General College Physics II (PHY 104-02)

Contact Information

Course Description

A continuation of Physics 103. Fundamental concepts and laws of the various branches of physics, including electricity, magnetism, optics, and atomic and nuclear structure, with laboratory work in each area. Physics 104 must be taken concurrently with Physics 104L, General College Physics Laboratory II.

Learning Objectives

It is expected that students will

  1. explain charged particle interaction using the concept of electric field
  2. calculate the electric field produced by a charge distribution
  3. describe the behavior of circuits using the language of circuit theory
  4. explain the behavior of circuits using the concepts of voltage and current
  5. explain magnetic phenomena using the concept of magnetic field
  6. calculate the magnetic field produced by a current distribution
  7. calculate the force on a charged particle in an electromagnetic field
  8. describe light using the language of geometrical optics
  9. describe light using the language of wave optics
  10. apply electromagnetic theory to specific physical situations
  11. describe nuclear decay processes in terms of decay mechanisms and half-life
  12. explain phenomena in terms of principles and theories

IDEA Objectives

  1. Learning fundamental principles and theories of physics, in particular electromagnetic theory and optics.
  2. Learning factual knowledge and terminology of physics (for example, the description of electromagnetic phenomena using the ideas and language of electric and magnetic fields)
  3. Learning to apply theories of physics to solve problems

Brief Outline

  1. Electricity
  2. Electric Circuits
  3. Magnetism
  4. Light and Optics
  5. Atomic and Nuclear Physics

Course Outline

  1. Electricity
    1. Electric Charge
    2. Coulomb’s Law
    3. Electric Field
    4. Force on a Charged Particle from an Electric Field
    5. Electric Potential
    6. Voltage
    7. Relation between Electric Potential and Electric Field
    8. Electric Field and Electric Potential produced by a Point Charge
    9. The Capacitor
    10. Electric Energy
    11. Relation between Force, Electric Field, Potential Energy, and Electric Potential
  2. Electric Circuits
    1. Batteries
    2. Electric Current
    3. Resistance
    4. Ohm’s Law
    5. Resistivity
    6. Electric Power
    7. Alternating Current
    8. Resistors in Series and Parallel
    9. EMF
    10. Kirchhoff’s Rules
      1. Kirchhoff’s Current Rule (Junction Rule)
      2. Kirchhoff’s Voltage Rule (Loop Rule, or "playing the voltage game")
    11. EMF’s in series and parallel
    12. Capacitors in series and parallel
  3. Magnetism
    1. Magnetic Field
    2. Electric Currents produce Magnetism
    3. Force on a Current-carrying Wire from a Magnetic Field
    4. Force on a moving Charged Particle from a Magnetic Field
    5. Magnetic Field produced by a long straight Wire carrying Current
    6. Magnetic Field produced by a Loop (qualitative)
    7. Force between two parallel Wires
    8. Magnetic Flux
    9. Faraday’s Law (Flux Rule)
    10. Lenz’s Law
    11. The Electric Generator
  4. Light and Optics
    1. Geometrical Optics
      1. Curved mirrors and thin lenses
        1. Ray Tracing
        2. Thin Lens Equation
        3. Focal Length
        4. Object and Image Positions and Heights
        5. Magnification
        6. Real vs. virtual images
        7. Upright vs. inverted images
      2. Refraction and Snell’s law
        1. Index of Refraction
        2. Total Internal Reflection
    2. Wave Optics
      1. Light wave basics
        1. Wavelength, Frequency, Speed of a Light Wave
        2. Wavelength range of visible light
      2. Main applications
        1. Two-slit interference
        2. Thin-film interference
        3. Single-slit diffraction
        4. Diffraction gratings
  5. Atomic and Nuclear Physics
    1. Atomic energy levels
    2. Nuclear decay
    3. Other topics


The textbook for the course is Physics: Principles with Applications (7th edition) by Douglas C. Giancoli, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 978-0321625922.

Class Attendance and Participation

Please turn off cell phones during class. A portion of your course grade is based on class participation. On a typical day, we will consider one or more conceptual questions. I will ask you to answer these questions as best you can. For these in-class conceptual questions, you will not be graded on whether you get the right answer, but only on whether you participate. Of course, you must attend class in order to participate and earn participation points.


There will be three 50-minute exams during the normal class time. The exams will contain both conceptual questions to be answered in words and problems to be solved. No computers, cell phones, music players, or any electronic devices with wireless or network capability are allowed during exams. You will be allowed to use a calculator during exams. At the end of the semester, we will have a comprehensive final exam.


There will be weekly, computer-based homework assignments. The purpose of these assignments is to give you an opportunity to work with the concepts that we discuss in class and that you read about in the textbook. ("The only way to learn physics is to do physics.") I encourage you to start work early on the homeworks. This way you will have multiple opportunities to see me before the deadline.

The homework is available at, using a computer-based learning environment called moodle.

Important details about moodle

You do not need to do a homework assignment in one sitting. In fact, you should not. You can do a few problems one day and a few more the next day. If you get a problem wrong, you can try it again, although your grade decreases slightly with each additional attempt, so don’t just guess.

Do not include units when submitting answers to homework problems. Each problem should tell you what units to use. If no unit is specified, use the appropriate standard SI unit (for example, kg, m, s, A). Enter only the numerical answer into the computer.

Do not count significant figures of the given numbers to decide how many significant figures to include in your answer. The computer will regard your answer as correct if you are within 1% of what it regards as the correct answer. So, keep at least 3 or 4 significant figures in your calculations regardless of the number of significant figures given in the problem.

Do not type commas in your answers, such as 39,450. Instead, type 39450.

You may use exponential notation in your answer if you wish. Instead of 39450, you may type 3.945e4 or 3.945E4.

When you have answered all of the problems on the homework assignment, you must click the box that says Submit all and finish. If you fail to click this box, your grade will not be recorded. On the other hand, do not click this box until you are finished with the entire homework assignment.


Physics 104 must be taken concurrently with Physics 104L, General College Physics Laboratory II. Physics 104L consists of a weekly laboratory session in which we will do activities designed to clarify how the concepts presented in class apply to the physical world. Before each laboratory session, please download, print, and read the laboratory activity for that day. The laboratory activities are located at the course web site at Each laboratory section has its own instructor, which may or may not be the course lecturer. All laboratory issues (for example, if you need to make up a laboratory because of an illness) should be taken up with the laboratory instructor rather than the overall course instructor.


You will achieve a single grade for Physics 104/104L. As shown in the table below, your Physics 104L laboratory grade will count for 15% of your overall Physics 104/104L grade. Your overall grade will be determined by a weighted average as indicated in the table below.

Class Participation5%
Final Exam (comprehensive)15%

Your letter grade for the course is determined by the weighted average. The minimum weighted average (out of 100) required for each letter grade is indicated below.


Your grade is not an indication of how much I like you. It is not an indication of your worth as a person. It is my judgement of your accomplishment in learning physics, in particular the portion of physics that we studied.

Office Hours

Please feel free to stop by my office any time to chat. I will make a special effort to be in my office during the office hours posted on my door (also listed on my web page). We can also make an appointment to get together if that is convenient for you.

Academic Honesty

Any student who submits plagiarized work will be subject to the penalties described in the Student Handbook and outlined in LVC’s “Academic Honesty Policy” ( This code asks each student to do his/her own work in his/her own words.

A student shall neither hinder nor unfairly assist the efforts of other students to complete their work. All individual work that a student produces and submits as a course assignment must be the student’s own. Cheating and plagiarism are acts of academic dishonesty.

Cheating is an act that deceives or defrauds. It includes, but is not limited to, looking at another’s exam or quiz, using unauthorized materials during an exam or quiz, colluding on assignments without the permission or knowledge of the instructor, and furnishing false information for the purpose of receiving special consideration, such as postponement of an exam, essay, quiz or deadline of an oral presentation.

Plagiarism is the act of submitting as one’s own the work (the words, ideas, images, or compositions) of another person or persons without accurate attribution. Plagiarism can manifest itself in various ways: it can arise from sloppy note-taking; it can emerge as the incomplete or incompetent citation of resources; it can take the form of the wholesale submission of other people’s work as one’s own, whether from an online, oral or printed source.

Students who take part in violations such as cheating or plagiarism are subject to a meeting with the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, who has the authority to take further action, up to and including expulsion from the College.

Regarding homework, you are free to discuss homework problems with others, and talk about the methods for solving them. I expect you to do your own homework, and to submit you own work. Regarding exams, I expect you to keep your eyes on your own exam. On days when we have an exam, I ask that you refrain from wearing baseball caps or other hats that would keep me from seeing your eyes during the exam.

Disabilities Services Syllabus Statement

Any student who needs classroom or testing accommodations is invited to present letters from the Office of Disability Services and discuss concerns with me after class or during office hours. The Office of Disability Services is located in HUM 004. Students may schedule an appointment by calling 717-867-6028.

Civility, Respect, Community

LVC aims to be a community of inclusive excellence. We affirm the rights of all persons to a superior educational experience that is characterized by respect for and tolerance of others. This class is a place where our core values of inclusiveness, civility, and appreciation of difference are affirmed.

General Education

PHY 104/104L may be taken to satisfy a portion of the Liberal Studies component of the College’s General Education requirement. The course satisfies the Natural Science area (L3) of the Liberal Studies component. Courses in the Natural Science area present findings, concepts, and theories of science, develop an understanding of scientific methods of inquiry, engage students directly in the practice of science, and prepare students to think critically about scientific issues. Physics 104/104L is an L3 course because it introduces a foundational theory of science, electromagnetic theory, and because it engages students directly with the physical world in the laboratory activities of the course.

Class Schedule

DateTopicRead before classDue
01/18Coulomb’s Law16-1 to 16-6
01/20Electric Field16-7 to 16-9
01/23Electric Field
01/25Electric Field SuperpositionHW 1
01/27Electric Potential Energy17-1
01/30Electric Potential17-2 to 17-5
02/01Capacitor17-7HW 2
02/03Dielectrics17-8 to 17-9
02/06Electric Current18-1 to 18-2
02/08Ohm’s Law18-3 to 18-7HW 3
02/10Series and Parallel19-1 to 19-3
02/13Exam 1 (Electricity)
02/15Kirchhoff’s Rules19-5 to 19-7
02/17Magnetic Field20-1 to 20-2
02/20Lorentz Force Law20-3 to 20-4
02/22Long Wire20-5 to 20-6HW 4
02/27Faraday’s Law21-1 to 21-2
03/01Motional emf21-3 to 21-4HW 5
03/03Electric Generators21-5
03/06Spring vacation
03/08Spring vacation
03/10Spring vacation
03/13Spherical Mirrors23-1 to 23-3
03/15Snell’s Law23-4 to 23-6HW 6
03/17Ray Tracing23-7
03/20Exam 2 (Circuits, Magnetism)
03/22Thin Lenses23-8
03/24Wave Optics24-1
03/27Interference24-3 to 24-4
03/31Thin Films24-8HW 7
04/03Blackbody Radiation27-1 to 27-2
04/05Photoelectric Effect27-3
04/07Photon Energy27-4HW 8
04/10Exam 3 (Optics)
04/12Pair Production27-6 to 27-8
04/14Easter vacation
04/17Easter vacation
04/19Atomic Spectra27-10 to 27-12
04/21Nuclear Physics30-1
04/24Binding Energy30-2
04/26Radioactivity30-3 to 30-7HW 9
04/28Half-life30-8 to 30-9
05/01Radioactive Dating30-10 to 30-11
05/03Catch upHW 10