PSC 1121 Syllabus

Physical Science

Ref. no. 090226


My objective in this course is to change the way you see the world. We will look at science as the basis for technology and the explanation of everyday experiences, not just as facts to be memorized. The focus of this course is on physics and its interface with chemistry and astronomy (cosmology) with scientific laws and the fundamental interactions (electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force, the strong force of QCD, and gravity) playing a central role. We will examine both our present understanding of physical science and the historical context within which this knowledge was discovered and refined, and do so in a way that is accessible to a non-scientist.

How to succeed in PSC1121:

  1. Attend class every day. Ask questions if something is not clear.
  2. Read the assigned chapter before class.
  3. Review notes daily. Do not wait until the night before the exam to study.
  4. Check with your instructor as soon as possible if you do not understand a concept.
  5. Set aside two hours per day for studying: 1 hour for reading and 1 hour for homework or review. (Read it in the book, See it in class, then Apply it to the homework.)
  6. Form a study group. Teaching each other is an excellent way to learn, and group members can help fill in gaps in each other's notes from class. (The "science" area of the Learning Commons is a good place for this.)


Class meeting times: MTWRF 10:30-11:45 in SM 116.

Final exam: Monday, June 20 from 10:50 to 12:30 in SM 116.   This is a cumulative final.
No exceptions. No early, late, or makeup final is allowed by college policy.

Required Textbook:
Conceptual Physical Science Explorations, by Hewitt, Suchocki, and Hewitt, second edition (Addison Wesley, 2010).

Optional Text:
Web-based study materials.

Course Prerequisites:
Satisfactory completion of ENC0020, REA0002, and MAT0024 or the appropriate placement scores are required for this course. You will learn a substantial vocabulary of scientific terms and use some basic methods from algebra in this class.

Catalog Description:
Basic concepts of the physical sciences (the laws of motion, energy, electricity, magnetism, light, the chemical bond, and atomic structure) are related to everyday applications of science and technology and the exploration of the universe.


Instructor: Dr. James Carr
Office: SM 290    (east wing, convenient to stairs opposite SM 137)
Office phone: 201-8971    (Division office phone is 201-8499)
E-mail: carrj @

Office hours: TR 12:00-1:00; I will also be available at other times before and after class. See schedule outside my office for current official office hours. Changes will be announced in class. Other times by appointment.

Class web site:


Because of the amount of material being covered each day, regular attendance and regular study are especially important in this class. Every two days is equal to a full week of a regular semester. Like every class at TCC, you are expected to attend all classes. (See the Tallahassee Community College Catalog for details.) May 13 is the last day to drop with a full refund.

Attendance Policies:

Details on my AW policy:
I aggressively enforce the attendance requirement only during certain portions of the semester. A student who did not fill out an info sheet on the first day of class will be dropped if s/he misses the first 5 days of class after enrollment. In all other cases, I will submit an AW grade when I have documented five (5) absences in conjunction with missing the first exam. If you have legitimate reasons for missing class and make arrangements in advance or via e-mail as soon as possible, those absences will be overlooked as regards an AW, although you are still responsible for turning in homework on time and for any missed in-class assignments or quizes. I will be the judge of whether you have a legitimate excuse and have sufficient documentation of it. For example, a vacation trip or wedding is not an acceptable excuse.

Your grade will be determined by five "mini" exams worth 75 points each, a comprehensive final exam worth 150 points, plus attendance and homework (including the essays) worth 175 points. There are no makeup exams. Your lowest exam score (such as a missed exam) will be replaced with half of your final exam score. Did you see me mention extra credit? No. There is no extra credit.

There are a total of 700 points possible. You need 630 or more to earn an A, 560 to earn a B, 490 to earn a C, and 420 to earn a D. You also must complete the writing assignment to earn more than a D.

Homework is due at the beginning of the class period on the assigned date. Points will be deducted for each day, or portion thereof, that an assignment is late. See above for policy on attendance grade. There will also be in-class activities that may contribute to this part of your grade.

Details on Homework grade:
There should be thirteen homework assignments worth 10 points each. There will also be short essays worth 21 points. (There might be a few extra points if we do an in-class "lab" exercise.) Each day of on-time attendance for regular class days (not exam days) is worth 2 points, based on a sign-in sheet. This total will be capped at 175. The calculation will be adjusted if some circumstance makes it impossible to do one of these assignments. My spreadsheet rounds up to the next integer.

Writing assignments are due on or before May 16, May 23, and June 6. Papers will not be accepted after the last class day (June 17). Additional details are given on the web.

You may use a calculator on exams. Your calculator should be able to handle scientific notation but does not need to be a graphing calculator. (I give some low-cost suggestions on the web.) The TI-83Plus is acceptable, but anything beyond its capabilities is not. I "clear" the memory of calculators like the TI-83 before exams. (See separate page for details.) No other electronic devices (e.g. cell phones or PDAs) may be used in any way during an exam.


Course Overview and Objectives:
This course presents an overview of science and technology in terms of the basic laws of physics and chemistry. The main objective of this course is to help students understand the concepts that unify the various scientific disciplines and the relationship of scientific principles to current technology. The focus of PSC 1121 is on the interface between physics, chemistry and astronomy (cosmology). A major theme throughout is the role of the fundamental interactions of nature: gravity, the strong force (QCD) as seen in nuclear physics, and electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force. The scientific method is presented as a reflection of key events in history (for example, the development of atomic theory from the concepts of the Greek philosophers to the modern quantum mechanical approach), not as the "legal" procedure for establishing scientific laws. Scientific laws are presented not just as facts to be memorized but rather as the basis for technology and the explanation for natural phenomena. In summary, physical science is taught not as a discipline unto itself but rather science as it relates to its surroundings.

Exam Schedule and Coverage:

Both the dates and material covered are subject to change.
Any changes will be announced in class and on the web.

Exam 1: May 18 - Chapters 1 to 4.

Exam 2: May 25 - Chapters 5 to 8.

Exam 3: June 2 - Chapters 9 to 12.

Exam 4: June 9 - Chapters 13 to 16.

Exam 5: June 16 - Chapters 17 to 20.

Final Exam: June 20 at 10:50 am in SM-116.


 ?? Contact me if you have any questions.