.  When working with a partner, keep in mind that reviews and the final will test your individual problem-solving ability.  Do not consult solution sets or another student’s work from any previous class.  Always show your arguments, realizing that clarity and neatness count.  Homework will be collected for grading at the beginning of class on the dates designated and late homework will not be accepted.


Seminar Attendance: Seminars broaden your scientific perspective and show you how physics is being used in the world beyond Davidson.  Attendance at all physics seminars is required.  Ask questions!


Reviews and Final Exam: We will have 3 closed-book take-home reviews on the weeks of 9/22, 10/27, and 11/24.  I will provide last year's reviews with solutions to facilitate your preparation for the review.  Do not consult reviews from any other offering of Physics 330.  The comprehensive final exam will be take-home and open-book, to be completed during the self-scheduled exam period.


Computers: As you know, programs like Mathematica and MathCAD can simplify traditional mathematical operations like differentiation, integration, series expansion, and vector analysis.  Indeed, these applications can use numerical methods to solve problems that do not have an analytical solution. The programs (and spreadsheet applications like Excel) include graphical tools that can be used to calculate and plot functions of interest so that we can visualize the behavior of our solutions.  You will be expected to use a computer to perform some of these operations in this course and you should use these programs to solve or check homework problems whenever you think they might help.  Please be aware that you cannot use computers on reviews.




 Homework 30%
 Seminars, Pre-Class and In-Class Exercises 10%
 3 Reviews 40%
 Final Exam 20%