Physics Laboratory & Research

An inquiry-based Laboratory experience supports the Physics course by focusing on experimental design, advanced data analysis, and reduction, and experimental laboratory techniques, and instrumentation. Experiments will be drawn from a variety of physics areas.

Then in the next first half of a two-semester sequence. The learner will work with a faculty member to develop and conduct a senior research project including a search of the relevant literature and presentation of the proposed research idea.

Lastly, in the second half of a two-semester sequence. The learner will work with a faculty member to conduct a senior research project including giving an oral presentation of the final results and writing up the results in a form suitable for publications.

00 - Pilot

Course Number : PLR
Level : Intermediate

Course Features :
Lecture Notes, Assignment, Lab Reports, Exam, Projects, and Examples*
*during course

Course Description :
The purpose of performing Physics Experiments in the laboratory is not only to reinforce the material you learn in Physics Lecture but also to enhance learner understanding of how scientific knowledge actually progresses. As learners perform the experiments in this manual, the learner will encounter a messy reality quite unlike the tidy exercises of learner textbooks, a reality of inconclusive results, subtle equipment problems, and experimental biases. It is hoped that this course will give learners a taste of the difficulties and thrills of real experimentation and that learners come away with a greater appreciation of how the laws of nature are teased out of "real world" measurements.

Course Meeting Times :
This course consists of two parts: a required fifty-minute lecture component at the beginning of each experiment cycle, and a weekly three-hour session in the laboratory. Many of the experiments in this manual require a large number of measurements and prior work. The lecture is meant to prepare you for each week's measurements, thereby minimizing leaner time (and difficulties) in the lab.

Pre-requisites :
AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, Physics 101, Physics 102, Physics 103, Physics 104, Physics 201, Physics 202, Physics 203

Course Recommended Text :
These Courses are self-written, all lecture notes, PowerPoint, and reading material are available online as HTML documents and pdf files. there is no other required text.

Grading Policy :
The grade for the course is dominated by learner weekly reports. In the laboratory, the learner may share data with the learner's lab partner and discuss all aspects of the experiment. However, learners are not to share data with other lab groups in the learner's own section or any other section. Moreover, the data analysis and interpretation that goes into the lab report must be performed independent of the learner's partner and written in the learner's own words. Failure to comply with this rule is considered plagiarism.
The learner will also be graded on learner preparation for and participation in the experiments. Read this manual before coming to the labs, and during each experiment, please follow laboratory etiquette (no drinking, no eating, and no cellphones).

Topic :

    1. Velocity, Acceleration, and g

    2. Projectile Motion and Conservation of Energy

    3. Magnetic Fields

    4. e/m of the electron

    5. Polarization and interference

    6. Interferometer

    7. The spectrum of the Hydrogen Atom

    8. Capacitance and the Oscilloscope

    9. AC Circuits

    10. Absorption of Beta and Gamma Rays

    11. A Measurement and Error Analysis


Notes :
If learners miss an experiment, the learner is not allowed to make up the work at another time. Furthermore, learners are responsible for obtaining a proper excuse and submitting it. During the semester, learners are allowed up to three excused absences. Greater than this amount means automatic failure of the course.

01 - Physics Lab Safety

1. Follow directions. Come to the lab prepared to perform the experiment. Follow all written and verbal instructions. When in doubt, ask.

2. Absolutely no horseplay. Be alert and attentive at all times. Act like an adult.

3. Report all accidents, injuries, or breakage to the instructor immediately. Also, report any equipment that you suspect is malfunctioning.

4. Dress appropriately. Avoid wearing overly bulky or loose-fitting clothing, or dangling jewelry that may become entangled in your experimental apparatus. Pin or tie back long hair and roll up loose sleeves.

5. Use goggles:

A. when heating anything.

B. when using any type of projectile.

C. when instructed to do so.

6. Use equipment with care for the purpose for which it is intended.

7. Do not perform unauthorized experiments. Get the instructor's permission before you try something original.

8. Be careful when working with apparatus that may be hot. If you must pick it up, use tongs, a wet paper towel, or other appropriate holders.

9. If a thermometer breaks, inform the instructor immediately. Do not touch either the broken glass or the mercury with your bare skin.

10. Ask the instructor to check all electrical circuits before you turn on the power.

11. When working with electrical circuits, be sure that the current is turned off before making adjustments in the circuit.

12. Do not connect the terminals of a battery or power supply to each other with a wire. Such a wire will become dangerously hot.

13. Return all equipment, clean and in good condition, to the designated location at the end of the lab period.

14. Leave your lab area cleaner than you found it.

02 - Physics Lab Report

Physics labs differ widely from those performed in Regents Physics. A good lab report does more than present data; it demonstrates the writer's comprehension of the concepts behind the data. Merely recording the expected and observed results is not sufficient, learner should also identify how and why differences occurred, explain how they affected the learner experiment, and show learner understanding of the principles the experiment was designed to examine. Bear in mind that a format, however helpful, cannot replace clear thinking and organized writing. Learners still need to organize their ideas carefully and express them coherently.

Learner final report must include the following sections in general (the point awarded for each section are listed in square brackets next to the section name):

  1. Introduction [5]

State in learner own words what the experiment was supposed to accomplish and/or what questions it was supposed to answer.

  1. Experimental Procedure [10]

In the learner's own words describe what the learner did. Learner procedure must be clear (i.e. a person who has not done the lab must be able to understand and follow it). When appropriate, please include a clearly-labeled diagram. The written procedure must demonstrate that the learner understands how the experimental data was collected.

  1. Experimental Data [15]

Provide learner data, sample calculations for each piece of calculated data, and final results in this section. Write a short paragraph that demonstrates learner understanding of what happened in the learner experiment. This will probably be a qualitative statement (but not always).

  1. Analysis [15]

Include the analysis of the collected data. Once using graphical analysis provide all graphs. When calculating results, list sample calculations for all calculated values. In our own words explain the reasoning behind our method for obtaining//calculating final results. In most labs, the analysis section includes a number of questions that need to be answered. Provide complete answers to each of the questions in the lab.

Describe limitations of equipment and/or procedure that affected the precision of learner results. Once the actual value of data is known, include the percent error in the learner report. Discuss how results can be improved.

Note: reports that use the phrase "human error" will be returned un-graded. Please be specific in the statements.

  1. Conclusion [10]

Answer the following questions: How well did the lab fulfill its purpose? Why? Or Why not?

  1. Appendices [5]

Any additional paperwork (drawings, diagrams, striker tapes, etc.) produced during the lab must be included with the final lab report.

03 - Lab Report Format

General Remarks

Writing a lab report is the primary way your guider will know what the learner has done during the lab, how well the learner understood the experiment, and whether or not the learner knows how to process the results. Part of learner education in this course should include how to present learner work in an organized way.

The learner lab report should include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following features:

=> Concision. There is no need to include huge excerpts from a textbook, dozens of irrelevant plots, or a lengthy derivation (unless the lab manual specifically asks for it). Learners should consider 2 - 4 typed pages, including plots, to be the typical requirement for a lab report.

=> Graphical representation of data: for example, a histogram or an x-y plot. Plots must include error bars on the data points, be clearly labeled, and be large and easy to read.

=> Proper presentation of results. Once learners present learner data, all measurements should contain an estimate of the uncertainty and the units of measurement.

=> A description of the statistical and systematic errors that affected learner measurement. Again, this description should be concise but well-developed.

=> A discussion containing all relevant information and reasoning, allowing the reader to validate the learner's conclusion.

Using a Logical Format

The learner may want to structure the learner report using the following five-part framework as we slightly mentioned in section 02 "Physics Lab Report":

01 - Introduction: the section of the introduction states what the learner did in this experiment. A good introduction tells the reader three things: what learner measured in the experiment, learner results, and a statement on whether or not the results met learner expectations. The learner can accomplish this in three sentences. Once describing learner results, go ahead and include learner actual numerical observations.

02 - Procedure: the section of the procedure should contain a summary of the experiment in the learner's own words. Learners are NOT to copy large chunks of the lab manual. A simple sketch of learner apparatus accompanied by a one or two-sentence description is often a good place to start.

A good procedure section will also contain a description of what the learner did during the experiment to minimize random and systematic errors, as well as how many times the learner took measurements. This clearly demonstrates to the reader that the learner understands the equipment. Finally, the learner can mention some of the learner expectations and details of learner analysis in this section, e.g: "We perform a fit to the data of the form y=mx+b"

03 - Results: In this section of the results, the learner should present the results of the learner's measurements and analysis (i.e., error propagation) here. Learners don't need to include lengthy tables; it is often enough to simply insert learner plots and numbers, with uncertainties. The plots, which must be clearly labeled, should speak for themselves. However, the learner may wish to include a statement or two about the quality of any fits the learner performs.

04 - Discussion: In this section of the discussion, the learner should demonstrate the learner's grasp of the experiment by discussing the statistical significance of learner measurements. Comment on whether or not learner observations differ significantly from learner expectations. If so, the learner should consider whether or not this could be a reasonable physical effect, or if in fact learner experiment was affected by a systematic bias. Once discussing possible sources of bias, the learner should be as specific and quantitative as possible. Simply writing that learner observations were affected by vague factors such as "human error" or "bad equipment" is not sufficient.

Learners should also discuss the precision of learner observations, i.e., the size of the statistical fluctuations in learner answers, and think about how to improve it. (Do this even if the learner's answer does not differ significantly from expectations.)

05 - Conclusion: in the conclusion, the learner quickly summarizes for the reader learner results, the precision and accuracy of these results relative to expectations, and the possibility of improving learner measurements.

This framework can help learners organize learner work, but remember, it is up to educators and learners to make the report readable and transparent.

Including Scratch Work

In a real scientific report, it is not usually necessary to "show your work." However, in this course learner should staple a sheet with learner scratch work, e.g., derivations and error propagation, to the back of the main report. While your guider may not necessarily grade the scratch work, it can only help the learner to show that learner performed the analysis correctly, especially if the accuracy of learner results is poor.